By: Linda B. Davis
Published: June 27, 2023
Publisher: Fitzroy Books
This is a book I wish I would have read ten years ago. Our son had, and still has issues with eating a lot of different food items, including a lot of foods that most kids eat. I don’t know why our son has a difficult time with food and we may never know. Maybe he was born with it. Maybe it occurred after an eating episode as a young child. We will never likely know, but I do know that he doesn’t want to have this struggle with food any more than someone wants to have any other condition that separates them from the norm.
Ben is starting middle school which means there is a whole new group of kids that he has to be around and acclimate to. Middle school is already hard but add Ben’s unique eating to the mix and he is worried that this will make his social life quite difficult. Ben only eats about ten different foods and it isn’t that he is a picky eater, he just can’t eat them. He gags, throws up, and even has a hard time being near certain foods.
Ben’s close friends have known about his eating dilemmas and haven’t given him any grief, even having his favorite pretzels on hand whenever he comes over to their house. But, when a certain student starts to notice that Ben’s eating is a little different, he starts to make a big deal about singling Ben out and embarrassing Ben, especially when he is right next to a certain cute girl.
On the first few days of school, the students learn there is a major field trip coming up that includes 3 days of living as a person would in Colonial Times, including eating all the foods available to them only at that time. Ben looks through the menu and realizes there isn’t really anything on that menu that he will eat. How can he attend this field trip, maintain his social status, and not starve for 3 days?
The author used her own nephew as a resource for facing challenges as a picky eater and I found all the situations that Ben was placed in to be very realistic. He handled them as a typical middle school boy would, trying to outsmart someone or keep things to himself, when in reality, talking to someone could have made the whole situation better.
As a mom, I realized how much our son likely had to deal with criticism and ridicule as a “picky eater” and I wished I had thought more about how difficult his school days, social outings, and field trips may have been…even with my rigorous planning ahead for him. I read a few passages to him while I was reading this book on our vacation and he said that Ben’s feelings in the book and situations with classmates were pretty accurate.
An unexpected friendship in this story helps Ben see what is really important when it comes to relating to others and being yourself. I was struck by the analogy that it is bad manners to call attention to someone’s physical differences just as it is poor manners to question why someone is or isn’t eating something. I know I have teased someone for not liking something that most people enjoy like cheese or ketchup when in reality, I am doing the same thing that many, many others have said to our son about his eating.
This book opened my eyes to something that has always been part of our family’s lives and reminded me that we all have our differences and it is important to find a way to just accept them. The next time you think about saying, “Is that all you are eating?” or “You really haven’t ever eaten a pickle?” you might just want to say, “I’m so glad we can eat together today.”
“You know, once you become an expert in being yourself,
navigating the world gets a whole lot easier.”FOOD FIGHT By Linda B. Davis
Linda B. Davis has always been curious about why we do the things we do. She holds master’s degrees in social work and developmental psychology. As a social worker in a community mental health setting, Linda became passionate about the need for accurate and accessible mental health information in children’s literature.
She is a member of SCBWI and is active in the Chicago writing community. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, gardening, buying more books than she can possibly read, and maintaining her Little Free Library. Food Fight is her first novel. Check out her website, HERE.