Michelle Nel, mom now recently turned author is a hero for her son, Nolan, and everyone living with allergies. Michelle lives by a quote that she came up with herself: “Sharing awareness fosters empathy and inclusion.”
This could not be more truthful, or more important when advocating for this particular cause. It’s a beautiful quote and it does not surprise me that it is all her own as she definitely has a knack for writing. However, I was surprised to hear that although she has always been an avid reader, Michelle was never a writer. “But I have always wanted to write children’s books. I’d admire them and knew that I wanted to write one someday.”
It turns out her writing only came out when it became a way to cope with the challenges of being an allergy mom. “I began writing for my son but soon realized I was writing equally for myself. As I wrote, I was able to ease my own anxiety by assuring myself that I had taught my son the ‘allergy lessons’ he needed to keep safe.”
From there, her heartfelt journey began. The first in the series of her children’s books is “To Be a Nut or Not”, a tale that explores what exactly a tree nut is. Michelle explained to me just why this is such an important subject. “A lot of adults don’t even know that a peanut isn’t even a nut (it’s a legume!). A lot of people think that because a package says it doesn’t contain peanuts, that it is safe from tree nuts. Some packages even say ‘nut-free’, when they are in fact only referring to peanuts!”
The beauty of Michelle’s books is that although they are allergy-themed and teach us lessons on the subject, the stories themselves are not always entirely about allergies. They are helpful and informative to the cause, but children without allergies can also relate. “To Be a Nut or Not” follows the story of a young peanut attending an annual family reunion in which he expresses his discomfort in noticing that he does not resemble his tree-nut family members. We learn that although he is in fact different from them, he is loved and considered family just the same. Michelle discovered that the story was enjoyed by a friend’s adopted child.
The second book tells the story of a cute and funny alien that helps a boy understand what happens to his body during an allergic reaction. The moral of this story is something that Michelle sincerely preaches about Nolan: “Allergies are what he has, and they do not define him. There are limitations, yes. But he is in no way limited in achieving his goals. We may have to do some things differently, but we can still do them.”
Michelle began writing the series back in 2010, and in less than two years completed its six books. The third is in the illustration process, drawn by another allergy mom and friend, Jenny Terry of Denver, Colorado, USA. The next one to anticipate is “There are No B-List Allergies”, which is set up as a red carpet event to explain that although there are more common allergies out there, “all allergies must be taken equally as serious and given the same consideration.” Another great message that is both important in sharing awareness about allergies and in showing children how to approach life with fairness. There will be a book on cross-contamination (I look forward to that as someone living without allergies now curious about how I can do my best as I empathize and wish for inclusion amongst all) and one of the books will be “All Canadian and all hockey,” adds Nel.
Another charm of the series is that it also is a helpful tool for the adults looking after children with allergies. “Instead of having that serious and scary conversation with a babysitter, I can ask them to read the book with Nolan and that’s an easy and relaxed way to open the discussion between them.”
The moment I met Michelle I could see that she was absolutely filled with excitement and pride as she spoke of the support and recognition she has been receiving. The books are now housed at the CHEO resource library, and she was recently featured on CBC’s “All in a Day”. She has many aspirations for her series and hopes that her new CBC connection will land her a spot on Dragon’s Den, a show for aspiring entrepreneurs. For Michelle, it is not at all about making money but about getting these books “where they need to be”. It is truly admirable to see someone using their artistic talent to help protect children while providing needed resources for families, healthcare workers and teachers.
To learn more on Michelle’s series and to purchase the books online, please visit www.allergybooksforkids.com
More about author Michelle Nel
Article by: Laura-Leah Armstrong