What a fun book. Cilie Yack is Under Attack, written and illustrated by Caryn Talty is a hilarious chapter book for gluten-free kids. I read the entire thing, myself, for a few days in a row over lunch and actually looked forward to it each day! My daughters read it together in the car on a road trip, as well… they laughed and read favorite parts of it out loud to us often. Here are our collective thoughts on the book:
In a nutshell, we all loved it. We won this book through a contest a few years ago and waited a bit for my girls to grow into being able to read it. It’s the only chapter book about Celiac that I know of for older kids, so it definitely fills a need — in a great way.
It’s written from the perspective of a spunky 9 year old boy living in Ireland named Cilie (pronounced “silly”). The book begins with, “This is the story of how one boy turned his problems into a triumph, and how you can, too!” From there the story is told from the point of view of Cilie, and the next 15 chapters are filled with good humor, Irish sayings (explained), cute cartoony illustrations, sidebars (like explanations of Irish football) age-appropriate explanations of Celiac, and off-topic ramblings that are perfect for kids around this age group. You really get an excellent sense of this boy’s character and he is a fun-loving, sometimes misunderstood but totally likeable kid. He never “talks down to you” and kids will love his honesty and openness about feelings of embarrassment, disappointment, excitement and pride.
In the beginning Cilie tells how as a baby his Mum said he was very cranky and “topped both my brothers combined in poop production by the time I was three.” As a young boy he used to act out as class clown and troublemaker, acted wild and out of control whenever he ate gluten, and was mean to his little brothers. His stomach was often upset and he didn’t like to eat, except for his one favorite food “goody” which was bread, milk and sugar. In the chapter called, “Poop Talk” he confesses to all kinds of pooping problems, even a few embarrassing accidents. At age 5, his doctor runs some tests on him and they finally realize it’s Celiac which means a life-long gluten-free diet for him. Once he gets over his initial shock about not being able to eat “goody” anymore, he realizes he’s beginning to feel better and act better as well.
After a while, he writes a great report on Celiac (which is included on 3 pages of the book along with an illustration) by explaining it in his own words, earning himself his first accolades at school. Eventually he starts to feel jealous of not being able to eat certain foods and sneaks some chocolate cake at a party, not long before he “pukes it back up.”
After that his Mum takes him to a special store where they buy lots of gluten-free ingredients to experiment with, and after many flops, finally starts to make some amazing creations in the kitchen. His confidence soars as he figures out new things to eat, and he creates and masters the perfect recipe for carrot cake, which sells out at his football team’s bake sale.
I’ll leave the ending as a surprise, since I’ve already divulged so much, but rest assured your g-free kid will love this book. If he or she is not ready or able to read this alone, I urge you to read it aloud with them so you can share in the laughs.
A word from the author, Caryn Talty: “This book is written at a 4th grade level as far as vocabulary and readability goes. But the content is geared toward younger kids. I encourage parents to read the book out loud with their kids and talk about what happens to Cilie in the story. I read it out loud with my youngest son at age 5 when he began having digestive problems and was being tested for celiac. He understood the story and celiac disease very well when we finished. We gave donation copies to our kids’ school library and I’ve had kids of all ages come to me to tell me they’ve read the book and enjoyed it. The story is based on some very real experiences my oldest son had before he was diagnosed, but of course Cilie’s story is much more humorous and exaggerated. At the time when my son was sick and symptomatic we did not find much to laugh about. That’s why I decided a few years later that a book like this was important to create. I wanted kids with celiac to relax, understand that they are not alone and it will get better. I also wanted to create a hero out of a kid who seemingly has a lot of weaknesses, or so he thinks. Sometimes being different is magical, especially when you have the right attitude and a little bit of willpower.”
One more note from me: I took these pictures late at night in a warmly lit room which is why the pages look yellow. However, they are actually white. :)
Now for the giveaway: The author has generously agreed to give away 2 copies of this book to 2 lucky winners! All you have to do is comment below with how your g-free kid might be able to relate to Cilie’s story in this book. Giveaway ends at midnight on Friday, March 7th. Randomly chosen winners will be notified and given 24 hours to respond, or other winners will be chosen to replace them. U.S. residents only please. Good luck!
If you don’t win, I hope you’ll still buy this book for your g-free kid. It’s currently only $8.09 on Amazon.com and shipping is free if you have Amazon Prime.
Caryn Talty runs the Healthy Family blog which supports “organic living for a healthy family”. Also inspired by this book is the Cilie Yack’s Sous Chef Club. Check it out!
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[ Disclaimer: We won this book in a contest a few years ago. The opinions I expressed are my own, honest feelings about the book, as well as my daughters'. ]
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