Who’s your favorite children’s book character with celiac disease?

Ah, books. Magical portals all, they give us insight into unknown minds and experiences; they increase our empathy. It’s beautiful. But we also need books whose characters we can relate to and identify with. Books with characters like us.

Where does this leave kiddies (and kiddies at heart) who have celiac disease? Unfortunately, 97 percent of real people with celiac disease go undiagnosed, and the same appears to be the case for book characters—in fact, the rate of diagnosis is even lower. Although 1 in 133 of your Peter Rabbits and Alices in Wonderland may suffer from celiac disease, you’d never know it from skimming your library catalog. And Googling “celiac disease novel” only brings up “Novel perspectives in celiac disease therapy.”

Does this mean there are no celiac characters, though? No! We just need to get out our microscopes. The gluten-wracked protagonists of our dreams are there if only we look deep enough into the bowels of literature.

My favorite is Moaning Myrtle. True, JKR never said she had it, and it’s a little late for a biopsy; being a ghost, she probably hasn’t eaten gluten in years. But, really? Anyone who spends as much time crying in the bathroom as Myrtle does probably has celiac disease.

“Myrtle gave a tragic sob, rose up in the air, turned over, and dived headfirst into the toilet, splashing water all over them and vanishing from sight.”
—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

You see? Even in death, she can’t escape the toilet.

If it’s not celiac, then it’s colitis, or IBS, or Crohn’s. Details! As they say, we must have heightened suspicion that celiac is present. So, welcome to the club, Myrtle. In truth, I wish we had a little less in common, but I’ll take what I can get.

P.S. Am I missing anyone? Are there actually book (or movie) characters with known celiac disease? I will happily apply my celiac lens to whatever I please, but I would love to know if the “real deal” already exists.

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19 thoughts on “Who’s your favorite children’s book character with celiac disease?

  1. cav513 says:

    Well, there’s Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk. Then again, he probably was lactose intolerant: gave away a prized milch cow for a bunch of beans! But the giant at the end of the beanstalk might have had celiac: he was going to great lengths to make bread, not of wheat but of Jack’s ground bones. Now, there’s an odd flour substitute!

  2. Poor Moaning Myrtle! It makes perfect sense considering she lives (um, in ghost form) in a bathroom.
    -Dana

  3. This sounds like you have an idea for a book. You should write a short children’s book. I remember a book called Funi Gus to help children understand molds.

    • Molly says:

      That’s a cute book title! I think there is at least one nonfiction kids’ book out there about celiac disease, but I’d love to see some more characters popping up in fiction who have it, or other digestive conditions. I do remember one of the babysitters in the Babysitters Club books had Type 1 Diabetes, which, I think, was actually my introduction to diabetes. I think people don’t want to write about the bathroom all the time—though they could write about all the people whose gluten sensitivity doesn’t present with GI symptoms! Most of my fiction in my writing career (such as it is) thus far does focus on people with food issues or strange maladies. Go figure. So maybe you’ll see a book from me on this one day. (Also: we still have work to do before kids’ and YA books include enough diversity of race/gender/sexualities, not to mention disabilities and all kinds of other conditions…so I’m not saying the state of fiction is done, just add celiac.)

  4. I remember that too, in the Babysitter’s Club books! Geez. Was it Kristi? Is that embarrassing and bizarre that one of the names came back to me?! I was such a book dork as a kid. Um, that hasn’t really changed actually.

    • Molly says:

      …Stacey, maybe?

      (Oh, who am I kidding, I confirmed via google that I remembered correctly, right down to the inclusion of the “e”!)

      Did you read Boxcar Children, too? 🙂

  5. SStitches says:

    Moaning Myrtle is perfect! I’ll have to share that little tidbit with my parents and my husband, who are all HP nerds. Who am I kidding? We are all going to Universal for my birthday, just for HP World.

    (And, of course it was Stacey. She always carried apples and candy bars in her backpack when she hiked. Which was apparently all the time. Silly Stacey.)

  6. Love this! ” Anyone who spends as much time crying in the bathroom as Myrtle does probably has celiac disease” – priceless.

  7. […] “second-favorite book character with celiac disease” post, in the vein of my Moaning Myrtle review. I was going to point to a particular scene in a Beverly Cleary book and say, “See, Ramona […]

  8. […] magic runs in the blood of J. K. Rowling’s wizarding folks. We talked about Moaning Myrtle last time, but let’s not forget our other prime celiac/allergy role model in Harrypotterland: Mad-Eye […]

  9. Barry says:

    I understand this isn’t a children’s book, but I believe you’ll be able to relate to it.
    Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans

  10. […] you sick of the Harry Potter references yet? No? Good, because there’s more where that’s coming […]

  11. […] I found I had more to say than, “What if Moaning Myrtle, or Mr. Darcy, or an American Girl had celiac […]

  12. […] things have been better. I smile wider, I laugh louder, and I can’t recall the last time I pulled a Myrtle. But I can’t say I’ve been quite as happy as I’d hoped. I thought you were the only thing […]

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