Engaging and empowering new middle grade novel on finding self-esteem with a little-known eating disorder

“Food Fight” by Linda B. Davis showcases protagonist with ARFID

Chicago, IL–In Linda B. Davis’ debut novel “Food Fight” (Fitzroy Books/Regal House, June 2023), a three-day class trip becomes a survival mission for a picky-eating student with ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder). Inspired by one of her relatives, “Food Fight” showcases the challenges of living with a lesser known and misunderstood eating disorder, while emphasizing the importance of fitting in by being yourself.

About the book: Ben Snyder is ready to start middle school. He’s smart, athletic, and has two best friends. But his super picky eating, which has never been a problem before, is about to get in his way. Suddenly everybody’s on his case about what he’s eating and what he’s not—his old friends, new friends, weird lab partner, a girl he’s crushing on, and a bully—and he finds himself in a social free fall, sliding toward the bottom of the middle school food chain. Even worse, an upcoming three-day field trip sounds too awesome to miss but has a horrifying menu. As he prepares for the trip, Ben learns there might be more to his picky eating than he ever realized. Armed with new information, he plans to avoid the bully along with every single meal. But when everything starts to go wrong and epic hunger threatens to push him over the edge, Ben must decide how far he will go to fit in—and if he has what it takes to stand out.

“Food Fight”

Linda B. Davis | June 27, 2023 | Fitzroy Books/Regal House | Children’s, Middle Grade

Paperback | ISBN: 9781646033430 | $15.95

Praise for Food Fight

“A heartfelt and hilarious look at life through the eyes of a picky eater. A must-read for anyone who has ever fought their own battles with both fitting in and being themselves.” 

Shannon Schuren, author of Where Echoes Lie

Linda Davis has a knack for zingy dialogue and depicting multi-faceted sixth-grade characters… a pitch-perfect balance for middle-grade readers.”

Kimberly Behre Kenna, author of Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade

“Davis gives the reader a realistic and sympathetic portrayal of what it is like to be a picky eater in middle school. With a convincing cast of characters, she creates a lively and timely look into the life of a student with ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) and the challenges he faces. An important and well-written debut novel.”

Joyce Burns Zeiss, author of Out of the Dragon’s Mouth

“This debut novel pairs a unique subject (selective eating disorder) with a smorgasbord of universal middle grade themes including tolerance, bullying, acceptance, empowerment and self-esteem. Well worth the read!

Naomi Milliner, author of Super Jake and the King of Chaos

About the Author…

Linda B. Davis: Linda holds a master’s degree in developmental psychology from Vanderbilt University and a master’s in clinical social work from University of South Florida. Her past work experiences include research investigating how the sense of smell facilitates mother-infant bonding, clinical work with people newly infected with HIV, and psychoeducational support for adults and children living with mental illness.

Ultimately, her career training prepared her to be curious about why we do the things we do. This has come in handy as a mother and a writer. She is passionate about the need for accessible and accurate information about mental health, especially in children’s books. Her novel, “Food Fight,” was inspired by a young relative’s experience living with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), a little-known eating disorder often characterized as “extreme picky eating.” Much of her research on the topic has focused on the impact of picky eating on families.

Linda is a member of SCBWI and active in the Chicago writing community. When she’s not writing, she enjoys buying more books than she can possibly read, maintaining her Little Free Library, and traveling with her husband and daughters. To learn more about her life and work, visit: www.lindabdavisauthor.com 

Follow Linda B. Davis on social media:

TikTok: @lbd1009 | Twitter: @lindabdavis65 | Instagram: @linda_d65

In an interview, Linda B. Davis can discuss:

  • How a picky-eating young relative inspired Linda to research ARFID, and the surprising facts she learned about the little-known disorder
  • Why ARFID representation is crucial for better understanding ourselves and our loved ones, and what she hopes readers of all ages will take away from “Food Fight”
  • How her background in psychology and social work influenced her approach to writing
  • How families and friends can support loved ones with eating disorders

An Interview with

Linda B. Davis

1. What inspired you to write “Food Fight”? 

Several years ago, my eleven-year-old nephew’s extreme picky eating threatened to ruin his social life. I hate to admit it, but I was less than sympathetic. I attributed his eating habits to stubbornness and rolled my eyes at the cheese pizzas he ate at every family gathering. But a little research turned me around. Once I familiarized myself with ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), which is often characterized as extreme picky eating, I came to admire the courage it took him to face the types of eating-focused social gatherings we all participate in every day.

2. How did your background in psychology and social work influence your approach to writing Ben’s story?

Social workers stress the importance of understanding a person’s behavior in light of the environmental contexts in which they live. The impact of ARFID goes beyond eating—it also affects the way a person feels and behaves when interacting with others. For middle schoolers, whose social worlds are expanding, it’s almost impossible to avoid eating in front of other people. I wanted to explore the social complications ARFID might cause for kids like Ben and how it might affect self-esteem, self-confidence, and relationships, both with peers and parents.

3. What was the research process like? Did you learn anything about ARFID that was particularly surprising?

My research included reading books written by treatment professionals for parents of kids with ARFID, talking to parents, and participating in the ARFID online community. A common worry for parents is sending their kids with ARFID on their first overnight trip, which helped shape the plot of “Food Fight.” Although ARFID is a relatively new diagnosis, I continue to be surprised at how difficult it is for parents to find knowledgeable professionals to treat and support their kids. Despite awareness efforts, many people (and professionals) continue to dismiss ARFID as a willful stubbornness created by overindulgent parents who cater to a child’s whims. These attitudes contribute to feelings of isolation and stress for families living with ARFID.

4. What do you hope readers (kids and adults!) will take away from this story?

Although ARFID is a relatively rare condition, the types of challenges it presents are universal in the world of middle graders as they confront the never-ending question of How do I fit in? I set out to write a story in which kids living with ARFID will finally see themselves on the page and kids who are unfamiliar with ARFID can relate to a character who struggles to accept himself and be accepted by his peers. Ultimately, I hope “Food Fight” encourages people to react to extreme picky eating with empathy rather than judgment.

5. What’s next for you on your author journey?

I am currently working on a YA ghost story and plan to start research for a historical middle grade novel soon.

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