Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Vegetarian Books for Kids

I did something last week I'd never done before...I went shopping on Black Friday. Agh! Actually, it wasn't too bad. I took 3 kids (minus the 2 year old) and parked at the top of the mall parking garage. I hit Gymboree for boys pjs and girl-colored shirts. We browsed the Lego Store, ogling over the Lego Star Wars Death Star while Ryan fantasized about owning the newest Bionicle sets. We played briefly at the new playspace. And then we came home just before the rain started. Done by 9am!

But it got me thinking about holiday gifts. So I thought a book review of our collection of veg-friendly kids books was in order...

Baby & Toddler books:

One of our favourites is
Eating the Alphabet, by
Lois Ehlert
. We actually
own 2 copies, one board
book and one paperback.
Both are well-used.

The bright watercolor
images are engaging,
and the text is simple: letters & labels of fruits & vegetables.

Lois Ehlert has many other great titles we enjoy too, such as Growing Vegetable Soup, Planting A Rainbow and Nuts to You!.

Another awesome book for the
whole family is Food for Thought,
by Saxton Freymann and Joost
. If you haven't seen any of
their books before you are in for
a real treat. All of their illustrations
are crafted out of fruits, vegetables,
beans and nuts. Some of the
creations are unbelievably cute and
jaw-droppingly realistic. Nate was
given this book by a friend for his
second birthday, and we have a few
of their other titles. You've gotta check them out!

Strawberries Are Red, by
Petr Horacek
is a simple
little board book that has
been extremely well-loved
by our kids, especially AJ
and Nate (there's a bite
mark out of the spine from
when AJ was a baby). I
usually change a few pieces
of the simple text to my liking, for example "apples are [sometimes] green" and "grapes are [often] purple". The end of
the book is pretty cool,
revealing all of the pages'
colors at once in a bowl
of yummy fruit salad.
AJ often read this book
to himself, concluding with
the exclamation: "Look at
all the fruit!"


For young children there are a plethora of titles to choose from. Here are a few of our favourites for the 2-5 year old set...

Our boys have been
fascinated by this book
about fruit and how it
grows. Let's Look At
is a factual picture
book with lots to look at.

The Surprise Garden, by Zoe
is a quick book about how
vegetables grow. It is a
fictional book about kids who
are given a handful of seeds
by their mother to plant.
They discover how the different
plants grow and eventually
reveal what food they are.
At the end the kids all have
a garden party.

One book that was missing in action (so I couldn't photograph it) is The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear, by Don Wood. The kids just love the suspense of this book, even though the bear never does appear and the mouse decides to eat the strawberry but shares half with the reader.

Early Childhood:

As the kids get older and
become more interested
in why we have chosen a
vegan diet, there are
fewer books to choose
One of the more engaging
is Benny Brontosaurus
Goes To A Party
, a story
about a brontosaurus boy who moves into a new neighborhood and makes friends with his neighbor, a tyrannasaurus rex. He learns how to politely decline the cake and ice cream at his friend's birthday party because it is made with milk and eggs and he is a herbivore. Later they go out to a fast food restaurant where there is a "nut burger" option for Benny, and his t-rex friend decides to join him and orders the same thing.
This book is great until the very end where in my opinion a little too much emphasis is placed on how different Benny's diet is. But a few verbal text tweaks can fix this fine. It's a good choice for the preschool-3rd grade set.

The Organic Adventures
of Tucker the Tomato
, by
Rey Ortega and Amanda
Roeckel is an odd little
tale about an organic
tomato that falls out of a
truck and tries to get
back to his friends at the
natural food market. He
encounters a group of "conventional" tomatoes along the way, and learns that he prefers being a healthier organic tomato.
I wish this book introduced a few more facts about the differences between organic and conventional produce. It's a bizarre adventure, though Tucker is cute nonetheless.

One of the cooler selections
is Herb the Vegetarian
Dragon, by Jules Bass
, (I
bought my copy from a
friend's store here). This
vegetarian dragon is
harassed by the other
dragons in the forest and
blamed for crimes. He is
sentenced to death for a crime
he didn't commit, but saved
by a little girl who has
befriended him and has witnessed his gentle ways. I wish Herb had just stood up for himself instead, but it's a fun book, and dragons are always enjoyable with the kids.

Yet another book that is probably hiding under the covers of Ryan's bed is Benji Bean Sprout Doesn't Eat Meat, by Sarah Rudy. I think ours boys love this one because Benji is a vegan boy who goes to school, just like they do. And he loves animals.
However, a lot of the text is full of teasing and the word "hate", so I tone it down with some verbal editing when I read it aloud. Benji is teased by 2 boys at his school, so he and his mother bring some vegetarian food to class to share, the kids try it, and the boys and Benji become friends. I would prefer to have seen some consequences for the boys who teased, but such is life.
Benji's visit with his dad to the animal sanctuary is quite enjoyable. He takes pictures of the animals and shares what he learns with his class.

School-age & Teens:

There aren't many books about
vegtarianism or veganism for
older kids. I stumbled upon the
book Eating the Vegetarian
Way: Good Food From the
Earth, by Lila Perl
when I was
in my late teens and found a
used copy as it is now out of
print. The text presents the
basic concepts of vegetarian
diets in a simple format for
children as well as more
mature young adult readers.

There are many cookbooks for vegetarian kids (a topic for another post), and a decent variety of vegetarian parenting books too. But not a ton dealing with introducing a vegetarian diet to older kids, which is often when many kids make the choice to adopt a vegetarian diet.

I hope this review is useful if you're in the market for some veg-friendly holiday gifts. What are your favourite vegetarian children's books?


Becky said...

Thanks for this post! I'm vegan and love kids' books, so it was right up my alley.
I like "My Life as a Chicken" by Ellen A. Kelley. An egg-laying hen escapes from the (somewhat factory-like)farm and has a crazy adventure. The artwork isn't exactly my style, but I think kids in early elementary school would enjoy it.
I also like Doreen Cronin's farm stories (Click-Clack-Moo, etc.). They aren't necessarily vegan, but I love it that the animals stand up for themselves!

half pint pixie said...

Thanks for this list! I'm sure my toddler will enjoy reading these, off I go shopping online again :)

Unknown said...

Great book reccomendations. Another veg-friendly picture book that my kids loved was "To Market, To Market" by Anne Miranda. Great for vegetarians and promotes whole foods--besides being a great story with very funny pictures.

River (Wing-It Vegan) said...

I love the title "The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear". It sounds adorable!

veggieteen said...

I'd like to add a brand new book to your list for teens! Veggie Teens: A Cookbook and Guide for Vegetarian Teenagers is the perfect gift to help teenagers and their families learn about health and cooking for a plant-based diet. Veggie Teens was developed by Elyse May, a 14-year old animal lover and veggieteen, for other teenage vegetarians. Elyse allowed her mother, a physician and mindful eating expert, and her father, a professional spa chef, to make significant contributions to the book as well. It contains teen-friendly recipes with photos, basic culinary tips for budding foodies, nutrition notes, and teen tips. Veggie Teens is now available as an affordable, earth friendly e-book at www.VeggieTeensCookbook.com.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the book reviews. Arthur, our 2 year old loves books. We read to him every night. When we go to the bookstore, he will play with the train they have displayed there and then head for the books and look at them.

You are very brave to go out on black Friday.

veganf said...

Lots of great suggestions!!

veggie teens - I will recommend that book to a friend who was just asking for ideas of what to get a newly vegetarian 14yo relative! Is it also available in hard copy?