Hobbes Goes Home

August 28th, 2014 · Books

Book CoverReview By CAROLYN M. MULLIN

Last year, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting author Tami Crupi Zeman, wife of Vermont radio personality Bruce Zeman, Jr. at the National Animal Rights Conference in DC. The animal-welfare activist pair had written a book, Hobbes Goes Home, about Mr. Zeman’s canine co-star and his path from a domestic violence-plagued residence to the shelter and then finally to a home any dog would envy: two loving human caretakers and a fellow doggy playmate.

While there are many shelter-related books in the kid lit world, what sets Hobbes apart is its anti-bullying and forgiveness messaging, coupled with more common themes of hope, compassion, adoption, and family. Artist Shaunna Peterson’s colorful and expressive illustrations engage and enable readers to empathize with Hobbes’ range of emotions – from despair and loneliness to curiosity to joy and excitement. Here’s one excerpt of when he first arrives at the shelter -

Hobbes was confused. His mommy put him in the car and brought him to a big brown building. They went inside and she handed him to a lady he had never seen before. What was mommy doing? Where were they? Dogs were barking, and there were cats too. Hobbes didn’t understand why his mommy brought him to this strange place.

Outside of the pages of their book, the Bruce and Hobbes team is the only human-canine radio duo in the U.S. and they’re aiming to read their book in every school in Vermont! And if that’s not enough of a perk to support this publication, $1.00 from the sale of each book will benefit the Homeward Bound Animal Welfare Center in Middlebury, Vermont.

Ages 4 – 8

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

August 23rd, 2014 · Books

Review By KRISTIN WALD

What more can be said about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone? The obsessively beloved first book of the seven book series has been dissected and read and re-read since it first burst onto the Young Adult literary scene. For families raising their children with vegetarian and vegan values, how do the goings-on in a fantasy novel affect their decision to read this novel? And for children who may be on the younger or more sensitive side, are the adventures of Harry Potter beyond reach?

Harry Potter new cover featuring Harry buying wizard wares in the marketWithout going into detail about all 300+ pages, and trusting that readers of Vegbooks are actively aware of their children’s proclivities, I believe that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone can be an excellent reading adventure as well as a jumping off point for discussions about treatment of animals as well as difficult social situations.

A few moments particularly relevant for families focused on the treatment of animals come early on in the novel. In chapter 2, Harry visits the zoo for the first time in his life, and ends up accidentally freeing a Boa Constrictor. Harry shows empathy with the snake because he knows what it means to be trapped. The scene also takes notice that the snake was bred in captivity, which can be a place to discuss animal captivity and zoos. Later, in chapter 5, the topic of pets is addressed. Particularly owls, which are used as mail carriers, but also rats, frogs, and cats.

The feasts at Hogwarts, the magical boarding school where most of the story’s action takes place, are unequivocally meat-heavy. But a lot of attention is also given to the sweets enjoyed by the children, and from the chocolate frogs which actually hop around to the many desserts gobbled up at meals, they are quite inventive.

This first book of the Harry Potter series begins with wonders and oddities in the magical world, and characters like the poltergeist and “House Ghosts” may initially disturb some children, but they are soon developed as any other character.

A few frightening scenes to be wary of for younger or more sensitive children further on. In chapter 10, the children battle a troll. And despite the humor in “troll boogers” being involved, it can be quite frightening to read. Chapter 15, The Forbidden Forest, includes a scene where a hooded figure drinks unicorn blood. It is explained that anyone who does this is cursed, which attaches a lack of morality to the act. In addition, chapter 17, The Man With Two Faces, is disturbing because of the introduction of Harry Potter’s arch-nemesis Voldemort – who is the second face mentioned in the chapter title.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a valuable book for children because it doesn’t shy away from the social politics of popularity and bullying. It also intertwines neglect, insecurity, and the importance of friendship as an antidote to it all. It’s an excellent book to read together with a sensitive child, and for those readers who catch the Harry Potter bug, there are many more adventures to enjoy in the remainder of the series.

Parents often wonder at what age children are ready for books like this. In the case of the Harry Potter series, it’s important to note that the books get more grave with each volume. However, some children will be excited by the story at a young age while others may self-select to wait until they are older. Overall, beginning the books at about 9-12 has been traditionally recommended. However, many children will want to begin reading the books earlier. It’s important that families are aware of the deep and complicated issues that are so wonderfully developed in the books.

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Rob Laidlaw: Double Feature

August 5th, 2014 · Books

No Shelter Here book cover, featuring two dogs behind wire fencingReview By CAROLYN M. MULLIN

For those longtime Vegbooks readers, you’re fully aware of my deep appreciation and respect for the children’s titles written by Canadian animal activist, Rob Laidlaw. The man is not only a writing machine (new titles are popping up all the time!), but he’s spot-on in his delivery of important animal welfare topics to an older elementary demographic. I was only too lucky to receive copies of a few of his newer works –

No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs

Saving the “how to adopt a dog” bit for last, Laidlaw has a no holds barred approach in conveying today’s world for dogs. Sure, he goes into the basics of what a dog needs (love, car, water, playtime, home), but he quickly changes gears to outline overpopulation issues, the plight street dogs face, puppy mills, chained dogs, exploited dogs (Iditarod, greyhound racing), and sadly, other realities. He lightens the subject matter through his eloquent writing style and by interjecting anecdotes from young Dog Champions who are working to better the lives of man’s best friend.

Rob Laidlaw Children's Book Cover featuring a pig, chimpanzees, and a tortoise in sanctuariesSaving Lives & Changing Hearts

As a gal who has worked and volunteered for a number of sanctuaries, it was exciting to see this title in the mix. Here’s a great book to not only introduce the idea of what GOOD sanctuaries are like, why they’re needed, and the types of animals they take in and why, but how we can ascertain their operating principles and their meeting of the animals’ needs. Laidlaw gives a wonderful, global, and diverse overview of sanctuaries – from Animals Asia’s work with former bile farm bears to the American Tortoise Rescue in Malibu to Cedar Row Farmed Animal Sanctuary in Canada. He also dedicates a few pages to discussing faux sanctuaries, those that do a disservice to the animals in their care, and have thus inspired the creation of a sanctuary certification organization, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Both are great introductory reads into the multifaceted world of animal protection, and I highly encourage every parent to get copies of Laidlaw’s titles for their child’s classroom. They’re a wonderful academic resource and a much needed form of humane education.

Ages 8 – 12.

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Snuggle the Baby

August 3rd, 2014 · Books

Snuggle the Baby board book coverReview By JESSICA ALMY

I love Sara Gillingham’s illustrations, so it was with high expectations that I checked out this interactive board book. Designed for toddlers and preschoolers, the book incorporates flaps and pop-outs that allow the reader to feed, tickle, diaper, swaddle, shush, rock, and tuck in the baby. Although most of the pages are self-explanatory, I have to admit that I did not realize at first that the baby to tuck in on the final page is intended to be popped out from a previous page. (I thought it was missing at first!)

As always, the illustrations are adorable, and a wide array of babies are depicted, making this book a good fit for multicultural and multiethnic families, along with everyone else. However, like other reviewers, I have reservations about the design of the book, which is perhaps too flimsy for small children.

Additionally, I was upset to see that nursing was not included on the feeding page, which offered bottle and spoon as two alternatives. Obviously, this isn’t an option for older siblings helping out with a new arrival, but still, I think it’s important to recognize the importance of nursing, particularly given how often our culture ostracizes and alienates nursing mothers. (And it’s National Breastfeeding Month, so it’s a good time to talk about breastfeeding in children’s literature!)

Still, if you’re preparing your child for a new sibling, this book is worth checking out. Ages 2 to 4.

The publisher sent a copy of this book for review.

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