Octopus’s Garden

May 24th, 2016 · Books

Review By JENNIFER KALI

My son, now 2.5, received this book version of Ringo Starr’s famous song for his first birthday and it has been his favorite book since. Many night this is the only book we ready before bed (again, and again…). Sometimes he likes me to sing it, and sometimes he wants it in spoken word. Sometimes he sings along.

Octopus's garden

The book really is gorgeous and the lyrics make a fabulous children’s book. See the trailer for the book here. The pictures have great detail that my son loves picking apart, noticing different things each time (“What’s that?”).

The entire story takes place as a boy imagines a more rich world for his pet goldfish. The first page of the book is simple and plain, with the boy staring into the goldfish’s boring bowl which quickly transforms into a beautiful lush sea. This could spark a great conversation about the lives of animals forced to live in tiny enclosures when they could be swimming in the sea. The differences between the imagined sea and the boring fishbowl are very obvious and would be great conversation starters.

It includes a CD with Ringo Starr singing which we have seldom used, mostly because we don’t have a CD player at home. But you could also easily play the song on your phone as you flip through the pages, though do this one time and it will be expected every time (I speak from experience). My son also loves watching the trailer which brings the book to life.

Highly recommended. Ages 1-8.

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Bee & Me: An Animotion Experience

May 21st, 2016 · Books

Review By JENNIFER KALI

I love this book! I picked it up because of the amazing animotion illustrations on almost every page that make it seem like the book is in motion, with bees flying, dogs running, a boy waving goodbye, a flower blooming. My two-year-old is enthralled by this unique book in motion. Go here for a video of this book in action.

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I thought this would be a ho-hum book with really cool animation, but I was so wrong. Bee & Me tells the story of a bee that becomes trapped in the room of a young boy who is scared of bees. Desperate to escape, the bee tells the boy why bees are so important, both for growing our fruits and vegetables and for helping to keep our earth beautiful and full of life. The bee says “we are good for so much more than just honey.” The boy is impressed, makes a promise to never swat a bee again, and helps the bee find freedom.

At the end if the book there is a page of bee facts that an older child would enjoy. Additionally there is a page about how to help our dwinling bee population, an important and timely environmental message.

This book has a great animal-friendly environmental message that draws kids in with super cool animation, which is why I love it so much. It does advocate for buying local honey to help the local bee population, a point with which some readers may disagree. Otherwise, I think this book is an excellent addition to any animal-loving environmentalist’s library.

Ages 2-7.

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Mr. Okra Sells Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

April 19th, 2016 · Books

Review By CAROLYN M. MULLIN

Raise your hand if you love New Orleans? I know I do… and so does most of America. It’s given us Mardi Gras, The Saints, Creole food, iconic vampires, and one heck of a vacation spot. It’s a place where magic, myth, and mystery converge, but if you’re a local it’s home and your neighbors are just as inspiring, colorful, and legendary as the city’s cultural legacy. Mr. Okra is just one such man, and he’s the subject of a new children’s book, Mr. Okra Sells Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, written by my dear childhood friend, Lashon Daley.

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Back in high school, Lashon used to mock me for being a vegetarian, but my what a decade or so can do! After leaving our hometown of Miami, she spent a good chunk of time as a resident of New Orleans, and now she’s a vegan (woo!) pursuing a second master’s in storytelling at UC Berkeley, and I couldn’t be more excited for her first published book. The story follows Mr. Okra as he sings his wares – “I got PEACHES, PEARS, and APPLES.” – throughout the equally vibrant NOLA neighborhoods in his mobile fruit and vegetable truck. As readers flip through the pages, the colors of the produce call to mind numerous iconic landmarks: “The skin of the EGGPLANT is as dark as the coffee at Cafe du Monde.” It’s such a great, fun and different way to explore New Orleans.

And I personally can’t get enough of Mr. Okra, the youngest of 15 children who took over the family business. He seems like someone I’d want to listen to for hours. At the back of the book, he remarks,

“I love selling fruits and veggies to the people of New Orleans because there are people who can’t get to the big stores and people who don’t really like to go to the big stores… They depend on me and I depend on them. We are all family.”

This publication is a fun, inviting, veg-friendly way to explore one of our nation’s most beloved cities. One tiny heads up to Vegbooks readers: there is one page that may not tickle your tastebud, which compares the variety of fruits and veggies to the animals at the Audubon Zoo. Swap “zoo” for “sanctuary” and you’ll be good to go.

Ages 4 to 8.

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Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship

April 16th, 2016 · Books

Review By JENNIFER KALI

Fans of Tarra and Bella will love this book. My six-year-old daughter and I loved reading it together. It tells the true story of an unlikely friendship between a baby hippo named Owen and a 130 year old giant tortoise named Mzee at an animal sanctuary in Kenya, illustrated by incredible photographs of the two together.

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Owen was stranded after a storm and separated from his mother. My daughter and I loved reading about how an entire town bands together to rescue him and bring him to a nearby sanctuary as he is too young to survive in the wild alone. Owen is placed in Mzee’s habitat and immediately takes a liking to Mzee. Mzee takes a while to warm up to Owen, but within a few days the two are inseparable.

A friendship between a mammal and a reptile is very rare, but these two have quite the bond. The book posits a few reasons for their friendship, such as Owen needing someone to replace his missing mother. But in the end says that it doesn’t really matter if science can explain why these two are friends because the fact is that they are friends. The heart wants what it wants, and Owen’s heart wants Mzee and Mzee’s heart wants Owen.

Ages 4 to 10.

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