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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A Boy and His Jaguar

August 1st, 2014 · Books


A Boy and His Jaguar is one of the sweetest, most honest, and fragile works of children’s literature I’ve come across in a while. Rabinowitz candidly, yet innocently paints us a picture of his young life as a stutterer (“people ignore or misunderstand or hurt me”) and the only times he overcomes his ‘gift’ is in communication with animals and through song. He connects with his pets at home and later with a lonesome jaguar in a barren room at the Bronx Zoo. To them all and to himself, he vows –

“…that if I can ever find my voice, I will be their voice and keep them from harm.”


Rabinowitz, now the president and CEO of Panthera, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the worlds 36 wildcat species, continues to reflect upon his adolescence in this beautifully illustrated picture book. In college he overcomes his stuttering, but still feels broken. He studies black bears in the mountains where he feels at home. He then moves to Belize to study and safeguard jaguars. It is here that he must face his biggest hurdle in convincing the Belize people and officials that they must protect jaguars through a designated preserve.

This was such a rewardingly beautiful read and one that will resonate with anyone that’s shared a kinship with animals or felt like the black sheep in the flock. At some point in our young or adult lives, we can resonate with Rabinowitz’s story and join him in this promise to use our voices to help others – animals too – who have been ignored, misunderstood, and hurt.

Ages 4 – 8.


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Montessori Map Work

July 25th, 2014 · Books

Image of Montessori Map Work, featuring outlines of continents with images of native animalsReview By JESSICA ALMY

I’d love to hear what folks in the Montessori community think of this new board book, which teaches preschoolers the basics about continents. (Please leave your thoughts in the comments!)

The book is visually appealing, with pages for each continent that feature native animals and a textured outline on the map for small hands to trace. The back cover folds out to show a map of the world and asks: “Where do you live? Where will you visit?”

At age 8, my kiddo is too big for this book (which I received as a review copy), but she loves maps and I can imagine this book would have appealed to her when she was younger. I like that the book brings animals into the curriculum. The emphasis is on mammals, depicting the characteristic megafauna from each continent, but also includes a bald eagle, toucan, penguin, albatross, cockatoo, swan, and cobra.

Ages 3 to 5.

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