The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream

September 15th, 2014 · Books

Review By JANE COCO COWLESDandelion Seed book cover depicting hot air balloons and a dandelion seed puff, to accompany Jane Cowles' review on Vegbooks, a site that reviews media from a vegan perspective

This tenacious little seed never gives up hope despite its bumpy path in life. The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream (received as a review copy from the publisher) sends an inspiring message – with a little determination dreams can come true. This dandelion seed is also accepting of all the challenges in life it faces.

Trapped in a spider web, getting hurt and nearly losing its parachute and traveling into a dark cave – yet anything still seemed possible in its eyes. The author teaches a great lesson to children about setting goals and working towards accomplishing them.

The illustrations are equally as beautiful as the message this book sends. An added bonus is the appendix at the back of the book. It teaches little known facts like the origin of the name dandelion, the dandelion life cycle and projects that can be used in the classroom to teach young students about dandelions.

I love the many possibilities this book offers – it has something for everyone.

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Lena of Vegitopia and the Mystery of the Missing Animals

September 13th, 2014 · Books

Review By DIANE VUKOVIC

The story takes place in Vegitopia, a land where humans and animals live in peace together and no one would ever dream of eating animals. One day, a little girl named Lena who has her own lettuce patch learns that the babies of Vegitopia are going missing. She sends a letter to Princess Vegi for help. The Princess informs her that a bad woman named Carnista took the animals to eat them because Carnista hates vegetables. Lena and Princess Vegi hurry off to Carnista’s castle to save the babies.

Cover image of Lena of Vegitopia, a vegan fairytale book, for review on Vegbooks

Of course, Carnista refuses to let the baby animals go, arguing that “she has an appetite” and “can’t be expected to live on icky fruits and vegetables.” Then Lena has an idea: she gives Carnista a piece of vegan carrot cake she had been saving in her pocket as a snack. Carnista likes it so much that she lets the babies go and decides never to eat meat again. After a while, her castle stops smelling so foul, the smog around it goes away, and Carnista even starts looking better too.

I was a little worried that this story would be too traumatic for my 4-year old (she is really sensitive about kidnapped baby animals!), but the book doesn’t show any pictures of the baby animals locked up so it didn’t produce any tears. It was also refreshing that Lena and Carnista didn’t argue about “eating baby animals is wrong,” since any child inherently understands that taking baby animals from their parents is bad. Instead, Lena frees the animals simply by offering a piece of cake – an approach to vegan activism which usually works better than arguing morals.

Overall, Lena is a cute book which won’t just reaffirm the decision not to eat meat, but teach children how to deal with the meat eaters they encounter.

The publisher sent an e-book for review.

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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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