Mr. Okra Sells Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

April 19th, 2016 · Books


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.


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


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.


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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Free Willy (2004)

April 14th, 2016 · Movies

Review By JENNIFER KALIGirl holding a movie camera - stock image to accompany movie review

We watched “Free Willy” for our family movie night with our six-year-old daughter. I hadn’t seen this movie since it came out years ago. I was amazed at how strong the anti-captivity message is in this lovely family movie.

The movie shows viscerally how animals are taken from the wild, put into tiny enclosures, and treated as commodities. Willy is sad, scared, and misses his family.

The scene that best demonstrates aquarium life is a scene in which kids are yelling and pounding on the tank. We hear what Willy is hearing under the water and see him getting more and more upset until he finally rams the glass with his nose. I’m always amazed at the plethora of kid-friendly animal rights movies.

My daughter loved this movie.  She laughed, she cried, and she cried some more. It was really helpful that we spent a week in Puget Sound this summer seeing orcas in the wild. She’s been kind of positive about zoos and aquariums in the past, despite our negative feelings toward them. After seeing this movie she now thinks the practice of putting wild animals in cages is deplorable. For now, that is, until her next field trip to the zoo….

Common Sense Media recommends this film for ages 6+. We watched it on Amazon Prime.

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Achoo! Why Pollen Counts

April 11th, 2016 · Books


We received Achoo! Why Pollen Counts as a free review copy at our house, and my kids, age 5 and 7, could not wait to read it. I didn’t pre-read it, we simply sat down and dived right in.


Though I’ve reviewed books for Vegbooks about food allergies in the past, we are not strangers to seasonal and environmental allergies in our house. Both kids loved the inviting illustrations of Baby Bear and his forest friends and were fascinated to learn that pollen is a protein rich food. Even spiders eat pollen, while bees use it to make something called “beebread.” Both were new pieces of information for us!

Baby Bear learns all about pollen when, owing to his allergies, he wishes there was no pollen. This was very relatable because through learning more about the role pollen plays, he realizes that he doesn’t hate pollen (though there’s nothing wrong with being frustrated about being frustrated by it).

The book includes some informative details in the final pages as well as discussion points. Also included is a page to help understand allergies. It likens the immune system to a superhero to protect us but indicates that sometimes it gets confused. It also distinguishes between runny noses and more run-of-the-mill reactions and those that affect airways in a more significant way. “If this happens, you need to get medical help immediately,” the notes indicate.

The vocabulary is appropriate for the subject matter so it is probably best for ages 5 and up, though I think younger children can engage with the images and some of the information if read aloud.

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