Trolls (2016)

November 18th, 2016 · Movies

Girl holding a movie camera - stock image to accompany movie reviewReview By JENNIFER KALI

I took my kids (ages 3 and 7) to see the movie “Trolls.” I had heard that it was about happiness but didn’t know much beyond that, so I was pleasantly surprised at the animal friendly message. In the middle of it, my daughter exclaimed, “You have to review this one!”

The entire movie is about the Trolls trying to avoid being eaten by the Bergens. At one point, a scared Troll exclaims, “I don’t want to be food!” There is a lot of color, hair, singing, dancing, and talk of happiness to round out this story about not wanting to be someone else’s food.

The movie was cute and had a lot of great music. My daughter, age 7, really loved the movie. My son, age 3, was afraid of the Bergens and didn’t really enjoy it. Common Sense Media suggests this movie for ages 6 and older and that seems about right.

Rated PG.

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

November 13th, 2016 · Books


My mom’s favorite movie is “The Wizard of Oz,” so I’ve seen it dozens of times, but I’ve never read the book. I was happy to come across a copy of it in the Little Free Library on my street. My seven-year-old daughter and I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with the plan of following it with a viewing her grandmother’s favorite movie.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an enjoyable read. It tells the fantastic tale in a straightforward and even-keeled tone that held my daughter’s interest throughout. She was never very frightened by the elements of the book that I remember frightening me while watching the movie as a young child, and I think that’s due to the tone. Instead of being frightened, she was highly curious as to how Dorothy and her friends would get out of the various situations they found themselves in.

Amazingly, even though the book is over 100 years old, it holds up quite well. Dorothy is a strong and brave girl and makes a wonderful heroine.

One aspect of the story that surprised me, that I don’t recall from the movie, is the specifics of the tin woodman. He doesn’t have a heart, but is actually quite loving. One way his love manifests is a love of animals. He cries so much from stepping on a beetle that he rusts up and has to be oiled by Dorothy in order to move again. Another time, when Dorothy is hungry and in need of food, the lion offers to catch her a deer in the woods. The tin woodman begs Dorothy not to eat a deer because the mere thought it almost brings him to tears again. Dorothy instead picks some nuts from a tree for her meal.

This was a very lovely book that my daughter and I very much enjoyed. The animal loving spirit of the tin woodman was a surprise which would delight any vegetarian child.

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Santa’s First Vegan Christmas

November 11th, 2016 · Books


When I read the title Santa’s First Vegan Christmas, I thought that this was going to be a kids’ book about leaving Santa plant milk and vegan cookies under the tree.  Boy was I wrong!

This cute, rhyming kid’s story actually tackles the very serious theme of animal labor. Specifically, it deals with the fact that Santa is using reindeer to pull his sleigh.

Luckily, a sweet little reindeer named Dana sets Santa straight. Realizing the errors of his ways, Santa decides to run his sleigh on magic power. Once he gets into the vegan spirit, he even decides to liberate all the caged pets and animals that Christmas too.

I’ve got to admit that I was worried this theme would be too intense for my 5-year old. Would it ruin Christmas for her if she started thinking of Santa’s reindeer as indentured servants instead of jolly volunteers?

I’m happy to say that the book did not ruin Christmas for my daughter, and we did have a nice discussion about whether it is fair to use animals like horses and reindeer for pulling sleighs and carriages.

What will she think the next time we hear the song “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” playing? I’m not sure. But this book definitely highlights how our vegan values can often conflict with holiday traditions. The book is a fun, lighthearted way to introduce a really serious topic with your kids.

Aside from the intense underlying message, Santa’s First Vegan Christmas is a cute holiday story with rhymes that flow very well and quirky illustrations. I’ll definitely be reading it with my kid again when the holidays come around.

Ages 4 to 7.



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The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

October 7th, 2016 · Movies

Girl holding a movie camera - stock image to accompany movie reviewReview By JENNIFER KALI

We were excited to see this movie as a family. We’re dog people and happen to have a pug a lot like the character Mel (voiced by Bobby Moynihan) in the movie. We saw it on vacation at an awesome drive-in theater in Burlington, VT, which just enhanced our movie watching experience.

The movie follows Max, a terrier mix (voiced by Louis C.K.) who lives with Katie (voiced by Ellie Kemper) in New York City. Katie and Max’s relationship is so cute it makes you want to snuggle with you dog. The premise of the movie is that during the day while the owners are at work, pets hang out together. When we meet Max, he is asked by his neighbor friends what he would like to do that day. He just sits by the door and says, “I’m just going to wait here for Katie. I miss her so much.” And so Max is really thrown for a loop when Katie rescues Dude (voiced by Eric Stonestreet), a massive mutt, from the shelter. Katie tells Max that she knows Dude is overwhelming, but she couldn’t stand the though of him in the shelter with no one to love him. The main action of the story begins when Max and Dude, fighting with each other, get lost on the streets of New York one day while Katie is at work. The story follows Max and Dude through a series of adventures throughout New York trying to find their way back to Katie, and in the mean time, learning to be brothers.

The story is cute. It’s jumpy and active, much like a hyper dog. It’s a bit much for me, but the rest of my family loved it. The thing that makes it interesting for a review on Vegbooks is that it offers a well-rounded look at the way pets are treated. The main characters are beloved pets but there is a group of outcast pets that Max and Dude encounter on the streets. These are pets that were mistreated by their owners and now roam the streets as a rough gang. They all share their stories, and your heart goes out to them. The one story that I remember is that of Tattoo (voiced by Michael Beattie), a pig that lived in a tattoo parlor and was used by the owner to practice tattoo techniques. This street gang represents the dark side of pet ownership.

Anyone with pets, especially dogs, will enjoy this movie. Common Sense Media recommends it for ages 6+. Both my 7-year-old and 3-year-old loved it.

Rated PG.

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