Tag Archives: Early Elementary

Hero Cat: Guest Post by Huyen MacMichael

Please note: Vegbooks has moved to vegbooks.orgThis is the last review that will be posted at this URL. This review, as well as all of your favorite past posts, are up on the new site. See you there!

After much searching in winter weather, a homeless cat finds an abandoned building to deliver her kittens. When she leaves her kittens to find some nourishment, she returns to find the building up in flames. As the firefighters work to put out the fire, the mother cat works to save her kittens, walking through the fire to find and carry them out one at a time. Hero Cat is a story about mother love as much as it is a cat story.

Spinelli describes a mother determined to do the best she can for her young and it is not so much that she’s a cat that makes the story amazing to me, but that she goes repeatedly into the burning building to save every single one of her babies. And then I read the final page and discover it’s based on a true story with a picture of the burnt cat and her kittens at a shelter. It brought me to tears seeing the photo and reading the biographical note. Stammen’s illustrations are
appealing and my daughter fell in love with the cat and the book. So did I.

Ages 4-8.

About Huyen: Huyen MacMichael is a stay-at-home mom, artist, and art therapist. She feels lucky to have found the sweetest rescued blue tick coonhound at the local no-kill shelter. She is raising her daughter vegan with her husband Ryan of Vegblog.org. As a mom, she enjoys the opportunity to read large quantities of children’s books to her daughter. As an advocate for the creative process, she appreciates a well-told and well-illustrated story.

Run, Turkey, Run: Guest Post by Jacqueline Bodnar

Please note: Vegbooks has moved to vegbooks.orgThis is one of the last reviews that will be posted at this URL. This review, as well as all of your favorite past posts, are up on the new site. See you there!

In this holiday story, the poor turkey remains on the run, even when he thinks he is finally safe. The farmer plans to cook him for Thanksgiving and when he sets out to get him, the turkey runs. He ends up using multiple methods around the farmyard to camouflage himself from the farmer, who ends up sparing his life for this feast.

As the farmer’s family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner, the farmer is shown dreaming of a cooked turkey. The woman is staring at the empty turkey platter on the table, while the two children happily dine on grilled cheese sandwiches, peas and mashed potatoes. No turkey is served at this holiday feast, much to the disappointment of the adults in the story.

This is a fun book that gives kids a chance to root for the turkey as he continues running away from the farmer. Vegetarian parents and kids alike will appreciate the way the turkey outsmarts the farmer. It is important to note that the story takes place at an old-fashioned farm that depicts other animals, such as pigs, horses, and ducks.

Ages 4-8.

About Jacqueline: Jacqueline Bodnar is a professional writer who blogs about vegetarian issues at VegBlogger.com. She and her husband have been ethical vegetarians since 1995 and are raising two vegetarian children. She is also a nature lover, environmentalist, and avid reader. Jacqueline is a Michigan native, who now resides in Florida, after spending almost a decade in Las Vegas.

First Dog Fala: Guest Post by Jennifer Gannett

In one sense, First Dog Fala is the ordinary story of the loving relationship between a dog and a human.  However, the human in the story is President Franklin Roosevelt, who, at the time this book takes place, was facing extraordinary situations: re-election for an unprecedented third term, war in Japan and Europe and declining health.  Throughout the story, the Scottie brings the president joy and moments of light and laughter, and the book does not shy away from mentioning that these were moments President Roosevelt sorely needed.  Fala was clearly a small dog with a big of personality and the book describes him riding on President Roosevelt’s lap as he was wheeled throught the White House, escaping from the grounds and having a birthday party.  My son and I had a laugh when the book described Fala taking the train with President Roosevelt– the Secret Service had to walk him at different stations, thereby giving obvious signals about the president’s location.

This book not only illustrates the meaningful friendship between a man and his dog (Fala is buried with President Roosevelt) but also provides a concise history lesson about important events of our collective past.  Because of the complexities of some of the situations described, such as discussions about World War II and President Roosevelt’s decline and eventual death, this book may be better suited for older children. More here and here.

Ages 4-8.

About Jennifer: Jennifer Gannett lives outside of New York City with her family.  A long-time environmentalist, in her free time she enjoys cooking and eating mouthwatering vegan fare and advocating for animals in need.

Gorilla

If your kiddo likes Good Night, Gorilla, I suggest you freecycle (or maybe just recycle) the zoo propaganda and pick up a secondhand copy of Anthony Browne‘s Gorilla instead.

This heartwarming picture book details the enchanted evening a little girl Hannah, somewhat neglected at home, experiences with her toy gorilla-turned-real.  What makes this book a keeper from my perspective is Hannah’s reaction to viewing primates — gorillas, an orangutan, and a chimpanzee — in the zoo.  Despite her joy at seeing these animals in person, she views them through cage bars and observes that they are “sad.”

The next morning, Hannah awakes to an attentive father who offers to do finally what she’s been asking him to do all along: bring her to the zoo.  Whether the pair goes is ambiguous.  I like to think that they spent a leisurely day in the park instead.

Ages 4-8.

Diary of a Worm: Guest Post by Jacqueline Bodnar

This book is cleverly set up as a diary that was written by a worm. It gives the reader an inside look at what it might be like to be a worm, and how the big world, and humans, appear from their perspective. The worm writes about things kids can relate to, such as doing homework, playing, good manners, and even going to the dentist.

It is a silly story that provides clean, fun entertainment. But the underlying message here is that even worms have feelings and should be respected. This book may help young vegetarian children to see how even the smallest of animals are interesting and deserving of compassion. There is one reference to fishing, in which the worm states that, as fishing season started, the worms all dug deeper in the dirt in order to hide.

If you are a vegetarian parent trying to teach your kids to have compassion for animals, “Diary of a Worm” is a big hit. This book will help children see that even the smallest animals have interests and thoughts of their own.

Ages 4-8.

About Jacqueline: Jacqueline Bodnar is a professional writer who blogs about vegetarian issues at VegBlogger.com. She and her husband have been ethical vegetarians since 1995 and are raising two vegetarian children. She is also a nature lover, environmentalist, and avid reader. Jacqueline is a Michigan native, who now resides in Florida, after spending almost a decade in Las Vegas.

Muppets from Space

I grew up watching  “The Muppet Show” weekly, so I rushed out to watch “Muppets from Space” when it was released in 1999.  (I think I saw it at the local drive-in.)  This New Year’s Eve, we decided to have a family movie marathon but forgot to prepare for it.  Rather than watch our old DVDs, we hooked a laptop to the TV and streamed this movie from one of the DVD-rental sites.

Set to funk music, this family flick follows Gonzo’s quest to figure out who he is and find his long-lost family — providing an opportunity for parents and veg kids to discuss what it’s like to be different.  A few of the snappy one-liners will also spark discussion, if you catch them.   Is it funny to call Miss Piggy “bacon,” you might ask.  And what does Gonzo mean when he jokes about his species going extinct?

The movie contains a few references to/ depictions of meat.  When the stove breaks, for example, the Muppets are served bologna for breakfast, a food that all but Rizzo (the rat) refuse.  Still, there’s nothing in this movie that’s offensive enough for me to forgo the sheer fun of watching it.

Rated G.  Ages 4-adult.

Herb the Vegetarian Dragon: Guest Post by Jennifer Gannett

Herb the Vegetarian Dragon is a tale of dragons and knights, meat eaters and vegetarians, and one brave child.  Herb spends his days quietly gardening in the company of a small girl.  The king, tired of the meat eating dragons (led by Meathook) gobbling up villagers, instructs his knights to capture all of the dragons they can and bring them to the village for beheading.  Meathook and the others wait out the hunt in hiding.   Herb, who is not friends with the other dragons, is captured while gardening.  Meathook pays Herb a visit in prison, telling him he will save him if he eats meat, but principled Herb refuses. The beheading is imminent when the little girl speaks up, informing the executioner and crowd that Herb isn’t a meat eater.  Herb is released while sneaky Meathook is caught.  The king tells the dragons that they must work out a plan to stop eating people, and Meathook and minions agree to stop eating villagers. Herb offers to teach them gardening.

The dichotomy of this book is that it contains casual messages of death while at the same time relying heavily on the vegetarians-as-pacifists stereotype.  Though this book is intended for kindergardeners to third graders, my son enjoyed this tale most as a two and three year old, and consequently we did a lot of editing as we were reading to make it more appropriate for him.

This book is a mixed bag. The vegetarian protagonist comes across as a social outcast for most of the story. The general tenor of the book is pleasantly silly if one gets around the pillaging dragons, the dragon hunt and the near-beheading of the sympathetic main character. The vivid illustrations, the brave girl speaking truth to power, Herb’s yummy garden and cooperative problem solving are the highlights of the story. There is also a message throughout of not forcing one’s eating habits on others, no matter what they may be.

Ages 4-8.

About Jennifer: Jennifer Gannett lives outside of New York City with her family.  A long-time environmentalist, in her free time she enjoys cooking and eating mouthwatering vegan fare and advocating for animals in need.