Tag Archives: Jennifer Gannett

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.

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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.

Ice Age: Guest Post by Jennifer Gannett

Ice Age, released in 2002 and narrated by an all-star cast of comedians, follows Sid, a socially outcast sloth, Manny the crusty mammoth and a sneaky smilodon named Diego. They cross paths during an ice age, attempting to return a baby to its tribe on a journey that will forever change them.  Several scenes are scary or sad, including the ambush of a village, the death of the baby’s mother, and a flashback to a deadly encounter with human hunters. The unlikely trio are sometimes flippant or deceitful toward each other.

Moving past the perilous situations and irreverent attitudes, the movie is great. The dialogue is witty and scenes change quickly without being confusing. A subplot regarding a squirrel and his acorn is especially silly. Adults will appreciate additional humorous elements, including that the anthropomorphized non-human animals converse in complex dialogue while the humans only grunt.

Sitting with your children to discuss the story that unfolds in this movie, you will be rewarded with giggles and an opportunity for nice conversation. The takeaways from the unsurprisingly heartwarming ending include important themes of forgiveness and openness.

There are positive or neutral references to vegetarianism and veganism in this movie (Sid is veg*n, and there is a brief appearance by a veg rhino couple, who are not very sympathetic) but they are quick slices of dialogue not central to the themes of the movie.

Rated PG.  Ages 6-12.

More info on this funny movie here, here and here.

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.

The Dog Who Belonged to No One: Guest Post by Jennifer Gannett

DogBelongedNoOneOur dog is supposed to be dead.  Picked up as a skin-and-bones stray, he was scheduled to be euthanized in a high-kill shelter a few days before a rescue transport van arrived.  A shelter worker hid him, hoping the transporter had room for him in her van and her small rescue facility.  As I understand it, our dog sniffed the transporter’s hand, looked at her and wagged his tail hard — which is why he is now lying here at my feet, wagging his tail for me.

I am partial to rescued dogs and their rescuers, so I was drawn to The Dog Who Belonged To No One by Amy Hest, author of the Baby Duck books.

We are not given any background on the nameless dog, but we know he is feeling very lonely.  As he trots around town, he does kind things for others hoping they’ll befriend him.  Meanwhile, Lia, the young daughter of two bakers, delivers their wares on her bike.  She pedals around town on her delivery route while the other children play, making up stories to amuse herself.

One day, both dog and girl are caught in a bad storm. The dog seeks refuge at the bakers’ home just as a soaked Lia is arriving, pedaling furiously.  Inside the warm house, the mother dries the happy little beings off together in one cozy towel while the father looks on as he kneads bread. Lia and the dog remain together and are lonely no longer.

Amy Bates’s illustrations are rich and lively.  I especially enjoy the illustration of children playing together while little Lia looks at them longingly, about to ascend yet another hill on her outsized delivery bike (oh, the tugging of the heartstrings!).

This story depicts a stray dog’s life while remaining true to the picture book audience.  Neither my son nor I were uncomfortable with the description of the dog’s unfortunate situation. In our household, we love a happy ending and this story has it.  May other animals be so lucky.

Ages 4 to 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.

All In A Day: Guest Post by Jennifer Gannett

AllinaDay

I have admired the beautiful work of artist Nikki McClure for many years, so I was excited to get my hands on a book she had illustrated with her gorgeous, original style of paper cutting.  When we got it, I found that not only were the illustrations delightful, but the content was welcome as well.  In All In A Day, McClure has teamed up with the prolific, award-winning author Cynthia Rylant, the author of one of our family’s favorite series, Mr. Putter and Tabby.

All In A Day‘s simple but lovely story traces the rhymths of an unrushed country day– celebration, surprise, chores, disappointment, delight, adventure and life with family and community.

McClure’s illustrations convey the loving bond between a boy and a white chicken by showing them side by side — experiencing life and enjoying their time together.  They are depicted in a garden, in a rainstorm, sharing grain and even lying on their backs with the papa, looking up at the sky.  (I especially love this page because it seems to convey an acceptance of the chicken as a larger part of the family as well as an openness about the family’s adults.)

Eggs are shown on many of the pages with the chicken, though there is never any intention around the egg.  Even when one of egg cracks and the boy appears upset (disappointment and beginning anew!), my take from the context of the illustrations is that he is more upset for the chicken than for any other reason.

A hallmark of McClure’s style, there are marvelous botanical and domestic details sprinkled throughout the illustrations such as a curious squirrel, leaves, beautiful trees– she has a way with the birch tree– shovels, feathers, wild birds, hats and laundry accessories.  This book was an especially serendipitous find for my son, who loves gardening, mushrooms and fluffy dandelions, which are subject matters rarely combined in one volume of children’s literature.

This sweet, peaceful story is a wonderful, gentle reminder to enjoy our days and all that they hold while (literally!) illustrating inherent respect for non-humans and appreciation for their companionship.  I enthusiastically recommend this book as a bedtime read, but its lovely at any time for the preschool and kindergarten set.  Older children and adults may be interested in having a look at unusual artistry of the papercut illustrations and learning the story behind this art form and artist.

A little Googling has revealed the McClure has written and illustrated a book called The Great Chicken Escape.  I look forward to reading it and reviewing it!

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.