21 March 2012

'Vegan is Love' helps children make a difference

Activist, author, and artist Ruby Roth is helping to fill a significant void in the vegan world: books for vegan children. With her second book -- due April 24, 2012 -- the former teacher provides parents with an educational tool, and vegan children with a rare opportunity to have a book that reflects their family's life and values.

In this visually lush follow-up to her first children's book, That's Why We Don't Eat Animals (North Atlantic Books, 2009), Roth introduces children to facets of veganism beyond the food we eat. Elaborately and beautifully illustrated, Vegan is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action teaches children that, small though they may be, they have the power to create positive change through the choices they make.

This 40-page picture book provides a fairly comprehensive look at the vegan system of ethics -- from fashion to factory farming, from entertainment to environmental issues. In doing so, the text and tone sometimes over-reach the intended age group. While the publisher lists the book as appropriate for ages six and up, a children's librarian consulted for this review placed the readability at a level appropriate for 8 year olds, and felt the concepts veered into areas more appropriate for children 9 to 11.

By age 8, children tend to move from picture books to short chapter books, so the content in the book feels somewhat at odds with the style. While younger children will most likely be drawn to the pictures, the text may be too long and too advanced to hold their attention. While older children may appreciate the text, they may question whether they're "too big" for a picture book.

Yet, prepared parents can easily navigate these issues, using the clear, powerful messages conveyed by the illustrations to teach young children, and helping older children to appreciate that the text is written for "big kids." The book might be a good choice for older children to read to their younger siblings. It certainly answers many questions that children raised vegan are likely to have, about issues such as the circus, the aquarium and the zoo.

Vegan is Love contains mildly graphic depictions of the objectionable behaviors our society engages in towards animals, such as hunting and animal testing. However, these sad images are offset by many joyous, happy images that reflect the positive effects of a loving vegan lifestyle. For example, an illustration of giraffes unhappily confined in a zoo is followed by one of giraffes running and frolicking in the wild.

Taken on the whole, it presents a realistic but non-frightening look at the exploitation of animals, because child readers are empowered to believe they can be part of the solution. They are encouraged to make vegan beliefs their own (to make veganism not just what they are told to do, but what they choose for themselves), to share what they know with others, and to feel positively about the loving choices they and their family make as vegans. In Vegan is Love, the message of love prevails.

Special thanks to John Symons and Jodi Symons of the Miami-Dade Public Library System for their assistance with this review.

Kasey Minnis | Facebook | @veggiemightee | Blog
Fort Lauderdale, FL That rare and elusive species known as the native Floridian, Kasey is passionate about protecting other endangered creatures. She lives by the principle “compassion and crochet for all,” and enjoys teaching others – including her husband of 20 years and two beautiful children – the benefits of cruelty-free eating by feeding them tasty vegan treats from her kitchen. Contact Kasey at kasey@thisdishisveg.com.

Photo credit: Vegan is Love

Disclosure: A complimentary digital copy of this publication was provided to TDIV for review. TDIV provides fair and unbiased reviews of all publications or products submitted for assessment.