Vegan kids especially need books that affirm their values and allow them to explore issues around human-animal relations that most cultural artifacts — and other children in your vegan child’s world — tend to overlook. Books are one way adults can support the vegan children in their lives while creating opportunities to spend time together. Here are a few titles to get you started.
1. Who Is the Beast? by Keith Baker – Ages 0-8*
Available in board book and paperback, Keith Baker’s Who Is the Beast? is a visual treat that delivers a powerful message to boot. The rhyming story follows a lone tiger through the jungle and reveals his surprise when other animals recoil at his presence. In the end, the tiger revisits each of the animals and points out what they have in common. Not only does this book emphasize that we are all animals, but it offers a nice parable for addressing the feelings that arise from being different.
2. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey – Ages 2-5
When a girl and her mother go out to collect blueberries, the little girl accidentally switches places with a bear cub who is out foraging blueberries with his own mother. Without anthropomorphizing the bears, this book teaches us that all mommas love their babies and that being careful around wildlife is not the same thing as being fearful.
3. Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss – Ages 3-8
You might remember Horton the elephant as the faithful guardian of an egg in Dr. Seuss’s classic Horton Hatches the Egg. In Horton Hears a Who!, Horton’s giant ears allow him to hear the very, very small people who inhabit a dust speck – even when everyone around him insists no one is there. The book’s refrain, “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” is a good reminder that all sentient beings deserve our respect – and we would all do well to emulate Horton’s bravery in the face of adversity.
4. Olivia by Ian Falconer – Ages 3-8
While Ian Falconer’s heroine Olivia is one entirely anthropomorphized pig – she wears clothes, for goodness sake – she is also smart, feisty, and adorable. Kids who eschew bacon will enjoy seeing a pig painted in such endearing terms, and even adults will enjoy the subtle humor and cultural references in this book.
5. Bears Barge In by Joni Sensel and Chris Bivins – Ages 4-8
This book explores what happens when people encroach on wildlife habitat and offers a solution based in compassion and respect for other animals. Kids and adults alike will learn that we need not fear wild animals – we just need to understand them and commit to giving them a little space.
6. Gorilla by Anthony Browne – Ages 4-8
Children’s books are often full of zoo propaganda. Not so with Anthony Browne’s 1980s book Gorilla. With a bent toward magic realism, this book fulfills a little girl’s fantasy of experiencing real gorillas. When she visits the primates in the local zoo, however, she looks beyond the bars to see faces saddened by their captivity. The ending is ambiguous, but I like to think that the next morning the girl and her father forgo the zoo to spend the day at the park.
7. The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney – Ages 4-8
Aesop’s fable is transformed into a wordless animal rights treatise through Jerry Pinkey’s delightful illustrations. When a lion spares a mouse, the small rodent returns the favor by freeing him from a hunter’s nets. Vegan kids will emphathize with the animals and cheer the happy ending.
8. ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey – Ages 4-8
It’s amazing to me that a mainstream author like Dav Pilkey (known for his Captain Underpants series) penned such a pro-vegetarian animal liberation book. The story focuses on a class trip to a turkey farm the day before Thanksgiving that gives the kids a firsthand look at where “dinner” comes from. Needless to say, the kids and their families do not eat the turkeys the next day – instead, they invite them to dinner as guests.
9. Do Animals Have Feelings Too? by David L. Rice and Trudy Calvert – Ages 6-10
This book explores the rich emotional lives of animals, using anecdotes to show that countless species experience many of the same feelings as we do. David L. Rice takes a matter-of-fact approach to showing that chimpanzees can be compassionate and orcas can be vengeful – and Trudy Calvert’s wonderful illustrations bring the stories to life.
10. The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake – Ages 8-12
Roald Dahl is the master of satisfying endings, and this book delivers. A child’s righteous anger turns the hunters into the hunted, and everyone learns a lesson as a result. In the end, the former hunters mourn the animals they’d killed and destroy their guns. What vegan kid wouldn’t love that?
*Ed.: The age ranges are Jessica’s suggestions. We cannot be held responsible if the 0-year-old child in your womb is born a fantastic vegan after hearing you read Who Is the Beast?.