Being vegan or vegetarian isn’t always easy for kids (or grown-ups). Kids often want to fit in and in a world of humans that eat animals and products made from animals, choosing not to makes one different. The children’s picture books below address this topic from different viewpoints, but all do so with kindness, honesty and sensitivity.
My son, William, and I have enjoyed reading these books together many times and we recommend them all.
1. Vegan is Love: Having Heart & Taking Action, Written & Illustrated by Ruby Roth
Vegan is Love is the most powerful children’s book on the list. It speaks directly to children about important topics including the use of animals for clothing, food and entertainment at their level without speaking down to them. It explains how our food choices effect our health, animals, other people and the environment in complex ways. This is a children’s book, but it contains information most adults are likely unaware of. In fact, adults are likely to learn as much as kids from reading Vegan is Love together. The book ends with a list of “What Else Can We Do?” to inspire children to do their part to help protect animals and the earth.
This book is certainly too advanced for toddlers and preschoolers, but is just right for elementary aged kids. It tells the sad truth of how humans commodify animals in words and illustrations, yet is likely to leave children and adults feeling thoughtful and empowered.
I highly recommend this one-of-a-kind children’s book. It deserves a place in both your home and school library.
2. Granny Gomez & Jigsaw, Written by Deborah Underwood, Illustrated by Scott Magoon
This is one of William’s favorite books. We’ve read it hundreds of times. It follows the story of Granny Gomez, who lives in a big house. She enjoys playing the drums, watching cooking shows, going mountain climbing and playing jigsaw puzzles, but she is lonely. She tells her friend, William (a little boy who presumably lives nearby), that she is thinking of getting a cat or dog. William says that cats and dogs are nice but they are not very special. The next day, Granny opens her front door to find a basket with a baby – a baby PIG! She tells William the pig must go back to Farmer Brown, but William says that if she sends the pig back, Farmer Brown will turn the pig into bacon. Granny looks into the pig’s soft brown eyes and decides to keep him. She names him Jigsaw. As Jigsaw grows, Granny realizes she must build him a barn, as big and nice as her house. Throughout the process, Granny and Jigsaw become great friends, watching cooking shows together, eating watermelon together and playing jigsaw puzzles.
William and I met the author, Deborah Underwood at Farm Sanctuary. She is vegan and said that she was inspired to write the book after visiting with the animals there.
Unfortunately, Granny Gomez & Jigsaw is currently out of print, but used copies are still available. I highly encourage you to pick up a copy before they are gone or check it out at your library today!
3. Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon, by Jules Bass and Debbie Harter
Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon lived in the land of Nogard. Every dragon in Nogard ate meat. But Herb was different. Herb enjoyed gardening and he was a vegetarian. One day, the knights set out to capture the dragons, but they were all hiding – all except Herb, who was busy making his famous Lakewater Veggie Slurp (potato leek soup). The knights captured Herb and chained him in the dungeon. Meathook, the leader of the dragon offered to break him out of jail if only he’d eat some wild boar meat. Herb refused. He said, “I don’t ask you to stop eating meat, so why do you ask me to stop eating vegetables?” Herb was about to walk the plank, when his friend, a little girl named Nicole, stepped in and saved him.
This book preaches a message of compassion, tolerance and understanding. “And even to this day, the story is told of how Herb, the vegetarian dragon, brought peace to the forest of Nogard, where dragons and people, meat-eaters and vegetarians, live together in peace and harmony.”
Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon was written by Jules Bass, half of the legendary team, Rankin & Bass, responsible for another lovable misfit, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!
4. Victor’s Picnic with the Vegetarian Animals by Radha Vignola, Illustrated by Michelle N. Ary
This book tells the story of Victor, a little boy who decides to become vegetarian because he loves animals. He goes to the library to learn how to be healthy without eating meat. He reads about beans, grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. He sits down under a tree, falls asleep and dreams about going to a vegetarian picnic with lots of animals. He learns which animals are herbivores and which are carnivores and shares some food with the herbivores.
There is a song at the end of the book set to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat. My son and I used to enjoy singing this song together when he was younger.
The illustrations don’t match the quality of the text, but in my experience, kids don’t mind. We recommend this book. It has a fun, engaging story line that kids enjoy and is full of educational information about the natural diet of herbivores, including people!
5. ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, Story and Pictures by Dav Pilkey
‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving is a riff on the famous ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem. In this picture book rendition, Dav Pilkey, who is the author of the very popular children’s book series, Captain Underpants, eight children board their school bus for a field trip to a turkey farm. There they meet Farmer Mack Nuggett, who looks remarkably like Santa Claus.
The children meet the turkeys who the farmer calls by name (like Santa calling the reindeer). Soon, one of the children notices an axe and asks what it is for. Farmer Mack Nuggett tells the children that the turkeys will be chopped and roasted for Thanksgiving feasts. The children burst into tears and while the farmer and teacher walk away to discuss what to do to calm the children, the children hide the turkeys under their clothes to rescue them. “The very next evening Eight families were blessed with eight fluffy Thankgiving turkeys as guests.”
This book teaches children by example the power of love and of action. It shows how just one person’s food choices and decisions can save a life. It does so in a fun way, without preaching. At a time of year when most families are eating turkeys, this book is a valuable reminder that actions do matter and that those of us who choose not to eat animals are not alone.
6. Steven the Vegan, Written by Dan Bodenstein, Illustrated by Ron Robrahn
In this cute book geared for young elementary aged kids, Steven goes on a school field trip to a local farm sanctuary. At lunchtime, one of Steven’s classmates notices he is eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich along with some carrots and celery and says, “Eeew, Steven’s eating vegetables.” The kids ask why he is eating vegetables and Steven explains that he is vegan and doesn’t eat anything that comes from animals because animals are friends, not food. With clear, simple explanations and colorful cartoons, Steven explains how kids can live in line with their own values of kindness and love. This book is a helpful introduction to being vegan for young children.
7. Linus the Vegetarian T. Rex by Robert Neubecker
Linus, the Vegetarian T.Rex tells the story of Ruth Ann MacKenzie, a little girl who loves natural history. She knows all about the the ice age, the oceans and dinosaurs, but when she goes to the Natural History Museum, she gets a surprise. She meets a T.Rex named Linus who goes hunting for…arugula, broccoli and tomatoes! A T.Rex who’s a vegetarian? Linus and Ruth Ann spend the afternoon together, munching veggies and chatting and become great friends. Ruth Ann discovers the museum is full of surprises.
According to the book, the author, Robert Neubecker, “was inspired to write this story after reading about Falcarius utahensis, a dinosaur whose ancestors evolved from being meat eaters to vegetarians!”
This is a sweet book with darling illustrations for little kids. Highly recommended.
8. Lena of Vegitopia and the Mystery of the Missing Animals by Sybil Severin, Illustrated by Carlos Patino
Lena of Vegitopia tells the tale of a little girl named Lena Lentil Bean, who lives in a place called Vegitopia, where all animals are friends, not food. Lena has her own lettuce patch and her friend and neighbor, a cow named Flora comes to visit her. Flora is upset because one of her babies is missing. Lena soon discovers that some of the neighboring piglets and chicks are missing as well. Lena writes a letter to Princess Vegi-Terry-Anne asking for help. She receives a reply and learns that Carnista is the one responsible for taking the baby animals! Princess Vegi-Terry-Anne and Lena work together to save the animals and Carnista in this heroic tale of bravery, friendship, compassion, forgiveness and redemption.
9. Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice by Nathalie VanBalen
In this whimsical, imaginative and thoughtful book, the main characters include the narrator named Ingvar, Thora (who thinks), Zwee and Geep and Aksel and Krog. Aksel and Krog are vikings, but not your typical vikings. They are also totally, totally, pumped about many things including adventures, metal music and juicing. They read on the internet that ground up snail shells are a great addition to juice, adding protein and other nutrients. They then set out to collect snails so they can grind up the shells to add to their juice. When they get home with a bunch of snails, Thora grimaces. The author creatively shows Thora’s brain and heart to indicate thinking and feeling. Thora says, “Yellow spotted snail shells are not for vikings. They belong to yellow spotted snails.” The book asks the questions, “How does it feel to be food?” It doesn’t answer the question, but allows the reader to think and feel for him or herself. The book has a funny, happy ending, that will have kids joyfully reading along with the last couple of pages. Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice is perhaps the silliest, most thoughtful and most creative book we’ve ever read in communicating empathy for other species to children. Highly recommended!
Sadly, this lovely book is now out of production, but to contact the author, please visit her website at https://purplehouseproductions.wordpress.com/
10. We’re Vegan! by Anna Bean
This is a simple, colorful picture book with charming illustrations written for young children. In it, Petra, John and their mom, Sue explain the meaning of the vegan diet and lifestyle from an abolitionist vegan perspective. There is one sentence in the book which I feel may come across as a little judgemental to some, “Vegans care about animals, like many say they do, But not just “pets” – Vegans care about the others too.” However, this book can be a helpful introduction for little kids just learning what it means to be vegan.
What are you and your children’s favorite books about being vegan, kindness and compassion?