Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yummy Yarns: Veggie-friendly Reading

Cuddling up for a good read is one of the most precious ways to spend time together as a family. Yet, as vegetarians, storytime isn’t always easy. You likely find yourself changing words to match your own dinner table. You cringe when those loveable characters sit down to their ‘roast beast,’ and you realize you can’t quite force tofu burgers or barbeque tempeh into a credible rhyme. Even if the storyline doesn’t explicitly mention meat, often the illustrations reflect a carnivorous society. Well, look no further.

Whether you’re hoping to start a vegetarian friendly library or add to your young vegetarian’s already established literary collections, here are some choices that are as scrumptious as tonight’s veggie feast.

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
With simple words and pictures, Lois Ehlert takes even our youngest vegetarians on an adventure. From idea to seed to sprout to harvest to dinner table, little ones journey through what it takes to grow the best vegetable soup. Also available as a board book.
Ages 0-3 (Harcourt, Inc.)

Making Minestrone by Stella Blackstone; illustrated by Nan Brooks

“What do you do when you are feeling lonely?” Make minestrone with your friends, of course! This fun, simple rhyming tale through the garden and kitchen tells of five multi-ethnic friends who gather ingredients to make soup while the animals frolic about. A truly delightful menagerie of vegetarian flavors and friends! An easy vegan recipe follows this yummy story.
Ages 1 and up (Barefoot Books)

Scarlette Beane by Karen Wallace, Illustrated by Jon Berkeley

Scarlette Beane is born with a face that is as red as beet and green fingers, and she is destined to do something wonderful! On her fifth birthday, Scarlette is given a vegetable garden. With the tips of her fingers glowing and sparkling, amazing things begin to happen. A simple modern day fairy tale with vivid illustrations.
Ages 3-7 (Puffin Books)

Tops and Bottoms, adapted and illustrated by Janet Stevens
We LOVE this book! If you read just one of these stories listed here, let it be this one!
This well-told romp on the value of hard work is beautifully illustrated with realistic watercolors of organic homegrown vegetables. Tops and Bottoms is a clever Caldecott Honor book that will surely be treasured by the whole family.
Ages 4-8 (Harcourt Brace & Company)

To Market to Market written by Anne Miranda; illustrated by Janet Stevens
For all of us who have struggled to change the words to the traditional rhyme, To Market To Market by Anne Miranda is a delight! After multiple trips to market that only result in animals wreaking havoc in her home, this shopper decides to take the animals shopping for everything it takes to make veggie soup. Janet Stevens’ talent shines again with a unique mixture of realistic black and white collage and acrylic paintings that will literally have your little ones rolling with laughter.
Ages 4-8 (Harcourt Brace & Company)

Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke by Pamela Duncan Edwards, Illustrated by Henry Cole

This is the fabulous tongue twister of a story featuring a family of five foxes.
Fosdyke, the one brother who chooses a different dietary path, prepares fungi, French toast, fresh figs, fennel and fondue. Each time his brothers return from an unsuccessful foraging, they are happily greeted with a vegetarian feast because “A fox is a fox, whatever the food.”
Ages 4-9 (Harper Trophy)

Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon by Jules Bas and Debbie Harter
For any child interested in castles, knights and dragons, Herb the Vegetarian Dragon is a great choice. In true Barefoot Book style, the illustrations are vivid and colorful. While the publisher lists this book as appropriate for 4-8 year olds, many compassionate young ones and their parents may find the subject and storyline too violent. Would make a good ‘tween read.
(Barefoot Books)

The Lady and the Spider by Faith McNulty; illustrated by Bob Marshall
This is an endearing tale of a head of lettuce, the spider inhabiting it, and the lady whose garden in which it grew. This Reading Rainbow Book and old favorite takes us on a journey from two perspectives, that of the lady and that of the spider. Connecting with the spider in the end, the lady returns the spider to its rightful home.
Ages 6-9 (Harper Trophy)

Cows Are Vegetarians: A Book for Vegetarian Kids by Ann Bradley, Illustrations by Elise Huffman ~ Cover by Stephen Kramer

Being a vegetarian is wonderful and Ann Bradley shows us exactly why! Now in its fourth printing, Cows Are Vegetarians is a must have for vegetarian families. It is chock full of simple explanations of the importance of being vegetarian and how vegetarianism is good for animals, people and the environment. This title can be ordered directly from the author at
Ages 9-12 (Healthways)

Saving Emily by Nicholas Read, illustrated by Ellen Klem

In this compassionate tale, the lives of twelve year-old Chris, his friend Gina, and a young heifer named Emily from a nearby ranch, are brought together in a life-and-death adventure. Saving Emily is a great read aloud for early readers or independent novel for your ‘tween’ readers about the business of growing and killing food and what the efforts of a few can do.
Ages 10 and up (Prometheus Books)

Play With Your Food by Joost Elfers
Go ahead …play with your food! Learn to really see your food with this inspiring and creative ‘coffee table’ book. Play With Your Food is full of life-sized photos and step-by-step ‘recipes’. Learn to make okra grasshoppers, cucumber lizards, melon turtles, and my son's favorite, the bok choy buffalo, to name a few. These sure would make a great centerpiece for your vegetarian holiday feasts!
All ages (Stewart, Tabori and Chang)

I’m a Vegetarian by Ellen Schwartz, illustrated by Farida Zaman

Give your ‘tweens’ the gift of knowledge with this delightful, information packed resource. Whether they are thinking about becoming vegetarian or have always been one, I’m a Vegetarian will provide young readers with interesting facts, menu ideas, nutrition information and good healthy advice.
Ages 9-12 (Tundra Books)

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