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Books for Animal-Loving Gradeschoolers

Posted by tinako on March 5, 2013

My daughter decided to go vegan almost three years ago, and in an effort to support her, I have looked for children’s books in which there is a sympathetic awareness of animal exploitation.  In the past I have often had to put down a book she chose, Syd Hoff being a frequent offender, apologizing that I just couldn’t read it because I didn’t like how the animals were portrayed.  Teachable moments are great, but it is probably no fun for her to have the story constantly interrupted by a discussion.  I loved Syd Hoff as a kid – Danny and the Dinosaur and all that, but now I realize that the deepest wish of the animals in the books is to be exploited.  The wild horses are sad because no one is riding them, and the zoo animals just want to be looked at.  I can’t take it.

So I have a very small, not-at-all comprehensive, list of books that we have read together that meet our new needs.  I’ll keep adding to the list.  They aren’t perfect; they may show affection for one species and sweep another under the carpet.  Some just show a love between people and farm animals and exploitation just doesn’t happen, or just show animals in a positive light, but most of them have in common that they walk that narrow edge between the love of animals and the use of them.  They dare to look on both sides of the wall.

  • Harald and the Stag – Carrick.  Picture book but better for school-age and up I think.  A middle-ages boy saves a stag from hunters.
  • Babe, Ace, Pigs Might Fly, Pretty Polly – Dick King-Smith LOVES pigs.  Chapter books.  The farmers in these stories confront their own beliefs and habits in the face of extraordinary animals.
  • Catwings – Leguin, chapter books.  I actually found these insipid, but my daughter loved them.  No special anti-exploitation message, but they aren’t offensive either.
  • Charlotte’s Web – White, chapter book.
  • Most books by Bill Peet
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, O’Brien

Books I thought might be good but stopped reading:

  • Misty of Chincoteague – I loved this series when I was young.  Though I understand the kids question the pony round-up, there was too much unexamined, off-hand exploitation of other species in the first few chapters.  I have a feeling most horse books will be like this – it’s easy for authors and their readers to love a horse.
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