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My vegan toddler is 18 months old, and these are three of their favourite books. The books are not scary or graphic. They help Baby feel that they have a lot in common with animals, and imagine what it is like to live someone else’s life. The books are: That’s Not My Momma’s Milk by Julia Barcalow and Kayleigh Castle, Just Like Me! by Stanley Foo, and Animal Rescue by Patrick George.
The book in the video is…
Written (and read) by Julia Barcalow, illustrated by Kayleigh Castle, and published by Vegan Publishers- recommended for babies
That’s Not My Momma’s Milk is a baby board book which combines two of Baby’s favourite things- breasts! It is therefore very popular in our home, and has come on holiday with us more than once.
The book shows various mammal mothers and babies cuddling and nursing; demonstrating that all babies and parents like to stay close. My human Baby easily empathises with these other animal babies, since they behave in a similar way to us. Baby enjoys naming the animals and making their sounds; and often joins in having a feed too.
The familiar and cosy subject of breastfeeding is enhanced by simple repetition: ‘That’s not my Momma’s milk. That is a Momma ……. Her milk belongs to her…’.
The book does not directly suggest that anyone might drink another animal’s milk. Rather, a human child seems to be looking around for their own Momma’s milk, in the style of the ‘That’s Not My’ books. Baby has not yet encountered the idea of humans drinking animal milk, and I don’t feel they need to right now. When the issue is raised, I hope they will recall this story.
The final page shows the human, ‘farm’ and ‘pet’ animals all nursing together. It is nice to see these animals presented side by side, in contrast to non-vegan books which often reinforce a dichotomy.
My Mama’s Milk by Kawani Brown is a similar, more informative book for older siblings of breastfed babies.
Just Like Me! Story book and colouring book
Written and illustrated by Stanley Foo- recommended for ages 2-5
Here is another book which helps us relate to animals without anything scary happening. When I saw this book I instantly knew Baby would love it.
When Baby was little, the health visitor gave us a book called ‘All About Me’ which shows a diverse selection of children doing different actions using different body parts- clapping hands, wiggling toes, etc. Baby feels pretty chuffed when they copy these actions, and notice similarities between them and the pictured babies. They become aware of, and name their own body parts, and those of others.
Just Like Me! Expands this circle of compassion to animals, and also brings the point home by asking the reader to stick a picture of themselves inside:
Pigs have ears… to HEAR with.
Chickens have feet… to WALK with.
JUST LIKE ME!
Baby is delighted to have learnt to stick their tongue out like the cow…
It is a good book regardless of the vegan tone. One surprising thing I like is that the writing is mostly on one side of the page, and the animal picture of the other. This means I can point at the words without Baby getting annoyed that my arm is covering the picture. The letters are really big, so I can even point at which one I am sounding. One day, Baby invented a game where they would pass me a magnet and I would place it on the matching letter.
The animal pictures are fun and sweet, with collaged backdrops which add another point of intrigue when you work out what was used. Children can handle detail.
Baby has also enjoyed the colouring book. I was pleased to realise plain paper is well suited to adding additional language annotations in the hope Baby and I might learn (Cantonese).
Written and illustrated by Patrick George
Nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2016 and highly commended in the Junior Design Awards 2015
You can tell how enthusiastic Baby feels about a book by the extent to which it is held together with sticky tape. The chicken page of Animal Rescue was in tatters the first day we had it. Animal Rescue is a book without words, but with bold, memorable and well composed illustrations. It is part of Patrick George’s series of books with transparent, acetate pages. Baby managed to destroy Animal Rescue book even quicker than their other acetate book, Eric Carle’s Mister Seahorse.
Each right-hand page shows a scene where an animal wouldn’t want to be- such as a crowded chicken barn. The left-hand page shows a scene where they would rather be- grassy hills with a rabbit, for example. The animals are printed onto transparent acetate. When you first turn to the page the animal is seen in the nasty place. By turning the acetate page, you personally get to rescue the animal, and see them in the nice place.
The settings are places which could be scary, but have been drawn in such a way that they are not. The book can be read in an age appropriate way. I currently say something like ‘oh dear, the parent bear is sad because they are alone… ah, that’s better, now they are back with their baby bear’. Soon I might build the narrative up to say: ‘how do you think the bears feel’, or ‘this is a zoo, we don’t go to zoos because bears are happier in the wild with their families’.