Books play a magical role in our childhoods. Those few minutes of bedtime reading at the end of the day are so precious and sweet for children that they ask for another story, and then another, and another. Though children’s books speak to society’s most innocent humans, from a vegan perspective, some books might not fit the cruelty-free bill.
Whether it mentions a human eating an animal or praises a person who farms our friends for food, certain stories are better off not being shared with our vegan families. Despite those books that imply animal cruelty, there are many delightful vegan-friendly stories for young ones. Some are intentionally pro-vegan, and some are just accidentally animal-friendly.
Is a vegan diet safe for kids?
Children are less likely than adults to see animals as food, according to a recent study—so it’s no surprise your little one may be looking to eat more plants instead of animals. Parents, rest easy. A vegan diet is suitable for children. In fact, research shows that plant-based diets supplemented with vitamin B12 are an excellent source of nutrition for kids at all stages of childhood, according to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). And even the American Dietetic Association (ADA) agrees.
“It is the position of the [ADA] that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases,” the ADA reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. “Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
Children can thrive on a vegan diet, according to a recent review published in Nutrition Research. According to researchers, vegan kids showcased normal growth patterns. Plus, kids who eat plant-based foods were found to consume the recommended amount, if not more, of essential nutrients such as iron and protein when compared to their non-vegan counterparts. In the long-run, healthy vegan diets can help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Plant-based diets also help kids eat more fruits and vegetables, food groups their diets are generally lacking in. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2007 and 2010, 60 percent of children failed to consume the daily recommended amount of fruit. During this same period, 93 percent of kids didn’t eat enough vegetables.
If your kids are growing more vegcurious by the day, talk to their pediatrician about essential nutrients and supplements such as B12 and vitamin D—which may need to be supplemented. Online research and kid-approved recipes can also put you at ease. Board-certified pediatrician Yami Cazorla-Lancaster, DO, also offers a plethora of easy-to-digest nutritional information specifically geared toward families and children looking to eat more plant-based through her website Veggie Fit Kids.
Vegan children’s books
Here are 15 of our favorite children’s books suitable for vegans of all ages.
1 V is for Vegan
Written and illustrated by Ruby Roth, this book is perfect for littles learning their ABC’s. Fun rhymes and bright colors teach kids about vegan food groups alongside animal protection and the importance of being kind to the environment. Build a vegan library for the kids in your life with Roth’s other titles such as That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals and Vegan Is Love.
2 Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore
Books, yummy treats, and a love for animals come together in this book written and illustrated by Stacy Russo. Stella the librarian embarks on a journey as she follows her dreams of opening her very own bakery and bookstore under one roof. Complete with vegan recipes, this book is perfect for bedtime and for kids eager to learn their way around the kitchen. Don’t miss Russo’s Stella Peabody’s Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore, a novel-in-stories set in the same universe geared toward older kids.
3 Kira’s Animal Rescue
Author Erin Teagan teamed up with AmericanGirl to teach young girls around the world about helping animals in their time of need. The follow up to Kira Down Under, this sequel follows Kira as she helps evacuate an animal sanctuary after a bushfire threatens to destroy the animals’ home. For budding animal activists, this book also features teen activist and animal rights advocate Genesis Butler.
4 The Forgotten Rabbit
Known for her wonderful writing about animals and related issues, this charming book by Nancy Furstinger (and illustrated by Nancy Lane) follows rescued rabbit Bella on her journey from a neglected life in cruel conditions to a joy-filled home with someone who loves her. Both The Gryphon Press (the book’s publisher) and Furstinger are active in raising awareness about animal issues, and the book includes a full page of information about rabbit adoption, proper bunny care, and other resources.
5 Make Way for Ducklings
Unfortunately, not all childhood classics will be appropriate for vegan households, but this beloved book (first published in 1941 and written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey) contains no scenes featuring animal cruelty. The story follows a pair of ducks as they search Boston for an appropriate home to begin their family. Finally finding just the right place, they are soon parents to eight baby birds. Escorting the little ones around town could be dangerous, but with the help of some compassionate humans, the ducks make their way to safety.
6 Dave Loves Chickens
You can tell this will be a fun book by the brightly colored illustration on the cover, featuring Dave, an alien embracing two chickens. Colorful and upbeat, Dave Loves Chickens still comes with a serious message and some valuable information for children about our friends, aka the chickens. “As you and I and Dave will agree,” writes author and illustrator Carlos Patiño, “chickens are great, and they don’t belong on your plate.”
7 When the World is Dreaming
Children are big dreamers (and dreams directly follow bedtime stories), so it’s fitting that there are two children’s books about dreams on this list. In lulling poetry, the book—written by Rita Gray and illustrated by Kenard Pak‚ asks what animals such as snakes, deers, and newts dream. The end of the book will especially speak to young vegans, when a little girl dreams of all of the animals gathering in her room “and none of them feels the least bit afraid.”
8 Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears
In this beautifully illustrated book, Jill Robinson (founder of the nonprofit Animals Asia) collaborates with renowned writer Marc Bekoff to tell the story of Jasper, one of the hundreds of bears rescued by Animals Asia from the cruelty of bear-bile farming. The book—illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen—offers an explanation of the bile-farming industry in simple terms, while depicting Jasper’s inspiring recovery and happy new life at Animals Asia’s sanctuary in China.
9 Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary
The first time Maya Gottfried visited Farm Sanctuary, she realized that this place of peace that provided loving shelter for animals who had suffered was a children’s book waiting to be written. Her book Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary tells the stories of some of the residents of the organization’s shelters in poems penned from the animals’ perspectives. Art by Robert Rahway Zakanitch beautifully captures their sweet faces and gentle souls.
10 The Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig
Authors Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter (along with Caprice Crane) bring their New York Times bestselling memoir for adults to life for children in this loveable picture book. Jenkins’ and Walter’s lives were changed forever when they discovered that their adopted mini-pig, Esther, was not so mini after all. Kids will love this true story about the family’s move to a big farm to accommodate Esther’s size, and how it inspired them to create the Happily Ever Esther animal sanctuary—a home for dozens of rescued animals, from chickens to a donkey.
11 Gwen the Rescue Hen
The second book in Stone Pier Press’s Farm Animal Rescue series, Gwen the Rescue Hen sheds light on the realities of factory farming in an age-appropriate and relatable way. Author Leslie Crawford’s playful prose tells the tale of Gwen and her fateful escape from an egg farm. Free from the hen house, Gwen’s adventure is only just beginning as she discovers a new life on the outside. As children read about the friendship that she forges with a boy named Mateo, they will gain more than an enlightening look at farmed animal rescues, but also a lesson in compassion, and a close look at the extraordinary individuals who are chickens. The book also includes a bonus section, with fun facts all about chickens.
12 If Animals Said I Love You
Through alliterative rhymes, in this book for preschoolers author Ann Whitford Paul takes an imaginative look at how non-human animals, from cheetahs to gorillas, might express their love for others in their families. In David Walker’s whimsical illustrations that feature various animal mamas and papas snuggling their babies, human families are made aware of the similarities between us and our animal counterparts. Though we might say it differently, we all love the same.
13 Pig Park
In this upbeat picture book written by M.J. Minor and illustrated by Julian Galvan, readers meet Curly, a spunky and playful pig. Highlighting the similarities between dogs and pigs, this is a story of empathy and friendship that inspires families to think differently about why they may consider some animals as good companions, and others differently. Curly’s love for carrots and friends that include String Bean Pete, also brings excitement around eating fruit and vegetables.
14 Not A Purse
When author Stephanie Dreyer went vegan, the changes that her connection to animals inspired were strictly limited to her food. However, she quickly learned about the injustices to animals in her home goods and beauty products, in addition to food system cruelties. Through research, she became educated about the multitude of everyday items in our homes that exploit animals. Through surprising facts that every child will understand, and fun-loving illustrations by Jack Veda, her book Not A Purse enlightens families about the various ways that animals are worn and used at home, and inspires them to explore alternatives.
The protagonist of this book—written and illustrated by Clive McFarland—is a teeny caterpillar who dreams of flying and exploring the world outside of the garden where he lives. He works hard to achieve his dream. Then something miraculous happens, and everything for which he had hoped comes true. This sweet book offers subtle lessons on the importance of dreams, the value of friends, and the amazing things that life can bring.
Stephanie Dreyer is the author of Not A Nugget and Not A Purse, and the founder of StephanieDreyer.com where she helps families cook and eat healthier.