10 Children’s Books with Messages of Compassion Towards Animals
I am often asked for children’s book recommendations with strong messages about veganism and compassion towards animals. As a dad of vegan children, I quickly realized that many children’s books reinforce the wrong messages. Animals are often viewed in books as food, products or seen for our entertainment purposes (books about zoo animals are everywhere). We have raised our kids to know that animals are none of these things; they are individuals who exist for their own reasons and their value is more than what we place on their lives as burgers or leather shoes. So I am always pleased when I stumble on books with great messages about treating animals with compassion that reinforce the messages we try to convey to our kids. It must be working…my 2 year old recently saw a picture of an elephant in a zoo and asked, “Why is that elephant in jail?” My 5 yr old always buys the Zoo in the kids’ version of Monopoly so he can set the animals free. I’m proud that we are raising our kids to follow their natural instincts to protect animals from harm rather than use them as commodities. In our house, we read a LOT of books, so it’s nice when we find ones with a message of compassion hidden inside them.
I think there is value in reading the other books as well. If you get to a part where an animal is harmed or being caged or eaten for dinner, it’s an opportunity to talk to your kids about it. Ask, “How do you think they feel in that cage?” or “We don’t drink cow milk, we choose the kind that doesn’t harm animals.” Every opportunity you have to point out the otherwise invisible speciesism found all around us, it protects them against the bombardment of ads, billboards, peer pressures, etc. that they will face in their lives. Children display a natural compassion towards animals. We should be reinforcing that natural instinct rather than teaching them to suppress it.
There are lots of books out there with great messages, and a growing number of books specifically being written about veganism. This is certainly not an exhaustive list or maybe not even the best, but they are some favorites from a vegan dad who has been reading children’s books for nearly a decade.
Linus The Vegetarian T-Rex
This is a wonderful story about an adorable T-Rex who loves veggies. When asked “Didn’t you want to eat those guys?” about some smaller dinosaurs, Linus responds “I wouldn’t dream of it. They’re my friends!”
Yertle the Turtle
There are lots great messages in this book about a greedy turtle who seeks to rule more and more of the world on the backs (literally) of less fortunate turtles. His plan doesn’t work out, of course, and there is a wonderful quote that should send a great message to anyone reading it: “And the turtles, of course…all the turtles are FREE. As turtles, and maybe, ALL creatures should be.”
The Forgotten Rabbit
My kids absolutely loved this book about a rabbit who was bought as a pet and loved at first but then forgotten and later moved to a cage out back and never played with again. Then a girl rescues the rabbit and reassures her she will never be forgotten again. I have a very slight nitpick with this book in that the rabbit was trained for a competition by her rescuer, which may promote the idea that people should support rabbit breeding for shows, but really the message is about rescue and against purchasing animals as pets without understanding that it is a lifelong commitment. The book evokes true feelings of sadness at her situation then relief when she is saved.
Piggy and Dad Go Fishing
In this book, the son sees the world in a completely different way and shares his views with his dad. Piggy thinks the fish are sad and in the end they come with a better form of “fishing” which is feeding the fish rather than catching them. This teaches kids (and adults) that you can enjoy nature by being a part of it without taking from it or harming animals. I had a similar situation with my own kids. My oldest was interested in fishing, but we found a better way. In the heat of the summer, we go to dried up creek beds and find fish who have been trapped in puddles and rescue them by moving them back to the water. If your child is asking to go fishing, find other ways they can enjoy nature. Go on a walk through the woods and discover new plants and bugs. Or just take a boat ride and have a picnic.
Not A Nugget
This book explores all kinds of amazing facts about animals to show kids WHO they are rather that WHAT they are, which includes the overriding message that animals are our friends, not food.
That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals
This book proclaims (among other thigns) “It should be good to be called a pig!” It is full of great facts about animals and the difference in their natural, happy lives versus the life they life on farms. My only nitpick with this book is that it refers to “factory farms” several times and I prefer to just talk about “farms” since the act of farming animals is cruel regardless of the scale.
Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother Too?
This was a favorite of mine for our kids when they were very little. It’s a board book that helps kids see similarities between themselves and other animals by pointing out that every animal has a mother, and every mother loves their babies. Each page is a different animal with passages like “Does a kangaroo have a mother, too? Yes, a kangaroo has a mother, just like me and you.”
What Do I Eat?
A cute little board book for younger kids and on each page there is an animal eating a different veggie. This does not have a specific message and is “accidentally vegan” but it’s still a great book to reinforce that veggies are food without discussion about any kind of animal part being food.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
You may not think of this classic as having a vegan message, but I love that you see the world from the rabbits’ point of view. It may be disturbing to very young readers that Peter’s father was caught and baked into a pie by Mr. McGregor’s wife. However, the book makes you empathize with the animals and I think it’s a great way to understand from an animal’s point of view why eating them is wrong.
On Meadowview Street
This is a story about a family who moved into a typical suburban neighborhood. She spots a flower in the yard and asks her dad to mow around it. Then other flowers pop up and she protects those too. Soon her yard has become somewhat of a nature preserve with flowers, butterflies and animals. Her neighbors see what she has done and they start doing the same. Not only does the book have a great message about protecting the earth and animals, it shows the effect one compassionate little girl can have on those around her.
Bonus suggestion…”Odd Duck”
This book is about two eccentric ducks becoming friends, and doesn’t really fit the theme of this list, but I love when there are hidden treasures in books like this. Check out the Egg Replacer casually sitting on the table! Nearly every children’s book I have been about baking has some page or reference to eggs. So it’s nice to see something like this and it’s a wonderful sign of the times.