Author/illustrator Ruby Roth's newly released children's book, "Vegan is Love", has drawn plenty of praise from notable figures such as Jane Goodall, Gene Baur and singer Jason Mraz. Building on the success of her first book, "That's Why We Don't Eat Animals", Roth offers a more detailed description of vegan living in "Vegan is Love", complete with information for children to make cruelty-free choices at home, in school and in their communities.
Some critics of Roth's book say it is inappropriate for children because of its subject matter and the book's references to animal testing, factory farm pollution, and animal cruelty. Roth has been making the rounds on the air addressing the media "controversy". This past week, I talked with her about what parents can expect from the book and how she developed its intriguing illustrations.
With "Vegan is Love" you've gone more in depth on vegan life choices that children can make, from simply focusing on eating a vegan diet in "That's Why We Don't Eat Animals" (published in 2009) to making a choice to avoid zoos, circuses that use animals, choosing cruelty-free products, etc. When did you decide to take this message further and what age range do you believe the book is best suited for?
The official age is seven and up, but I believe that children even younger can relate to the illustrations. Where my first book was about the “why’s” of a plant-based lifestyle, “Vegan Is Love” is about the “hows”—how to send our love across the world through the choices we make everyday. This book discusses the far-reaching impact of veganism. I wrote it because America has had a very hard time in the last couple of years. Instead of worrying or “occupying,” I decided to write this book for a new generation of children who will have to think, eat, and live differently if we are to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.
Are children ready to handle the responsibility of making the consumer choices you describe? Some reviewers say that the subject matter may be too "controversial"? What is your take on this?
There is nothing more graphic in my book than what any child might see in a deli case or on the myriad fishing, hunting, or cooking shows on TV. I think it’s never too early to begin teaching your kids how to love deeply, think critically, and act responsibly. We do not give kids enough credit for their insight and ability to make inferences and draw conclusions. When we give kids the information they need to make educated choices, they choose wisely—for health, animals, and the environment. For example, if children are educated about animal testing, they are excited to help their parents look for cruelty-free logos at the grocery store. The PG versions of reality in my book are a child-friendly way to begin discussions.
Your newest book is quite an empowering guide for young people, have you received any notable letters of admiration or support from young fans of your books?
Absolutely! Parents around the world send me news about their children’s thoughts and reactions to my books as well as the “controversy” in the media—the notes are always hilarious and insightful. In response to the negative critique of “Vegan is Love” by a child psychologist on FOX, one mother told me her young vegan daughter said “Why is that expert so ignorant?” I also have letters about the activism my book inspired—children doing presentations, science projects, and placing signs in their neighborhood about the benefits of veganism. Kids feel empowered by information.
The subject matter of "Vegan is Love" is serious, but needn't be frightening to children who are ready to comprehend it. What were the biggest challenges you faced when creating the illustrations for the book? What was your creative process like when deciding on the look and feel of the book?
Thank you, I’ve never once seen a child overwhelmed by my books—only adults. The purpose of the text and illustrations is not to instill fear but inspire action. The animal testing spread, for example, shows only the most minor slice of the reality inside labs. To kids, the illustration appears simply as animals in cages, some with “ouchies.” Children don’t have the context that adults do when we look at an image like this, which reminds of us exposed organs, syringes, restraints. I made sure every page was manageable for a child’s capacity and contained an affirmation about action. The most important lesson for kids to learn is that we don’t have to fear anything we have the power to change.
For more information on Ruby Roth's books visit http://www.wedonteatanimals.com/