All the world is nuts about
With a growing number of young people turning to vegetarianism, we thought it prudent to examine some newer books targeted toward them. This month we review three books designed to inform young readers about vegetarianism.
Capstone Press, 2001
"What's for dinner, Dad?" Robert asked as he dropped his school books onto the kitchen counter.
"We're having chicken tonight."
Robert shook his head. "Don't make any for me. I'm not eating meat anymore."
"But chicken isn't meat. Beef is meat," Robert's dad said.
"I won't eat anything that had a face," said Robert.
Sprinkled throughout Vegetarianism for Teens are dialogues with teens in real life situations involving vegetarianism. The dialogues appear throughout this book that attempts to cram the basics of vegetarianism into 64 pages.
The work is divided into seven chapters that address topics such as What Is Vegetarianism, An Old Idea That's New, Why Eat Vegetarian? Building a Healthy Vegetarian Diet, Meal Planning at Home, Eating on the Go, Making Vegetarianism Work for You.
The structure of the book reminds the reader of a basic textbook on vegetarianism. Each chapter begins with four or five statements relating to the material that will be addressed in that section. The chapter concludes with three or four Points to Consider, questions the reader needs to ask himself or herself.
Also appearing throughout the book are Fast Facts, Did You Know, and Teen Talk-- all graphically presented information at the tops of many pages. "A little over 1 percent of children and teens are vegetarian. This is according to one poll of students ages 8 to 17," one such message informs the reader.
Beginning with the types of vegetarian diets, the author continues with a brief history of vegetarianism and famous vegetarians of the past. She also includes vegetarian celebrities today such as Michael Jackson, Brad Pitt, and Carlos Santana. In addition she presents information on vegetarian eating in different areas of the world.
Addressing why people become vegetarians, she covers concern for animals, the environment, hunger, health and religious and spiritual beliefs.
In Building a Healthy Vegetarian Diet she presents her readers with a Vegetarian Teen's Food Guide that stresses food group needs for proper nutrition as well as a Diet Checklist for Vegetarian Teens.
In Meal Planning at Home, Duden discusses soy products and meat substitutes and gives useful Tips for Planning Easy Meals. She concludes the chapter with five easy recipes the teen can prepare.
Eating on the Go features good advice on snacks and recipes for Smoothies on the Run plus dealing with eating away from home.
Making Vegetarianism Work for You offers suggestions on dealing with others as well as ways to shift to a vegetarian program gradually.
The book concludes with addresses of organizations that may be contacted, internet resources, a bibliography for further reading, a glossary, and an index.
Vegetarianism for Teens is an excellent basic introduction to vegetarianism for young people but may be unsuitable for teens. Loaded with photos, sidebars, and other attractive graphics, the book is an attractively enticing package for children. The work is part of a Nutrition and Fitness series the publisher hopes "will appeal to those who are interested in keeping strong and fit and in eating well and eating right."
In attempting to make the material accessible to reluctant readers, the author has resorted to a writing style that shuns compound or complex sentences. The result is a writing style emphasizing short, choppy sentences. The large print and the simple textbook-like format may be off-putting for a sophisticated teen. Written on a fourth grade reading level, the book might have been more realistic if it had dropped the word "teens" in the title and substituted "young people."
Steck-Vaughn Company, 2002
Why Are People Vegetarian? shoehorns everything a young person needs to know about vegetarianism into a colorful but thin book of 48 pages. In this process of condensation author Brownlie manages to cover the major issues of the topic: What Is Vegetarianism? Religion and Vegetarianism, Humanitarian Vegetarians, Health and Diet, The Environment and Economics, and Being a Vegetarian.
In the process of answering the question, What Is a Vegetarian? the author defines the term, briefly tells about famous vegetarians, gives a brief history of vegetarianism, and discusses trends in vegetarianism.
Brownlie introduces young readers to religious sects like Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains whose vegetarian beliefs support their views that all forms of life are sacred and animals do not exist to be eaten. Although Christians eat meat, some of the groups like Trappist monks and Seventh Day Adventists follow a vegetarian diet.
Humanitarian vegetarians are aware of animal rights and do not condone inhumane conditions and practices of factory farming in the raising of cattle, pigs, and poultry. The author briefly describes how animals are herded into slaughterhouses and killed to provide meat. She points out that some decry these methods as cruel while others say that treatment of animals is humane.
Since many people in the West choose to be vegetarian, people in developing countries are usually vegetarian because they cannot afford meat. Brownlie presents statistics to show that the average American eat 264 lbs. (120 kg) of meat each year in contrast to the average person in Nigeria who consumes 13.2 lbs. (6 kg).
In discussing whether humans need to eat meat, the author points out that flatter, smaller human teeth are designed for a vegetarian diet unlike the carnivores with sharp teeth to tear flesh. The human intestine is better suited for digesting plants and grains instead of meat. Vegetarians must also be conscious of Vitamin B12 that is more readily available from meat sources. She fails to include information about B12 available in supplements.
Browlie focuses on the controversy of what constitutes a healthy diet. She points out that scientists still do not agree on whether a vegetarian diet is more healthful than a diet that includes animal products. In a sidebar she reports a British Medical Journal study in 1996 that revealed that vegetarians had a 28% lower death rate than meat eaters and 40% reduction in cancer deaths. Unfortunately, the study also stated, "These differences could also be explained by differences in smoking habits, obesity, or the quality of food people eat."
The dangers of eating meat receive only two pages with illustrations and a minimum of text. In three brief paragraphs the author disposes of Mad Cow Disease, e-coli, and salmonella.
"It is estimated that one cow can produce as much as 19,800 pounds (9000 kg) of manure each year. Less than half of this is recycled into fertilizer." This is one of the facts reported by Brownlie as she shows how animal production has polluted the environment. On the other hand, she asks what would happen to millions of animals if we all became vegetarians. She does show that there would be less hunger in the world if crops were used entirely to feed people instead of used for meat production.
Brownlie concludes her book with a discussion of problems vegetarians face and what it means to be a vegetarian. The stereotypes of vegetarians as "hippies," weak and unhealthy, or even un-American are discussed. Large photographs of famous athletes like Martina Navratilova are presented to counteract the negative stereotype of vegetarians. A sidebar features actor Richard Gere, who is not only a committed vegetarian, but he is also a Buddhist.
The book concludes with a glossary, a brief list of books to read, some websites to visit, and a few organizations.
Why Are People Vegetarian? is one book in a series called "Exploring Tough Issues." As vegetarians, we probably don't think of this as a tough issue. Other books in the series like "Why do People Live on the Streets?' and "Why do People Fight Wars?" seem more appropriate as "tough issues."
The author and publisher should be commended for creating an attractive, well-written illustrated work to introduce young people to vegetarianism. Each page has at least one illustration and may also include a sidebar or graphic box. The book appears to be directed at pre-teens but may also appeal to reluctant teen readers. None of the photos picture young children. At times superficial, this is a worthwhile outline of basic vegetarian principles. Anyone wanting more detailed information might want to consider other titles with less of a Reader's Digest approach.
Illustrated by Farida Zaman
Tundra Books, 2001
In conveying the vegetarian message to young people, a writer needs to employ both language and writing style that will engage that audience. Ellen Schwartz successfully achieves that goal in I'm Vegetarian.
Beginning with an introductory section titled "So You've Decided to Be a Vegetarian," the author presents statistics to show that vegetarianism is a growing worldwide trend. "More than one million kids in the 6 to 1 7 age bracket have said 'no' to meat," she writes. In addition to announcing what she intends to cover, she introduces her readers to vegetarian young people who tell what they like about being vegetarian.
Schwartz uses the words of young people like Tim, Rachel, Jesse, and others to show the reasons children turn to vegetarianism. The major reasons she covers are animal rights, the environment, health, world hunger, religion, and good taste.
Under Animal Rights she quotes young people who are repulsed by the killing of animals for food and how those animals are treated before they are killed. The toll on the environment focuses on the effects of livestock production: air and water pollution, energy waste, soil erosion, and the destruction of the rain forests.
In a section dealing with health considerations she writes that a nutritionally balanced vegetarian diet "is actually better for you than a diet that contains meat." In "Did You Know" sections sprinkled throughout this chapter the author presents bulleted facts related to the information. "Vegetarians are less likely than meat-eaters to get heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis (brittle bones), and other diseases," says Schwartz.
The World Hunger issue is addressed by showing that land used for animal production could be used more efficiently to raise crops for human food. Certain religions teach nonviolence and are opposed to killing animals for food.
Good Taste seems to be the least persuasive reason for becoming vegetarian. Becoming vegetarian just for the fun of it or because a friend has turned in that direction seems frivolous compared to the other reasons.
One of the most delightful and interesting sections of the book concentrates on sticky situations a young person faces in making the choice to be vegetarian. One by one the author dispels the myths and misconceptions about getting enough protein, calcium, iron, B12, lack of energy, and the inability to eat out.
Schwartz turns to the Veggie Dude, her vegetarian guru, to answer questions that her young vegetarians have been anxious to ask. She then proceeds to advise her readers on how to convince parents, family, and friends and alleviate their concerns. She gives practical advice on handling sticky situations like family holiday dinners, eating in restaurants or the school cafeteria, surviving at summer camps, or traveling. The author even presents some snappy comebacks to dumb questions like, "Plants have feelings, don't they? So why don't you give up plants, too?" Her comeback answer: "It's my way of preventing the world from getting completely overrun with wild vegetables."
In Food, Glorious Food the author races through a short history of vegetarianism that superficially attempts but fails to cover the subject in three pages. Far more valuable is The Vegetarian Foods Hall of Fame that includes information about the principal foods in a healthy vegetarian diet. Leading the list is the soybean and soybean products like tofu, soy milk, tempeh, miso, soy sauce, and TVP (textured vegetable protein). Other Hall of Fame foods discussed are lentils, quinoa, peanuts, potatoes, and chickpeas. The chapter concludes with a pro and con discussion of genetically modified foods.
Readers embarking on vegetarianism or those who have been on that path for awhile will benefit from Guidelines for Healthy Vegetarian Reading. Those who face the dangers of filling up on side dishes, replacing meat with too much dairy and eggs, or filling up on refined grain products will want to read what Schwartz labels as "Smart Moves" in these situations. She also presents a valuable checklist in her Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming Vegetarian.
Under the heading Nutrition 101 the author discusses carbohydrates, fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. She delves into the food groups for vegetarians and gives recommended servings for grains; vegetables and fruits; legumes, eggs, nuts, and seeds; and milk and alternatives. She also presents Menu planning and meal ideas and a list of foods to stock with suggestions on where to obtain vegetarian foods.
In Let's Get Cooking the author presents recipes under the following categories: beverages, breakfast, soups, sandwich fillings, dinner, and baked goods and desserts. Each recipe is labeled Lacto-ovo Vegetarian, Lacto Vegetarian, or Vegan. If the recipe is not vegan, it is followed with information on how to "Veganize It!" The recipes, none too complex, are presented on mock recipe index cards and offer dishes like Tofu Scramble, Chick Pea-Nut Soup, Spaghetti and Nut Balls, Whole-grain Pudding, and Vegan Chocolate Cake.
The book concludes with a resource list of organizations, websites, magazines, books, cookbooks, and a glossary. There is no index, a definite flaw of the work.
As a mother who has raised two vegetarian daughters, Ellen Schwartz knows how to communicate with young people. She has created a sprightly work that does not preach or talk down to her audience. She knows her message and is able to communicate it well. I'm a Vegetarian is a great beginning book for any young person interested or, for that matter, any parent or adult who wants this information. The 112-page book is loaded with good information. The volume's graphic design with black and white ink wash illustrations and an illustrated border on each page combine to create an attractive visual package. If that's not enough, sprinkled throughout are the riddles, corny but cute.
"What does one legume say to another legume when it's time to leave?"
"Let's split, pea."
For other books on vegetarianism for young people check the Vegparadise Bookshelf at http://www.vegparadise.com/bookshelf.html
Reviewed January 2003