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Summer Reading: Two Great Books for Kids
May29

Summer Reading: Two Great Books for Kids

With summertime on its way, it’s a particularly good time to start looking around for great books we can have around for the kids while school’s out. Just recently, I was delighted to discover the author-illustrator Ruby Roth and her two books for young children (I would recommend for ages 6-10). For adults looking to instill in their own children the values behind a vegan lifestyle, these books are a terrific launching pad for discussion; furthermore, they provide an opportunity for teaching children early on that every individual choice matters and that, even at a young age, a child has a voice of her own that she can lend to the animals. It’s a message of love and compassion and personal empowerment. Vegan Is Love The newer of the two books, Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action, begins: “How wonderful that, at this very moment, every person, big and small, has the power to create a better world!” This power comes from making everyday choices, ranging from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to products we use. For example, this page on Animal Testing not only illuminates the use of testing in everyday products like shampoo, but it also shows kids the logos they can look for that ensure they’re choosing cruelty-free: Roth also covers the choice not to support the use of animals in entertainment — whether it’s at the zoo, circus, or racing. Keeping the emphasis on making positive choices and being sensitive to the young audience, Roth writes that, by making better choices, “our love reaches to the ends of the earth.” That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals Like Vegan is Love, Roth’s first book That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals features vivid illustrations that are bound to capture the imaginations of children as it encourages them to make connections between living animals who think and feel emotions (and pain) and food on the plate. The focus of That’s Why is more specifically on factory farming and its consequences. In this book, Roth’s approach is to first illustrate the beautiful natural behaviors of animals such as pigs and ducks; second, she explains how factory farming makes those behaviors impossible and inflicts upon animals lives of suffering and isolation. I like that Roth respects her young readers enough to tell them the truth but does it in a way that is age appropriate, with language and images they will be able to understand. Any child can understand the concept of “family” and will have a reaction to the notion that animals have families, too. What Else Can We Do? Both books end...

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Tea Time with My Nephew
May20

Tea Time with My Nephew

After months of going back and forth between Tucson and New York, we’re finally all settled in the Big Apple! One of the last special things my husband Seth and I did with our six year-old nephew Nicky before heading east full-time, however, was taking him along with us to Tucson’s Chantilly Tea Room.  Our afternoon at Chantilly was Nicky’s first tea experience (although he’s been on board with the practice of removing the crust from sandwiches for quite some time). Nicky immediately was enchanted by the wonderland atmosphere of the tea house, loved the little teapots and cups and utensils — everything seems “kids’ size” — and he loved that he got to select his own teacup before being served. We called ahead to ask that our “Duchess Tea” be a strictly vegan affair, and the chef was more than happy to accommodate. In fact, catering to our six year-old’s tastes, she added some tea-style PB & J to the first tier. Our full vegan menu: sandwiches — PB & J on cinnamon-raisin bread; cucumber & nondairy butter with dill; carrots & scallions with nondairy butter; pecan-almond spread on cinnamon-raisin bread scones with strawberry preserves vegan chocolate cake, dark-chocolate nut clusters, chocolate dipped strawberries Thanks so much to Chantilly for making my cutie-pie nephew’s first tea experience such a delightful one… for all of...

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For Dancers: Cruelty-Free Footwear
Jan15

For Dancers: Cruelty-Free Footwear

I put on my first pair of ballet slippers before the age of three. When asked to write an essay for a college application about my three most prized possessions, I included a description of an old pair of tap shoes that I wore for the Dance Educators of America National Competition (we took home first place). My old-school white oxford jazz shoes — more scuffs than shoe, after more than a decade of slides and pirouettes — took me a little longer to replace than most of my leather shoes when I decided to make my closet cruelty-free. Vegan alternatives for dance footwear aren’t as plentiful as I would like them to be, but I’m happy to report that there are now some good options available for those of us who know firsthand that dancing feet are happy feet. Here are my favorites, for dancers of all ages: Ballet: Cynthia King Vegan Ballet Slippers cynthiakingdance.com Pointe: Grishko custom-made grishko.com Jazz: Capezio DanSneakers capezio.com *Tap Shoes: Capezio will make vegan tap shoes upon special order. capezio.com...

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Fur & Feathers: Kids Will Love This Game!
Dec11

Fur & Feathers: Kids Will Love This Game!

My six year-old nephew Nicky loves the Fur & Feathers game that I picked up at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary gift shop when I was volunteering there in September. The objective is to be the first to save all five animals — a dog, a cat, a chicken, a cow, and a pig. As players move along the colorful board (complete with a Rainbow Bridge!), landing on a star means having the opportunity to answer one of the multiple choice questions that are easy enough for younger players but also will have players of any age learning fun facts about animals. Try these: 1. What should you NEVER feed to dogs and cats? A. Chocolate B. Bananas C. Cheese D. Tomatoes 2. A baby turkey is called a: A. Chick B. Poult C. Turkey D. Fledgling 3. One vegetarian saves how many acres of trees per year? A. 1/2 acre B. 1 acre C. 2 acres D. 3 acres Answer correctly* and you get to choose whether to visit The Farm or The Animal Shelter, where you’ll spin to see which animal you save that turn. Or, you can choose to visit Choices Cafe, where you select vegetarian/vegan options from a menu that informs which animal will be saved as a result. Ordering a bean and rice burrito saves a chicken; ordering the garden burger and fries saves a cow. And, as I explained to Nicky, ordering the pizza with vegan cheese saves the pig — we shout, HOLD THE PEPPERONI! It’s very cool to have the family sitting around, each person deciding which animal they are going to save next, and talking about ordering a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to save a chicken. Of course, I’m hoping the next time Nicky has a PB & J, he thinks of this game. Even non-vegetarian Grandma and Grandpa have fun with this game, including the Choices Cafe aspect. Not to mention, it provides some easy meal ideas for the next Meatless Monday. What a wonderful way to have kids feeling empowered at such an early age, as they learn how the simple choices they make actually make a difference. And, of course, the underlying message — that it’s up to each of us, no matter how young or old, to help all animals. Nicky loves this game, and I love playing it with him. Click here to purchase online. *answers: A, B, B...

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Summer Reading
May21

Summer Reading

For me, poolside reading in the summertime is one of the ultimate pleasures in life. Whether in the serenity of one’s backyard, in the midst of mingling families at the local pool, or lying in the sand with the sound of ocean waves and sea gulls in the background — just give me a good read in the sunshine, and I am blissful. So if you’re like me, and you’re looking for some great books for the upcoming months, here are a few recent reads that I recommend adding to your summer reading list. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer Some of you may be familiar with Foer’s other works, such as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. In this book,  as Foer faces becoming a parent, he is considering his own eating habits and how they reflect his values. It’s a thoughtful piece, rather than a preachy one. A good one to share with omnivore friends to shed light on the realities of industrialized farming and the lives animals in agriculture endure just to end up on dinner plates. The Bond by Wayne Pacelle I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, speak on numerous occasions. While he always  is quick to point out that there is still so much more work to be done on behalf of animals everywhere, he also always leaves you feeling fired up by his stories of the victories on behalf of animals that demonstrate just how generous humanity can be. This book examines the bond we have with all kinds of animals — companion animals, farmed animals, and wildlife — and how these complex, sometimes contradictory, relationships have evolved over time. One of my favorite passages in the book discusses how our relationship with whales has changed over the years from one of dependence on the whaling industry for fueling our lamps to an avid whale-watching community that has come to appreciate the magnificence of these amazing creatures in a whole new light. Pacelle concludes the book with fifty ways any person can help animals through personal behavior, work in the community, and in a broader context that includes legislative efforts. This poolside read will educate any reader as well as inspire. (And, if you love this book as much I did, also check out Farm Sanctuary by Gene Baur.) Letters To Pushkin by … ME! If you’ve ever wondered where my personal inspiration to work on behalf of animals came from, this is a big part of it. A little beagle named Pushkin opened my heart and changed my life forever when I brought him home to my...

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Unleashed, NY: Young Girls Helping Puppies
Nov30

Unleashed, NY: Young Girls Helping Puppies

As a former educator, I get super-excited whenever I hear about programs that are empowering children and teens. So Unleashed, an after-school program in NYC that pairs middle-school girls and puppies who need help finding their “furever” homes, is something I’m overjoyed to spread the word about! This 12-week program gets the students involved with all aspects of puppy rescue. In doing so, the girls are becoming aware of the need for animal advocacy at an early age, and they are  learning how to be effective advocates. In addition, they’re gaining confidence and upping their own self-esteem at an age when girls typically start becoming overcritical of themselves and look to society’s superficial values for self-validation. A young girl participating in this program will look into a puppy’s eyes and see the unconditional love and trust, and she will know she’s made a difference in that puppy’s life. What an amazing way to to help young girls realize they each have the capacity to contribute, and to encourage each of them to demonstrate compassion throughout their lives. The positive impact of a program like this, therefore, is both immediate and far-reaching. And, of course, there is the life-changing impact the program has on all the lucky pups that are rescued and adopted. The Unleashed program started by partnering with a few different New York schools, including The Nightingale-Bamford School in Manhattan. Having taught several years ago at another Upper East Side private school, I have to add that I’m especially pleased to find out about this program happening in the old neighborhood. Here’s a quick look at the program that’s sure to brighten anyone’s day! [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pDP4fyYvjME&noredirect=1&w=600]...

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