My daughter is a vegetarian, a choice she made on her own as a four-year-old. I am a vegetarian, but her father eats fish and the rare locally-grown beef. As a toddler, we let her make her own food choices, as I figured her body would tell her what healthy choices she needed.
When she was old enough to realize that an animal was harmed for her food, she made the choice to join me in a vegetarian lifestyle. She was the only vegetarian in her kindergarten class. Now, her best friend has become a vegetarian and her teacher is a vegan. Thus, she was very excited to read a book about a vegetarian dragon!
Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon, written by Jules Bass and illustrated by Debbie Harter, is the tale of the only pacifist, vegetarian dragon in the forest of Nogard. The other dragons ate royal princess, brave knights, and wild boar meat, but Herb had his own vegetable patch. When all the dragons fled to hide from the brave knights who decided to retaliate and capture all of the dragons, Herb was mistakenly imprisoned as one of the meat eating, killing dragons. While he was incarcerated, the other dragons tried to tempt him to eat meat:
“Thanks, but no thanks,” Herb said. “I don’t see it your way, so I’ll take my chances. I don’t ask you to stop eating meat, so why do you ask me to stop eating vegetables?”
Eventually, Herb was rescued from execution by a little girl, who knew he was a vegetarian and not guilty. The other dragons agreed to stop eating people, and peace was brought to the forest of Nogard.
My children really enjoyed this story, but I found it awkward. I think there is an attempt to show how vegetarians and meat eaters can live side by side in peace, a message of tolerance; however, the violence has caused some readers to be appalled. To tie up, tempt, and almost execute a vegetarian does not make for a very gentle and peaceful book.
Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon has his own website! There, I discovered that the author Jules Bass has produced classic animations, such as Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. The illustrator Debbie Harter is also a jewelry designer. On the website, children can send an email to Herb, get vegetarian recipes, and send greeting cards. Herb also has his very own kids’ cookbook, which may be better than his tale. Herb is a good guy, even if his story is a little awkward and violent.