Perfect Picture Book Friday – Herb the Vegetarian Dragon

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Herb the Vegetarian Dragon

Written by Jules Bass and illustrated by Debbie Harter

Barefoot Books 1999

Ages 5-8

Themes and Topics: Vegetarianism, tolerance, learning “but we’ve always done it this way” may not be the best answer.

Opening and brief synopsis:  « Every dragon in the forest of Nogard was a meateater.Meathook was their leader. » A moral tale of knights, a brave young girl and dragons. The only vegetarian dragon in a land full of carnivores, Herb peacefully tends his garden while the other dragons feast on the castle’s inhabitants. Though at one point innocent Herb seems threatened with a beheading, there is a happy ending, as “dragons and people, meat-eaters and vegetarians, live together in peace and harmony.”

Why I Like This Book:  While an omnivore myself, I think it’s great to expose kids to other options and maybe the choices of some of their friends. Choosing an archetypal carnivore as the protagonist (and which kids doesn’t adore a dragon?) is very effective in this story, and Herb the gentle, peacemaking, garden-tending vegetarian dragon will be attractive for kids. It is a fun book about accepting differences in others, while straying true to one’s own convictions.

Links to resources:  There are dozens of resources, activities and lesson plans on nutrition, including vegetarianism, at this site. The book’s case for vegetarianism and understanding of differences can be enhanced when by also using the author’s Cooking With Herb: A Cookbook for Kids.

For more books with resources please visit Just Right Books! on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

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20 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday – Herb the Vegetarian Dragon

  1. Susanna says:

    YOu had me at the title, Joanna! A vegetarian dragon? What’s not to love? This sounds like a great book to help children (who can be very focused on food in terms of what they will and will not eat and how it looks and what it’s made of etc!) understand different tastes in eating. Cooking with kids is always a fun activity, too! Thanks for sharing this – again a book I haven’t heard of before 🙂

  2. What a GREAT idea for a book! I really want to read this one (even though I am not a vegetarian!)

    • Joanna says:

      Me neither, Erik, though people always think I am for some reason 🙂 The book is a lot of fun with knights and battles and damsels and dragons!

  3. Very nice selection Joannna. This book is new to me. I especially lke the cookbook that accompanies the book — you almost need to buy both. Great teaching opportunity about understanding different tastes in food. I know kids will have fun with this dragon book!

    • Joanna says:

      There are more and more families raising their kids as vegetarians, so I think books like this are great. Yes, you are right, ideally both books should be used together.

  4. Fascinating concept for a book, and as Pat says, it would be good to get the cookbook along with the bookbook. I love dragons, and this just tickles my fancy. Thank you, Joanna!

  5. I love the sound of this book, Joanna. Kids absolutely love dragon books, and a sweet dragon who does not eat people is even better! The beheading sounds a little scary…does he breathe fire?

  6. Joanna says:

    Kelly, the carnivores are a fearsome, fiery bunch and the threatened beheading is a tiny bit scary, but thank goodness, is resolved pretty quickly.

  7. Darshana says:

    i saw this title a while back, its nice to finally read a review on it. as someone who has been a life-long vegetarian I do have a personal interest in books on tolerance and acceptance of things/ideas that are different.

    • Joanna says:

      Darshana, I too have a real interest in books about tolerance and diversity, and I think this one does a great job in presenting vegetarianism as one great option among several. I really like the way Herb doesn’t try and impose his vegetarianism on the carnivores at the end, but offers them the experience and choicei

  8. Cute! I so want to write a PB with a dragon as a main character, so I’m always glad to discover new dragon titles. Reminds me of the “vegetarian” shark in Finding Nemo. 😉

  9. Like Susanna you had me at the title Joanna. Mind you, when I saw the title on Susanna’s blog I did not think it was yours.(don’t know why). Certainly a great fun book for kids and I like the concept of a cook book with it., great find Joanna.

  10. Loni Edwards says:

    What a great idea for children’s book! I’m a vegetarian, and it’s great to see a book about the subject. I will have to add this one to my list. It sounds really good and like Susanna, you had me with the title 🙂 I agree with Julie, I thought of the shark in Nemo also.

    • Joanna says:

      Loni, it is the only one I have seen for young children on vegetarianism and it makes me think there could be room to write another one 😉

  11. I love it that there is a cookbook for this one. The happy ending in this case sounds great, especially since he doesn’t eat the humans. Kids will certainly enjoy that.

  12. Joanna says:

    I think kids will enjoy the contrast between the at-the-beginning aggressive meat-eaters and Herb. I don’t mean to say the story depicts all carnivores as combative, rather that Herb is willing to step outside of the box and be an individual in dragon society!

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