For Grades K-3
We’ll singe ‘em, fry ‘em,
Boil ‘em in a pot.
Stew ‘em, steam ‘em.
The whole juicy lot!
-From Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon
Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon by Jules Bass is a charming story about learning to accept those that are different from you. The story opens with a whimsical picture of Meathook, the leader of the dragons, and his dragon friends carrying away the knights and princesses of the kingdom of Nogard. Make sure to allow children the fun of acting out the dragons “pounding on the earthen floor” while they sing the song above. This is in sharp contrast to Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon, who is peacefully tending his garden of peas, turnips and peppers.
When reading this with children, discuss the meaning of “vegetarian.” Also, many were not familiar with some of the vegetable in Herb’s garden so take some time to talk about the vegetables mentioned in the book (turnips, leeks, parsnips, parsley) and match them with the vegetables in the illustration of Herb’s garden.
The story revolves around the meat-eating dragons, the gentle vegetarian, Herb, and the people of the kingdom who are trying to curb the meat-eaters from doing away with their members. This sounds violent but the colorful cartoon-ish pictures let readers know that this is a fictional tale.
Later, Herb faces a crisis of conscience when Meathook promises to release Herb from prison if he agrees to stop eating meat. This is a wonderful place to stop and ask children what they would do in this situation and why. Remember, there are no “wrong” answers as you are asking children for their opinion!
The story has a satisfying ending and ending illustration. Can your child identify all the vegetables on the end paper?
A perfect after-book activity is to make a vegetable dip to accompany carrots, celery and slices of red or yellow peppers! You can use what’s in your fridge or try this Green Genie dip for vegetables or on bread: (Note, if nut allergies are a concern, substitute a large dill pickle for the walnuts.)
This dip was featured in my local newspaper recently and it is a winner!:
Green Genie Sandwich Spread (Garlic-Artichoke Spread):
Makes about 1 ¼ cups (10 servings)
1 can water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup roasted pistachios or other favorite nut
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup packed curly parsley, washed and dried
Zest and juice of a large lemon
1/3 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt or more to taste
White pepper to taste
Put all ingredients in a blender or a food processer fitted with the “S” blade. Process until smooth and pureed. Depending on your blender, you may need to use a spoon to move the ingredients as you process them.
Place in a non-reactive container until ready to use. Will keep in refrigerator for up to one week.
Happy Reading, Talking and Eating!
Extension Activities: Compare and Contrast Meathook and Herb; ask children to create or share family vegetarian recipes for a community cookbook; act out favorite scenes; reread the book and have students make personal lists of powerful vocabulary to use in their personal writing.