Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Reinforces Negative Stereotypes, 28 May 2012
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This review is from: Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon (Paperback)
Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon is a children's story featuring a vegetables-loving dragon caught between the aggressive meat-eating dragons and their enemies the knights. It is a colourful book with plenty of bold, vivid pictures. It is well written with a good flow. The story seems aimed at perhaps the 4-7 age range as it has quite a lot of words so will be too much for the earliest readers. For those having the story read to them, this probably checks in at a slightly earlier age range. The drawings are ok, bold colours and just enough activity in the background.

However, the morality of the tale perpetuates traditional negative stereotypes about vegetarians. Herb is not the strong, positive role model a small child can benefit from. Instead, he features most of the negative features the non-vegetarian world expects from vegetarians. The story revolves around Herb being an outsider and unable to fit in with his friends because he is different. That difference is itself harmful. The vegetarian dragon should be part of the society he is in and seeking to promote change or just getting on with others if he does not want to change the minds of others. Instead, Herb is an outcast, he is different and a bit weird. A typical negative vegetarian stereotype.

The stereotyping does not end there. The meat eaters are all larger than Herb. They are physically able and strong. Herb is frail. He is skinny while the meat eaters are powerful. He has to live in their shadow because he is not really able to stand up for himself. When trouble comes Herb's way, he passively becomes the only dragon to suffer. Every other dragon is wily enough to cope while Herb is captured. Part of the reason he is captured is because he is oblivious to what is going on around him. He has no idea there is battle between the dragons and the knights. As he does not talk to others in his society he is not aware of what is going on.

Herb does not talk to others in his society because he is better than them. He is morally superior in a way that non-vegetarians hate. That in itself is not a bad thing as morality is not relative but not understanding the motivation of his fellow dragons or of the knights is just reinforcing the idea that vegetarians are different and cannot relate to ordinary folk.

Herb is captured by the knights and very nearly becomes a martyr. Apparently, vegetarians suffer for their beliefs. This martyrdom spirit, the idea that there is a hardship to being a vegetarian is not the positive message that should be reinforced to a child. Yes, it is more difficult to be vegetarian than not, especially in continental Europe or the Americas but again it is a negative stereotype that this children's book reinforces instead of embracing vegetarianism as a positive choice.

Herb is offered meat by the dragons, he turns it down. Meat eaters offer the vegetarian a devilish source of temptation but the moral fortitude of the vegetarian is too great and he is not tempted. In a children's book? Seriously?

Herb eventually survives and brings peace and harmony to everyone because of his moral fibre. He is indeed the hero and this suggests the story is positive. It is not. It is a story filled with most of the vegetarian stereotypes - the frail and weird vegetarian with a superiority complex who cannot relate to the people around him. This is not the message of vegetarianism that this reviewer wants to reinforce to children.
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Review Details

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4.4 out of 5 stars (18 customer reviews)
5 star:
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MLA
(VINE VOICE)   

Location: Leyton, London

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,755