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A Boy, a Chicken, and the Lion of Juday: How Ari Became a Vegetarian

by Roberta Kalechofsky

Micah Publications, Inc.,
Marblehead, Mass., 1995, $8.00, 50 pages.

reviewed by Richard H. Schwartz

The vegetarian cause is buttressed by many powerful facts and statistics relating the production and consumption of animal products to human diseases, the mistreatment of animals, the destruction of ecosystems, the waste of resources, and spreading hunger. While arguments based on this data are valuable and have undoubtedly contributed to convincing some people to becoming vegetarians, progress has been slow, and the vast majority of people still eat animal-centered diets. Wee also need other approaches, such as books that show the personal aspects of vegetarianism, that appeal to our emotions as well as to our intellect, and that help to overcome the rationalizations that people use to justify their dietary habits.

Roberta Kalechofsky's A Boy, A Chicken, and The Lion of Judah - How Ari Became a Vegetarian is such a book. It provides a powerful vegetarian message while probing the human condition. Although I have read many books on vegetarianism, this is the only one that brought tears to my eyes. This occurred as often during my second reading as during my first reading.

Ari, a nine year old boy who lives in the Negev Highlands in Israel with his parents, has a "secret misery", and initially there is no one to answer his questions or to understand his wretchedness. Because of the strong bond that he has developed with his pet hen, Tk Tk, Ari has decided that he wants to become a vegetarian, but he hesitates to tell his parents to avoid hurting their feelings. He wonders how his parents can be so actively involved in protest demonstrations to protect the environment, and yet be so oblivious to the daily cruelty in the nearby chicken coop and the treatment of geese when their livers are fattened to make pate de fois gras. He doesn't understand how they can be so concerned about saving "the birds in the air" while serving the chickens that were raised in cages for dinner. He doesn't comprehend his "purification ritual" of washing meat in a saucer before eating it, an activity that his grandmother, who is convinced that Ari needs to eat meat in order to be "strong and healthy", considers a "disgusting habit". Ari suffers because he doesn't have what psychoanalyst Erich Fromm called a "socially patterned defect" that would have enabled him to be like almost everyone else, blind to the moral inconsistencies related to their diets.

How Ari discovers others who are vegetarians, overcomes his aloneness and alienation, comes to "own his own stomach", gains his parents' understanding, and much more, is told with sensitivity and compassion in this wonderful book. Readers will be left with much to ponder with regard to their eating habits and their relationships with other people and non-human animals. While the book is aimed at children 7 to 10 years of age, based on my experience and the responses of other adults that I have shared it with, How Ari Became a Vegetarian provides adventurous, thought-provoking reading for people of all ages.


Micah Publications, Inc. can be contacted at 255 Humphrey Street, Marblehead, MA 10945,
or via Email: micah@micahbooks.com

Back to the Schwartz Collection on Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights