Introducing the V Kids' Animal Sanctuary Books
The V Kids' Animal Sanctuary books are a series of five adventure stories and one cookbook for 9 - 13 year old children, which I have written during the course of the last year, since becoming vegan myself. The stories are about two children who set up an animal sanctuary in the barn and fields at the bottom of their garden. Each story introduces a new rescue animal to the sanctuary, who during the course of the book, shares his or her story of what life was like before being rescued. The books introduce children to many of the hard truths of how meat and dairy are produced within the context of an exciting and engaging adventure story. There are some very sad bits which I believe is unavoidable if children are going to be presented with the truth. Having said that, I believe that all good stories have a balance of happiness and sadness, tears and laughter, good and evil. Certainly the children that have read the books in draft form have appreciated the honesty and enjoyed having this truth shared with them, for some of them for the first time, within the context of a story. The books are balanced - so the sad bits are sad but not harrowing, and after a sad bit, there is more fun or adventure to 'lighten the mood'. Although they definitely challenge children to think, the children will not be traumatised! These book are aimed at the same age range as the Harry Potter books (or certainly the early Harry Potter books). If children can explore the dark and sometimes tragic side of Harry Potter's world, why not explore the dark and tragic side of how animals are treated in the real world...
I believe that challenging children to think about the choices that they make and the ethics that they hold, will be key in ensuring that veganism is a lot more widespread in the next generation. These books are an effective and 'non-pushy' way of quite simply, telling children the truth.
The books are fun and engaging but at the same time they have a strong and challenging vegan message. I have taken care to make sure that the message is age- appropriate but will definitely make vegan, vegetarian and omni children think hard about the meat and dairy industries and to see themselves as someone with the power to make a difference.
Book 1: Buddy - the lovable piglet
The first book is called Buddy and is about an adorable little piglet who has accidentally escaped from a neighbouring free range pig farm. Finding Buddy and falling in love with him, is what inspires the two main characters, Lou and Lawrie, to set up their own animal sanctuary. There is lots of drama and excitement as the children fight to protect Buddy and set up their very own animal sanctuary. The book is inspiration - encouraging children to do their own bit to make a difference and to see themselves as talented and capable members of society who have a voice that needs to be heard!
The other four adventure stories each tell the tale of a new animal character and what has led him or her to need to be rescued. In all of the stories there are lots of drama and adventure as the children constantly try to keep the sanctuary afloat and make it a success! Secondary to the vegan theme, is another theme which is very close to my heart - that of children growing up feeling empowered and confident in their own abilities!
You can see a synopsis of the other four story books on the V Kids' website:
The sixth book in the series is a vegan recipe book for children with recipes chosen by the children and animals at the V Kid's Animal Sanctuary, demonstrating how easy, delicious and fun vegan food options can be! Recipes include: Buddy’s ‘Facon and Ketchup Butties’ Jack’s ‘Hot but kind to Buddy Dogs’ The V Kids' Celebration Cake and many more!
Why am I crowdfunding?
All six books are already available on my website to buy as a pre-order, and some people (vegan people) have bought them, but selling books that are not yet in print is a very slow process. I have had countless emails and messages from people saying that they will buy them once they are in print and I have contacts with shops, charities and sanctuaries all excited to stock them. All six books are ready for their final edit and then to be printed. I just need the budget to 'get the ball rolling'. As soon as they are printed, I will be able to take them into schools, exhibit at festivals, and have them on the shelves of book shops. In other words, as soon as they are printed, children can start reading them!
This Crowdfunder is to raise money for the first print-run of the first two books in the series. Once I am able to start selling them, the project will eventually become self-funding.
Please help me to get the first two of the six books printed. I want to do my bit in making sure that the next generation grow up informed, inspired and proud to be vegan and I would love to be able to continue to write children's books with a strong vegan message - I have A LOT more ideas!
Once the books are in print then I plan to spend a significant amount of time each week, promoting the books and raising money for animal sanctuaries and charities at the same time. As I mentioned earlier, I am already teaming up with animal sanctuaries who will receive £1 from the sale of every book they sell. I am also in talks with various Cornish primary schools about going in to give a free interactive talk/workshop to their Key Stage 2 children about what being vegan means and about the books themselves. Each child at each talk will receive a flyer with a discount code on to encourage them to buy (and read) the books. Very few of those children will already be vegan.
My first and most important critic
The first child to read 'Buddy - the lovable piglet' was the very special person who inspired me to write them in the first place - my nine year old daughter.. You can see in the picture that I took that she was totally engrossed. She is naturally incredibly cynical of anything I do (!) so I was terrified that she would 'rubbish' it before she even gave it a chance! Because I wanted her opinion before I got the books printed, she didn't even have a book to hold - she just had to read it straight off the laptop! I nervously watched from a distance to see if it would engage her. I can honestly say that it is the first book without illuartions that she has ever read from start to finish - her focus was amazing! She read the first eight chapters in one sitting starting on a Saturday afternoon and finishing when I sent her to bed. She then woke up in the morning and started reading straight away. She didn't stop until she had read the remaining ten chapters. She did not do this because I am her Mum (sadly she's not that type!) - she did it because she loved it! She spent the rest of the day talking about Buddy as if she knew him and loved him, and was keen to talk about how pigs are treated on farms and how gross it is that people eat pig meat. After finishing reading 'Buddy', she was very keen to read the rest of the books in the series - and loved all of them just as much.
I have been lucky enough to be able to share Buddy' with quite a few boys and girls (aged 9 - 13) since finished writing it. some of these children were vegan or vegetarian, most of them were not. Here is some of the feedback that they gave me:
"Does that really happen in pig farms? It's so sad. I felt so happy when they got Buddy back!"
"I loved it! I want a pet pig called Buddy!"
"I love the fact that at the end of each chapter, you are left thinking 'what's going to happens next' - its really exciting. There are some really sad bits as well."
"I never thought about it properly before. I feel really sorry for the mum pigs."
Below are two excerpts from 'Buddy - the lovable piglet'.
I hope you enjoy them and they give you a small indication of why these books are worth supporting.
Thank you for reading. If you could help me by pledging whatever you can afford, I would be truly grateful and you would be an important part of the team that launches the V Kids books. I hope that you feel excited by these books and the difference that they can make and that you are able to donate. If you are able to donate, don't forget to choose from the exciting rewards!
Lisa Hart x
Excerpt One: The first chapter
Pigs in Blankets
It was a Tuesday afternoon in October half term. Lou and her brother had been hanging around the house most of the day. Their Mum had been in her studio at the bottom of their garden busy with her jewellery designs. She already had orders for Christmas so she was a super busy Mum. Nine year old Lawrie had persuaded Lou to go and kick some Autumn leaves around in the lane behind their house. To be fair, when they got there Lou could understand why Lawrie had been so keen – there was an impressive pile of perfectly dry and crunchy leaves, that were begging to be rolled in. Before she knew it, Lou had forgotten that she was meant to be a mature eleven years of age and was kicking and rolling in the leaves with Lawrie without a thought for the more mature things in life. She forgot for a moment that she would be at secondary school this time next year so really should know better. She even momentarily forgot that she had just put her hair up in a really cool ponytail and she wanted to take a selfie off later with her Mum’s old phone.
“See how high you can kick them” Lawrie shouted, digging his welly boot deep into the pile and forcing as many of the leaves over his head as he could. “Look it’s raining” he exclaimed, scooping up massive handfuls into the air over their heads.
“Hey! They’re all getting stuck in my hair. Lawrie stop” Lou commanded suddenly mindful of her ponytail. But this was far too tempting for Laurie. ‘It’s raaaiin-ing” he teased coming towards her with an even bigger armful of leaves.
Lou giggled in spite of herself and took off down the lane as fast as she could. Her little brother’s legs were no match for hers. To his intense irritation, she could always outrun him. She ran as fast as she could round the curve in the lane, and then sunk to the floor against a dense hedge which was the side boundary of Smyth’s Free Range Pig Farm. They had never been in the pig farm before or even met the farmer and his wife, although Lou had often wished she could go in and visit the pigs. They were both massive animal lovers and loved seeing any animals! Mind you, they had definitely smelt them from time to time – depending on the wind and the time of the year those piggies sure could pong!
Lou was just thinking that Lawrie had obviously decided there was no point chasing her so she had better walk back up the lane and pull him out from the giant leave pile. Just as she was about to get up, she heard a very faint rustling sound followed by the sweetest and tiniest of squeaks. She got down on her hands and knees and scanned the hedges and bushes and there, staring back of her with a face full of pink uncertainty, was the cutest little piglet that Lou could ever have imagined. To be fair, she had never actually seen a piglet up close, but he seemed almost like a pink puppy, the way that he was staring at her with a mixture of curiosity and confusion. He looked at her as if she might know the answers to everything that he didn’t yet understand about the world and she didn’t know what else to do other than what seemed completely natural. He seemed cold so without even thinking, Lou snuggled the little ’puppy-pig’ inside her coat and carried him like a baby, back up the lane in search of her brother. As she rounded the corner, she could see her brother’s distinctive ‘I’m in a strop’ walk as he stomped off disappearing through their garden gate. Obviously he had not approved of her running off. But wait till he saw the puppy-pig! If there was one thing that Lou and Lawrie always agreed on, it was their love of animals. They had spent years pestering their Mum for a dog or a cat – and although they had so far been unsuccessful, they always agreed on how much they loved animals.
When she got into the house, she slipped off her boots, trying not to disturb her precious load, and then tiptoed up the stairs to her room and wrapped the piggy in a blanket before heading off to Lawrie’s room to show him what she had found.
“You ran off without me” he stropped as she opened the door. “Shhh” she spat at him, feeling quite protective. “Look what I have found!” She felt full of pride and excitement.
Lawrie looked up reluctantly and his face transformed in an instant from sulky to flabbergasted!
“Where? What? Wait – what??” he stammered.
“I found him by Smyth’s Pig Farm. He must have escaped.”
She put him down on Lawrie’s bed in between them and he sniffed the air inquisitively.
“Lou, he is so cute – do you think Mum will let us keep him? He can be our pet!”
“I don’t know – we have to figure out a way to persuade her” Lou replied defiantly. “I mean – have you ever seen anything so adorable?!”
The little piglet had tentatively moved up the bed towards Lawrie and was gently nuzzling Lawrie’s leg with his snout. Suddenly they heard the familiar slam of the back door.
“Lou! Lawrie! I’m back. Are you upstairs?”
This was not good timing! They could hear their Mum sigh as she pulled off her wellies and then the creak of the first stair as their Mum started to climb the stairs.
“Quick! We can’t just have her find us with a PIG in the house! We need more time to work out what to do! We need to hide him” whispered Lawrie in a panic.
It was typical of Lawrie to panic and think impulsively. Lou was older and more measured in her thinking but unfortunately there wasn’t any time for measured thinking. On this occasion she was going to have to follow Lawrie’s lead and hope for the best. Laurie bundled the piglet up in Lou’s blanket again and gently placed him in his dirty washing basket. As this was full of Lawrie’s damp football socks and god knows what, Lou couldn’t help thinking Lawrie may just have found the perfect place to hide a little pig!
“Come on” he said in a hoarse whisper as he pushed his big sister towards and out of the bedroom door. They practically collided with their Mum who had just made it to the top of the stairs.
“Oh hello!” Mum sang, happy to see her children and somehow completely missing the mixture of panic and guilt on their faces. “Have you been up to anything exciting this afternoon?”
“Err, no not really” lied Lawrie as faultless as an Oscar performance. “We were just coming down to see if you wanted help with the dinner. Weren’t we Lou?”
Lou said nothing. She might be older than her brother and smarter in at least a thousand different ways, but she couldn’t’ pull off a lie to save her life. Luckily, Mum didn’t seem to notice, and Lawrie somehow managed to herd his Mum and Lou down the stairs and into the kitchen without missing a beat.
“How was the jewellery making today Mum?” he asked in his most charming voice. Mum started to tell them about her latest piece of jewellery, which she was making for a rather rich lady who wanted a one-off design that no-one else in the world would have. Lou and Lawrie were trying to keep their frantic eyeball questions to each other to a minimum and pretend that they were interested in Mum’s work story. Eyeball conversations were a skill that Lou and Lawrie had perfected over the years – it was a great way of communicating without Mum even knowing that they were communicating – they could say (and understand) almost everything almost telepathically, using their eyes and their eyebrows. Luckily, they didn’t have to pretend to be listening to Mum for long, as her mobile started to ring.
“It’s Gran” she told them as she pulled her phone out of her pocket. “Won’t be a sec” and she went and leaned out of the back door as she often did, to be sure of a good reception on her mobile.
“Oh gawd– we can’t just leave a pig up there – what do you think he is doing? He might suffocate in all those stinky clothes of yours!” blurted out Lou in a release of her panic. “We’re going to have to tell Mum!”.
“Tell Mum what?” came Mum’s concerned voice, making Lou jump out of her skin. She had had her back to the door and had not seen that Mum had lost her connection to Gran and their conversation had been cut short.
“Nothing” interjected Lawrie in his chirpiest angel-child voice. “We want to hear about this rich woman’s jewellery piece. Don’t we Lou?”
There was the briefest of silences, while Lou and Lawrie’s Mum looked puzzled and cross at the same time. She was torn between wanted to believe in the innocence of her son who she loved dearly and knowing him too well to have the wool pulled over her eyes.
Before she could make up her mind however, fate intervened in the form of an extremely loud crash caused by a very small pig upstairs in Lawrie’s bedroom. For while Lawrie had been ushering his Mum and his sister downstairs, while their Mum had been telling them about the lady who wanted a one-off piece of jewellery and while Mum had been trying to talk to their Gran - upstairs the little tiny piglet had been wriggling and squiggling in the way that little piglets do, trying to free himself from the blanket. Somehow, he had managed to topple the washing basket over which was now rolling around on its side in the middle of Lawrie’s room. As the basket had toppled over it had knocked into Lawrie’s bedside table and as the little piglet, still in his blanket toppled out of the upset basket, he had knocked the lamp which landed with a loud crash on the wooden floor next to Lawrie’s bed.
“It looks as if I had better go and find out what it is that you were so keen not to tell me Lawrence James Vickery. And whatever it is that I find up there, rest assured that your punishment will be twice as bad because you have been caught lying to me again.”
Mum’s face looked like thunder and Lou was very aware of the fact that although at the moment Lawrie was bearing the brunt of it, when their Mum found out that it was actually Lou that had found the pig and brought him into the house, that Lou was going to be in big trouble too!
Lou could feel tears stinging at the back of her eyes. As she was eleven now and in year six, she liked to pride herself in being too old to cry like a cry baby. But right now, she felt like crying like a cry baby. She wanted so badly for Mum to let them keep the pig, and yet Mum was going to be so angry that there wasn’t a chance of them persuading her.
“You’d better lead the way children. “said their Mum flatly, her face a wall of stone.
Looking a lot less excited than they had only a short hour ago, Lou and Lawrie led the way up the stairs to Lawrie’s room with their shoulders hunched and their stomachs in knots. Lawrie reluctantly opened the door for their Mum to see what was inside. In the middle of the room was a dirty washing basket on its side spilling socks and boxers and dirty tops. Next to it was a broken bedside lamp and a tiny little piglet still wrapped in a blanket.
Excerpt Two: from chapter 14
“Lou do you ever feel like Buddy is saying something to you?” asked Lawrie after a comfortable few minutes of silence.
Lou paused and thought about Lawrie’s question. She didn’t want to sound like she was being immature, but at the same time, she knew exactly what Lawrie meant. Buddy stretched out and looked her straight in the eye.
“You can understand me!” he seemed to be saying.
“Perhaps humans have lost their ability to understand animals” she said thoughtfully. “Perhaps it’s easier for children to connect with animals.”
The last rays of sun at the window were making her feel dozy and the atmosphere was very calm and very quiet.
Neither of them seemed that surprised therefore when Buddy started to speak. When I say he started to speak, I don’t mean that human words came out of his mouth. Nor do I mean, that he started squealing and the children could suddenly translate the squeals into English. What I mean, is simply that as they looked at Buddy, he started to communicate with them and they could understand him. It was like they could read exactly what he was thinking. Lou’s words were wiser than she realised. There is an understanding that goes beyond words that most adults have completely forgotten about. It is a way of communicating with other species that do not speak the same language as humans. Sometimes, very rarely, children can do this instinctively. This was one of those rare moments and this is what Buddy shared with them.
“I want you to know that I am reallyreally happy that I am with you and I want you to know how I found you.”
Lou smiled sleepily. There was her thinking that she had found Buddy – not the other way round!
“I didn’t have a very good start in life you see." Buddy continued. "I know that my Mummy loved me, but she couldn’t really look after me properly. You see, when me and my brothers and sisters were born, my Mum was stuck inside a very small cage. She couldn’t really stand up properly because it was too small and the metal bars made it too uncomfortable for her. I think it was very painful for her, although she tried to be cheerful for the sake of us piglets. I could tell though that she was really unhappy. Poor Mummy. I think she was lonely. She needed to have other grown up pigs to spend time with. There were lots of other Mummy pigs in other cages, but we could only see the ones on either side of our cage. They were in the same kind of cages as us. The Mummies used to talk to each other sometimes. Mostly I think they were just too tired though. It wasn’t all bad of course. My brothers and sisters were lots of fun. We used to try to roll around and pretend that we were biting each other. That could be fun! Sometimes the bigger ones would get a bit rough and me or one of the other smaller piglets would squeal really hard. Then Mum would get cross and tell them off! Mum was always lying on her right side and we couldn’t really climb over her or round her, so we mostly played in front of her. I could see some piglets in the cage on our left. I would have liked to have got to know them, but there was so much squealing and I was too small to make my voice heard! As you know, I wasn’t very strong because I was the smallest in my litter, and every time I tried to get some milk, there were always too many piglets in the queue in front of me.
Every day some men came and I saw them taking lots of piglets out of the barn and away from their Mums – it always seemed to be the bigger ones that had to leave. I wondered if I ever got bigger, whether I would have to leave my Mum. I don’t know why they took them away."