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where food comes from

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I am working on a PB that addresses the ugly truth - our food sometimes comes from happy, lovable animals. That's not the main focus but it comes up as a key plot point. What do you guys think about this - is it too risky to write about? Will editors run away screaming "Oh no! The children! We must protect the children!" ( :))

I'd especially love opinions from teachers and those with PB age kids.


 :thankyou
#1 - July 02, 2013, 07:56 AM
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I work with elementary kids and we often use picture books to teach. And I think it depends on how you deal with it.

If you show a milk cow on a farm, or hooked up to a milking machine, and say that's where we get milk and cheese, and then show a herd of cattle and say that's where we get hamburgers, I think that would be fine for a NF picture book. If you show children hanging on Bessie Cow's neck and then have Bessie in pieces in the freezer, that would be a problem.

If you're using it to show why you believe we shouldn't eat meat, your market will be much smaller and an editor might not want to take it on. It depends on what you want to do with your book.

That's only my opinion and others may have a different one. Good luck with your book!
#2 - July 02, 2013, 09:19 AM

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I agree with JFriday. The angle and delivery will be crucial. I work on an urban farm, and a book like the one you are proposing would be really valuable in our Education programs.
Just a thought...even if your submission is not snapped up by publishers in one country, another country may be much more amenable as these values can vary considerably between cultures. I guess this means research, research, research. : )
Best of luck, crooked.
#3 - July 02, 2013, 03:38 PM
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One day when our son was three he steadfastly refused to drink his milk. This was new, so I asked him why, and he looked up at me with this stubborn expression and said, "I'm not drinking anything that comes out of a cow's butt." When he put it that way, it seemed fairly reasonable.

We called Grandpa, who grew up on a farm, and he explained where milk comes from. Then he hung up and laughed his behind off.

I could really have used a straight-forward book that dealt with this kind of issue.

On the other hand, both our kids were sensitive, and a let's-murder-Bessie book wouldn't have made it into the house.

Hope that helps a little.  :goodluck
#4 - July 02, 2013, 03:54 PM
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Agree with the 'research, research, research' advice!

I recently came across a pb about polar bears where the text was gentle but the illustrations showed a cute little baby polar bear grabbing a seal from a hole in the ice (looking so much like a predator!)  and then some blood-smeared snow. I have to admit that I was a little surprised because this book felt like a warm and fuzzy Momma animal/Baby animal story and then, WHAM, non-fiction in-your-face food chain.

The Common Core State Standards emphasizes NF, even at the picture book level, so there may be more like this...which seemed like a cross-over to me...

#5 - July 02, 2013, 07:06 PM

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If your PB is fiction, it might be more difficult to pull off precisely because animals getting eaten by humans IS a fact. The PBs I can think of where an animal dies are usually humorous and done in such a way as not to seem real... but if your story makes that part seem real, then you might find readers put off.

I'm not sure if what I've written makes sense! Finding it hard to put my thoughts into words today!
#6 - July 02, 2013, 07:35 PM

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I had grandparents who lived on a farm and a grandfather that was a meat cutter (different from a butcher - a butcher is the one who kills the animal and cuts it into large quarters - nuff said).

I grew up knowing where food came from.

However, it always astounded me when I ran into other children my age that did not have a clue where eggs came from, milk came from, how bread came from, just recently on the BB we had a discussion between feed corn and sweet corn.  Then there are the number of things that soybeans are used for, including vegetarian burgers.

I think that if done correctly, you could do a picture book showing what the many animals on the farm are and what the food products are grown. 

However, when it comes to the actual butchering of animals.  I recall in a history class in college where we had to watch a film about a slaughter house.  This would have been a range of ages from 18 - 20+ and I am talking Indiana University, and many of them were close to passing out, some may have became ill and I believe a few became temporary vegetarians after that. 
While those of us who grew up around butchering were not too grossed out, mass butchering as depicted in that film was pretty bad.   So beware what you would show a young child. 

They need to know where milk comes from - not bottles. Where eggs come from - not cartons.  How we get bread - it doesn't come ready made.  And perhaps hint that chickens and cows also provide us with meat without going into details.
#7 - July 03, 2013, 04:28 AM
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I don't think it's so taboo that it can't be done. In the movie Babe, the duck looks through the window at the family feasting on a roasted bird and hopes he's not next. But because it's done with humor and doesn't go into the butchery process, kids don't run away from it crying.
#8 - July 03, 2013, 08:20 AM

How about interviewing some 4-H kids? I knew where milk came form, etc, but it wasn't until we moved to a rural area and I did 4-H that I understood what it meant. I met kids who could raise, love, pamper, shampoo and blow dry a calf until it was a beefy yearling, and then turn around and sell their prize to the local sponsoring restaurant the day a blue or red ribbon was placed into their hands. Were they happy? No. But, it's part of farm life and the culture of food production. Like others have said, it's all in how you present the material.
#9 - July 11, 2013, 08:42 AM

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My four year old recently asked me if that was "chicken the animal or chicken that we eat?" We all froze in our chairs as we realized that she thought they were different things. I can remember my older kids going through the same phase; not sure how they eventually figured it out. My 7 year old niece became a vegetarian when she realized where meat came from (briefly -- about 4 months and she is back as an omnivore now but picky about meat she eats). It can be handled gently, but don't think it would be something I would be looking for at the bookstore myself. I think the topic can be handled gently as a non-fiction book and there may be a place in the education market (maybe together with a "my plate" diagram?).
#10 - July 11, 2013, 09:46 AM

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