BOOKS: A Boy, A Chicken, and The Lion of Judah: How Ari Became A Vegetarian

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1996:

A Boy, A Chicken, and The Lion of Judah:
How Ari Became A Vegetarian, by Roberta
Kalechovsky. Micah Publications (255 Humphrey St.,
Marblehead, MA 10945), 1995. 50 pages, paperback,
Robert Kalechovsky’s A Boy, A Chicken, and The
Lion of Judah is the only book on vegetarianism that ever
brought tears to my eyes. This occurred as often during my
second reading as during my first.

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 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, whose 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 who
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 psychoanalayst 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 Art 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. While the
book is aimed at children aged 7 to 10, based on my own
experience and the responses of other adults I have shared it
with, How Ari Became A Vegetarian provides adventurous,
thought-provoking reading for people of all ages.
––Richard Schwartz

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