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Hubert the Pudge: A Vegetarian Tale
by Henrik Drescher
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Hubert the Pudge is about the life of animals in a slaughter house, and how one pudge is able to escape the fence. He spends a few days outside of the fence and grew so much that he was able to give elephants a “pudgy-back” ride. He then decides to go back to the shack and set all of the others free. He also forced the owner to open a tofu shop, and the pudges would work for him while everyone lived “healthily” ever after. This story is a fairytale, and unrealistic for children. The characters are kind of scary to look at because they aren’t real, and have some features on them that shouldn’t be there. Hubert the Pudge was written for vegetarians because everything in the story is clearly labeled as being against eating animals. This book might need to be read by an adult before giving to a child. As an adult, I was kind of weirded out by the story and the illustrations, so children may have the same feelings. ( )
Hubert the Pudge is done mostly in fleshy pinks and pastels, giving it a kind of soft fleshy feel. A pudge is not a particular type of animal...he's most like a pig, but he's also got a trunk like an elephant and horns like an antelope. According to the text, a pudge, if allowed to grow to adulthood (which these are not) would be so very large that he could give an elephant a piggy back ride with ease...the picture that accompanies this text shows the elephants on the back of a brontosaurus size adult pudge.
As we join Hubert, he lives on Farmer Jake's Processing Farm in deplorable conditions and as it happens, Hubert manages to escape on the one day they are allowed outside before they are taken away to the meat processing plant. He and he alone escapes to the deepest, darkest part of the forest where he meets other animals and learns to love the freedom AND becomes the first ever of his kind to grow to adulthood (because the nasty people kill them for meat before they can ever grow up). After quite a long time eating and living free, Hubert begins to feel guilty about leaving behind all the other pudges and so he returns to free them and they all live happily ever after and Farmer Jake learns to farm something else that isn't an animal.
I'm totally on board with the message that large agri-farms and animal processing plants are inhumane, dirty, and an unsuitable place for animals to live before they are taken to slaughter...because books like Coming Home to Eat and The Omnivores dilemma demonstrate that animals CAN be humanely raised and slaughtered, these large processing farms are not necessary for anything but profit. I also don't mind the overall message and agree that kids should be aware that the meat they are eating is obtained by killing animals and while this book accomplishes that, it does so in a way that manages to rub me the wrong way. All the meat eating people are portrayed as fat, disgusting slobs and meat is consistently described as greasy and fried...both the people and the meat itself is shown in the most despicable and disgusting light, the author doesn't allow for the perspective of animals raised and killed humanely and with thanks to the animal for the meat and nourishment we get from it.
I realize that this book is for young children, but with a grade range listed from 1-3, you're talking about kids from about age 6-9 and they are certainly sophisticated enough to understand the basics of the life of an animal raised as food and make a decision for themselves if they would like to eat meat or go for a vegetarian diet...using deplorable imagery and words to describe meat itself (which isn't always fried, greasy and/or disgusting) and people who choose to eat meat as mean, slovenly and gross isn't really fair or accurate. Kids do better with facts and honesty in making their decision about vegetarianism...I know a fair number of 7-9 year olds who have opted to become vegetarians and it was because they were told honesty about how animals are raised and killed or just because they don't like the idea of eating something that was walking around shortly before it wound up in the grocery store. I just didn't appreciate how the author's message was delivered, I honestly think there is a better and more entertaining and interesting way to present the message this book wants to give. This book gets two stars from me...I'd love to see something with a positive vegetarian message, because Hubert and Pudge isn't it.
As one of many Pudgies awaiting their trip to the meat factory from the Pudge Processing Farm, little Hubert escapes to the jungle where the animals show him all the good foods he can eat and, as a result, he becomes the first Pudge to achieve full size since ancient times.
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An edition of this book was published by Candlewick Press.