The Authors’ Focus highlights the work of various authors of compassionate children’s books, novels for young adults and other literature, giving them the opportunity to share their stories, experiences and processes and inspire compassionate teachers and their students to act on behalf of animals through education.
Stuart Mitchell’s time in the catering industry made him wonder about the origins of his food and eventually led to his becoming a vegan in 2011, but a human and animal rights activist now known for his over 24,000 followers in Instagram, as Vigilante Vegan admits, “I realized that being a vegan is not enough.” Therefore, he began demonstrating and organizing protests to raise awareness of the inhuman treatment of animals used for food and clothing in his community. In 2017, he independently published a children’s book called Kayla veganabout a girl whose classmates find her vegan lifestyle strange. Kayla shows her peers how compassion, eating healthy food, does not harm animals, benefits everyone. Two years later Liberation summerwas published the story of a young man named Jaden, who learns about the brutality in industrial agriculture and the existence of food deserts in low-income communities. Both books emphasize the importance of compassion for others, including animals.
We asked Mitchell about his inspirations for two of his books, his advice on empowering young people to empathize with animals, his creativity, and more.
What inspired you to write Kayla vegan and Liberation summer?
It is important that we teach young children compassion and respect for all beings, as they will inherit the planet. I thought books would be a good source for children.
Where did you get the ideas for your books? Are the characters modeled after people you know?
Kayla vegan was inspired by Genesis Butler, a young animal rights activist. Liberation summer based in part on my own experiences in the catering industry.
How can children benefit from reading books about compassion for animals?
Adults are always trying to get kids to read, and I thought if I could write a vegan-based book about kids and make the characters interesting, it would be easy for them to understand why it’s important to show love and compassion for animals.
How did young people, teachers, activists, etc. react to your books?
I have received good and excellent reviews from people from all walks of life and professions, especially for Kayla vegan… Many mothers have thanked me for writing this book, and it’s really amazing!
What challenges, if any, do you face as a vegan author of humane books, and how to overcome them?
One of the challenges was getting the books out through a publishing company. Most of the publishers didn’t want children’s books, and the ones that liked kindly conveyed my idea. This is one of the main reasons why the books were self-published.
How do you educate young people about animal issues without “preaching” in your books?
I think I’ve oversimplified the idea enough for people to understand how easy it is to avoid harming animals by introducing alternatives to food and clothing. Kayla speaks empathetically, but doesn’t scold people for not being vegan – she helps children understand her message through love and kindness. Liberation summer shows people how you can systematically change things by setting an example without overwhelming your ideas or beliefs to other people.
Are you experiencing “compassion fatigue”? If so, how to fix it?
We live in a very shameless world, so it’s easy to overwork or overwork. I’m trying to find new ways to continually advocate for the interests of animals, whether it’s writing, creating stickers for activists, or taking action on my latest venture, VOICE4change. VOICE4change is a group that I started to direct around the performing arts. We use word of mouth, poetry and songs to protect animals. I try to make activism interesting and engaging, be it a book, poetry, or another art form. We must find new ways to get people’s attention and educate them about the suffering of animals so that they can make better and more ethical choices! I think repeating the same techniques can ultimately lead to burnout, and we must learn to make activism fun. Not all vegans are angry!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing books for young people about compassion for animals but doesn’t know where to start?
Think about how you would like to be spoken to when you were a child, and write it down on paper.
What else would you like teachers to know about you or your work?
I’m not perfect. I try my best to write. I write books because I care deeply for children and animals. Sometimes it’s hard to get adults to listen to what we say about animals and our planet, because they don’t want to do the work needed to make a difference. Children’s minds are still developing and they are curious about the world around us. It is our responsibility to provide them with the tools and knowledge they need to bring about positive change.
Sometimes it’s hard to get adults to listen to what we say about animals and our planet because they don’t want to do the work necessary to make a change. Children’s minds are still developing and they are curious about the world around us. It is our responsibility to provide them with the tools and knowledge they need to bring about positive change.
Getting to know the inspiring stories of young people showing kindness to animals is a fun and easy way to encourage your students to be more compassionate towards others. Browse our growing list of children’s animal books to find new books to add to your library in class:
Must-Read Books on Compassion