We recently chatted with Tina Newman, the author of Vivi The Supervegan, a series of children’s books with a message to empower kids to be kind to everyone – animals, humans and the planet. Newman shares her journey to veganism, raising her young ones on a plant-based diet, her top tips for other animal-free parents and more.
GQ: Tell us a bit about why you decided to go vegan.
TN: For the animals! I became a vegetarian at the age of 11 after visiting an animal sanctuary with my family. After making the connection between the animals I loved so dearly and the food I had been eating, I then spent the next 21 years as a vegetarian, believing that I was no longer contributing to animal’s suffering. However, in September 2017 I saw a picture on Facebook of a calf being taken away from its mother. The look in their eyes was utterly heartbreaking. I didn’t know what was going on in the picture so I clicked on it and literally felt sick and traumatised when I discovered what happens in the dairy industry. I went on to research, watching YouTube videos and documentaries which challenged everything I had previously thought and believed, especially my knowledge and understanding of the dairy and egg industries and I went vegan overnight.
GQ: Tell us a bit about your background – were you an author prior to writing the Vivi books?
TN: No, I had never written a book before! I actually trained in TV and film makeup and qualified as an Animal Nursing Assistant as was looking to become a Veterinary Nurse but found it all too traumatic and realised I wasn’t cut out for that job! So writing and self publishing my books has all been a completely new experience for me. Apart from taking my A-levels in English Literature and Language and sharing some of my vegan poetry on social media, this was an absolute first for me as far as published work goes!
I went on to research, watching YouTube videos and documentaries which challenged everything I had previously thought and believed.
GQ: What made you decide to write the books?
TN: Soon after going vegan I realised that most books aren’t vegan friendly and I didn’t like that. Suddenly it all became very apparent that everything we do with our kids – the nursery rhymes we sing, the books we read to them, the programmes they watch, all tend to be geared towards the way humans exploit animals. I strongly felt that there was a real need for a children’s series that deals with the impact that our choices have on animals and our planet.
So I wrote my books with the hope that they bring about some balance and help children understand that they can bring about positive changes in the world whilst inspiring others. I also wanted my books to be accessible to non-vegan children as well so I wrote the stories with that in mind. Through my series, children can be introduced to a vegan world in an engaging, fun, and child-friendly manner.
Suddenly it all became very apparent that everything we do with our kids – the nursery rhymes we sing, the books we read to them, the programmes they watch, all tend to be geared towards the way humans exploit animals.
GQ: Why did you make Vivi a superhero?
TN: You can’t beat a good superhero – kids (and adults) love them! It was very important to me to empower vegan children and give them books that affirm their lifestyle. I wanted to give them a positive role model. Most children’s books aren’t vegan-friendly so vegan kids have very few characters in literature to relate to. Vegans are literally saving animals and protecting our planet every day just by following a vegan lifestyle – that makes them superheroes in my eyes and I wanted children to see that. I also wanted to show them how much power we actually have in our choices. Children are the future. Therefore I believe it is so important that we instil the right values in our kids and raise compassionate children who grow up to be compassionate and conscious adults.
GQ:Who is your illustrator?
TN: I worked with two separate illustrators for my books. Vivi the Supervegan was illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown who is an artist and illustrator based in Somerset, England and Vivi and the Planet Protector was illustrated by Luke Ives who is a freelance illustrator based in Montreal, Quebec.They are both extremely talented and I am so pleased with the illustrations in my books.
Children are the future. Therefore I believe it is so important that we instil the right values in our kids and raise compassionate children who grow up to be compassionate and conscious adults.
GQ: As a vegan, do you find it challenging to raise your children on a plant-based diet as well?
TN: No I don’t actually. My husband went from full on carnivore to vegan overnight with me which was a massive shock as he hadn’t even considered going vegetarian in the 9 years we had been together. But having him make that connection instantly and go vegan overnight with me was incredible as it meant we were on the same page and having his support made the transition and journey as a family a lot easier. Our children were only 1 and 3 at the time too so they were very young and adapted very easily. They are now 5 and 6 and are absolutely incredible little eaters and amazing advocates for animals too! My mum went vegan soon after we did and even my dad has since become vegetarian which is something I never thought I would see! So my closest circle is on the same page which is amazing for us all. I was also lucky enough to meet likeminded mums at activism events who went on to become my best friends so we have each other. Obviously there are day to day challenges being a vegan parent, at school, kids parties, play dates for example, but nothing too challenging and we just deal with things when and if they happen.
GQ: Do you have some other vegan children’s books to recommend? What are some of your favourites?
TN: We don’t actually have many other vegan books. I bought a couple of Ruby Roth’s books when we first went vegan, which are great. We have V is for Vegan and That’s why we don’t eat animals. They are more educational though and aimed at a slightly older audience but our kids are getting to that age more now so they will be more suitable. We do need to update our vegan library so are always on the look out for other vegan books! Just like me by Stanley Foo looks like a lovely book for younger children.
GQ: Any other pieces of advice, recipes or go-to’s for other vegan mums out there?
TN: My fave quick go-to meal for the kids would have to be good old pesto pasta – specifically the red pesto. We chuck black beans, chickpeas, and peas in ours, mix in a couple of teaspoons of blended nuts, and serve with tomatoes and vegan cheese grated on top! It is so quick and gets a lot of goodness in and I swear the kids would eat this every day if they could! We love it too which is a bonus. The thing I say to most people when they are looking into veganism, is just simply ‘veganise’ your meals. Keep cooking your fave meals but simply swap the animal products to plant-based products. That way it is less daunting.
I made the decision to channel my feelings, passion and desire to help into something positive. That is when things woke up for me and my life got more meaning.
My main bit of advice for life though would be to find your ‘tribe.’ Being a parent can be hard enough anyway, and even just being vegan can be hard and isolating at times so my advice would definitely be to find likeminded people that you can journey through life with. Also, find your passion, your calling. Barbara Sher said: “You must go after your wish. As soon as you start to pursue a dream, your life wakes up and everything has meaning.” For me, when we first went vegan I felt quite hopeless. I was looking at the state of the world and reality of what happens to animals and it all felt quite overwhelming. When I first started contemplating writing a vegan children’s book I had no idea that 3 years later I would have 2 published books and more things on the way! I could have easily stayed in that place of sadness and hopelessness but I made the decision to channel my feelings, passion and desire to help into something positive. That is when things woke up for me and my life got more meaning.
Lead image courtesy of Tina Newman.