BOOK REVIEW: Much Ado about Aldo

Much Ado about Aldo

Families with vegetarian children in particular are going to love Much Ado about Aldo. Veggie kids will relate to Aldo’s compassion and determination to stick up for animals; the circumstances behind his choice may even mirror their own.

The story begins with a classroom terrarium full of crickets. Aldo, in particular, is fascinated with the insects, which the children have all named. However, the students soon learn that the crickets are slated to be food for a group of chameleons, also new to the classroom. Most of the children don’t seem too troubled, but Aldo is distressed about the idea of the crickets dying simply for a classroom demonstration of the food chain. Mrs. Dowling answers Aldo’s distressed questions with a question of her own:

“Aldo, what did you have [for dinner]?”
“Hamburgers,” Aldo answered.
“What animal do they come from?” she asked.
There was a pause while Aldo thought of the answer. Bruce raised his hand and said, “Cows.”
“That’s right,” Mrs. Dowling said. “Hamburger, steak, roast beef, and pot roast all come from cattle.”

And –snap—a connection is made. Aldo goes home with a lot to think about. Pondering the beloved family cats, Aldo ponders the categorization of some animals as ‘friends’ and others as ‘food’:

And then he wondered how it was that both cats and dogs had succeeded in escaping the fate of almost all other animals. Birds, fish, insects were all eaten.

Aldo brings up the question with his older sister:

“Why do you suppose people eat so many animals?” he asked.
Elaine shrugged her shoulders. “They taste good,” she said.
“But it’s killing,” said Aldo. “Every time people eat meat, animals have to be killed.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Elaine. “They can’t think so they don’t know. You shouldn’t think about it, either.”

That point of view doesn’t suit Also, so he pens a list of “yes” (vegetarian) and “no” (meat) sandwiches and gives it to his mother, who is packing his lunch for school the next day. The youngster states his feelings clearly:

“I decided that I don’t want to eat any more animals,” said Aldo. “It’s like killing. So just give me the ‘yes’ sandwiches and none of the ‘no’ sandwiches.”
“Aldo, does this mean that you don’t plan to eat any meat at all?” asked his mother.
“Yes,” said Aldo. “I’ve been thinking about how many animals die so people can eat.”

Like many omnivore moms faced with vegetarian kids, Mrs. Sossi is worried. She worries about Aldo’s health, her ability to cook vegetarian foods, and hopes the new diet is just a phase.

“This is going to make life very complicated for me,” complained Mrs. Sossi. “What will you eat for dinner?”

However, Aldo’s father has more faith in his son and is more accepting of his choice, even though he, too, assumes it’s just a passing phase:

“He can eat spaghetti without the meatballs,” said Mr. Sossi. “I can assure you he won’t starve. They say Americans eat too much meat, anyhow. Give him eggs and cheese instead.”

However, Mr. Sossi does draw the line (wisely) when Aldo balks at giving the family pets their chicken-based cat food:

“You can’t make the cats become vegetarians just because you don’t want to eat meat. That is against nature. It’s like asking a cow to give up grass.”

The first few days after Aldo became a vegetarian were not difficult at all. Aldo enjoys his meatless cuisine and Mom doesn’t seem too put out to prepare it. However, one day after school he finds himself tempted by chicken noodle soup. Readers will smile when Aldo regains his confidence and refuses Mrs. Stossi’s offer:

“Shall I open a can of chicken-noodle soup for you?” she asked. “Oh, no,” said Aldo. “Don’t forget, I’m a vegetarian now.”

While most of Aldo’s classmates cheer when a lizard eats a cricket, Aldo grows more and more dismayed. His concern for the crickets gets the best of him and he sneaks the predatory lizards out of the terrarium. Hilarity ensues, and Aldo gets sent to the principal’s office. Aldo’s parents are called, and they immediately catch on to the reason behind Aldo’s uncharacteristic behavior. Aldo’s mother, who had previously balked at his dietary choices, seems to come around:

“Mr. Howard, did you know that this boy has become a vegetarian because he can’t bear to think of animals being slaughtered?” Considering how often Mrs. Sossi complained at the dinner table, she sounded rather proud of him now.

Mr. Howard, the principal, while still firm that the chameleons must be returned to their home, gains a newfound respect for Aldo’s motivations:

“If there were more young men like Aldo, the world would be a better place to live in.” … Mr. Howard smiled at Aldo. Young man, you certainly seem to understand animals very well. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday you became a veterinarian.”
Aldo grinned. “I would like that,” he said. He could imagine his name in the telephone book, SOSSI, ALDO. Veterinarian – Vegetarian.

Clearly, Aldo is already considering his vegetarianism a lifelong commitment, rather than a passing fad. Also remains a vegetarian and dreams of a future helping animals:

Someday, when he was a veterinarian, he would take care of cats, dogs, guinea pigs, turtles, and even insects. Nothing would be too small for him.

And then at the end Aldo’s classroom teacher Mrs. Dowling, treats Aldo to some vegan marshmallows! (Did they have those in 1978?)

(Review originally appeared at Goodreads.com)

 

Advertisements

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Elvira Thaggard
    Jan 07, 2012 @ 07:08:48

    Perfectly composed content, Really enjoyed reading through.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: