Just because I watch cartoons in the morning and occasionally have been known to cuddle a teddy bear (or stuffed elephant) as I drift off to sleep (hey, no shame here) does not mean that I am emotionally stunted. Now that I’m 32 — as of 2 days ago — I have decided that my penchant for childlike (childish?) entertainment needs to be shaken up. One can only watch so much “Martha Speaks.” So when writer/artist/activist Nathalie VanBalen’s coloring zine, “Happy Thanksliving!” arrived in the mail yesterday, I thought: this is a sign. Clearly the next phase of my thirties will include coloring — albeit outside of the lines.
Mariann and I fell a little in love with Nathalie when we found her book, “Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice,” which we reviewed on episode 70 of our podcast. This is perhaps — no, not perhaps… definitely! — our favorite ever kids’ book. Even just looking around on her fun and engaging website will make you feel like a kid again.
But when Nathalie told us about “Happy Thanksliving!” — an accessible and affordable coloring zine for all ages (even 32-year-olds) that gently challenges some of the ridiculous and antiquated traditions of Thanksgiving, while also celebrating compassion, deliciousness, open-mindedness, and new traditions — we knew that our appreciation for this Nashville-based artist had reached new proportions.
In a recent email to me, Nathalie explained her drive to create this much-needed zine. “Last week I had one of those cartoon light bulbs appear above my head: ‘Aha! The world needs a vegan Thanksgiving coloring zine!’ So I wrote a celebratory, rhyming poem called Happy Thanksliving!, cancelled my weekend plans, and have been drawing drawing drawing. (While listening to your podcast, of course.)”
(Pardon me for leaving in that shameless plug for our podcast. WHOOPS — there I go again!)
Here’s an excerpt:
There isn’t a turkey on our table
and we’re happy to tell you why –
because turkeys are friends (like cats and dogs)
and feathered friends must fly!
We don’t want our friends in cages,
we don’t want our friends to hurt,
we certainly don’t want to eat our friends,
so instead we’ll dig in the dirt!
Potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, CRUNCH!
Greens & beans, oh my-
Thank you thank you apple tree,
tonight we’re having pie!
It’s time for my annoying (to you) disclaimer: My family’s Thanksgivings are always vegan, because my family is by and large vegan (feel free to throw tomatoes at me in order to express your jealousy in a healthy, Lycopene-laden way). BUT I still think that everyone at my table this year will need a copy of Happy Thanksliving! There are so many things I love about this zine. For one thing, I am thrilled with the fact that Nathalie saw a need for it and, rather than just saying “someone should make that,” took it upon herself to do so. Another great feature is that, in addition to exploring why we shouldn’t eat turkeys or other animals on Thanksgiving (or ever), it includes on the back cover fascinating facts about turkeys (did you know that turkeys recognize each other by their unique voices?!?). And, the icing on the cruelty-free cake is that this zine also gently touches on questions about American history as it relates to Native Americans. Since another zine I own, “Why I Hate Thanksgiving” can be a bit too strident for some of my family members to appreciate, it seems to me that “Happy Thanksliving!” will be the perfect recipe for bringing compassion to the table — both for non-human and human animals. Plus, on the off-chance that I need to escape the table for whatever reason (like if someone gets embarrassingly drunk — even if that someone is me), I can simply hide in the corner and color. What, like that doesn’t appeal to you too?
“Happy Thanksliving!” is just $5 (which includes shipping within the U.S.), consists of 20 black and white pages, is printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper, and is bound with thread rather than staples (“for the safety of the little ones”). You can purchase your copies on the ThoraThinks store.
I, for one, am grateful to Nathalie VanBalen for allowing me to engage my childlike side, while also giving me entertaining resources to spread the gospel of compassion. This zine is a must-have for both your and your favorite child’s bookshelf. In addition to being able to use “Happy Thanksliving!” as an activist tool, it has inspired me to get creative in using my talents to contribute to the greater good. I hope it does the same for you.