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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Pigs Galore

This past September, after years of writing and teaching the writing of realistic YA fiction, I was pleased to launch into the world a set of four early chapter books. Not surprisingly, the challenge of telling a story in 1000 words instead of 60,000 was huge. It was not the only challenge.

Instead of focusing on a teen girl in turmoil, I was now writing about a talking pig. An athletic one, to boot: Gracie LaRoo, the youngest member of a championship synchronized swimming team. I can just hear the younger writer me: Anthropomorphism? You’re really gonna go there?

While developing Gracie and while writing her stories I was keenly aware she was joining a crowded field. There are a lot of pigs in children’s literature, and many of them have reached one-name celebrity status. Okay, Piglet, Freddy, Wilbur, Babe, and Olivia only ever had one name, but since their arrival on the scene have they ever needed more than that?

Character is everything in literature, and I was delighted to discover some fine new and new-to-me pigs. Like almost all the books I read and reread, my list can be divided into two types of books: farm pigs and pigs-as-people (i.e., full-blown anthropomorphism).

Pigs Might Fly  

Pigs Might Fly
written by Dick King-Smith

(Mary Rayner, illus; Puffin, 1990)

I loved this novel by the author of Babe: The Gallant Pig, and not just because the protagonist Daggie is a swimming pig like my Gracie. There’s a lovely balance of realistic farm life and talking-animal whimsy. Like most of the farm-story pigs, Daggie appears destined for the breakfast table. How can he avoid that fate? Daggie is a wonderful character; his delight in cooling off in a stream on a hot day is visceral. And does he ever fly? You think I’d tell you?

Adventures of a South Pole Pig  

The Adventures of a South Pole Pig
written by Chris Kurtz

(Jennifer Black Reinhardt, illus; HMH, 2015)

An outdoor survival story with a female protagonist–what’s not to love? Okay, Flora’s a pig, but still. Perhaps because the novel begins on a farm, I had no hesitation in accepting that what happens later in the story is precisely what would happen were a pig shipwrecked at the edge of Antarctica. One warning: the shipboard rats are very frightening.

 

The Pirate Pig

 

The Pirate Pig
written by Cornelia Funke

(Kerstin Meyer, illus; Yearling, 2015)

Funke is of course the imaginative author of many middle grade and YA novels. This story about a treasure-sniffing pig who is shanghaied into labor by two evil pirates is great fun; also, how can you resist a pig pirate named Julie?

Poppleton Has Fun  

Poppleton Has Fun
by Cynthia Rylant

(Mark Teague, illus; Harcourt School Publishers, 2006)

Animals of all types abound in stepped-reading sets and series, and pigs are especially well-represented. I pored over many and quickly tossed some aside. Thanks to Newbery winner Rylant’s deft characterization and pitch-perfect language, Poppleton emerges as the best, and in this book he quilts and takes a nice bath. Fun, indeed.

 

Did I miss your favorite pig? Please comment!

2 Responses to Pigs Galore

  1. Anita October 27, 2017 at 10:47 am #

    My boys enjoyed it when I read them the Mercy Watson books. These tales of a “Porcine Wonder” made us all smile.

    • Marsha Qualey October 27, 2017 at 11:26 am #

      I’m a big Mercy Watson fan too. looking forward to reading them with my grandchildren–one is just about ready.

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