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!

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6 years ago

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

Marsha Qualey
Marsha Qualey
Reply to  Anita
6 years ago

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