Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Perfect and Precious Pigs

Did you miss National Pig Day? So did I. If you attended Mrs. Peeling’s storytime last Thursday, you didn’t. Living by the philosophy of “better late than never,” I offer these books on pigs.

What makes pigs so appealing? Is it their pinkness, their adorable babyness, or their joyful abandon while wallowing in the mud? Bill Ling’s Pig, in the See How They Grow series, is a prime example of a piggie’s appeal. You open the book and read, “I am a piglet. I was just born.” To the left is the cutest, most irresistible piglet you’ve ever seen. I would say it’s so cute that you want to eat it up, but let’s not go there today. It's in profile, and judging from its expression, you can tell it knows it’s a cutie. We see the piglet and its siblings grow, follow the farmer, making a straw nest, playing in the mud, and becoming a mom of her own (now we know that it’s a she). No mention of butchering. The text is suitable for toddlers. Did I mention that the pictures are precious?

For older children, we have Pig by Jules Older. Facts about pigs are related with a lot of kid (and occasionally) parent-friendly humor.

“When does a pig become a hog?

When it grows to 120 pounds.

When does a motorcycle become a hog?

When it’s a Harley-Davidson. (Your dad will explain it.)”

Hardee-har. The illustrations are also very droll. Accompanying the fact that Denmark has more pigs than people (who knew?) is an illustration of a pig reading the works of Hans Christian Andersen.

Older writes directly to the reader, engaging him/her immediately in the text. If you’re not a farmer or if you didn’t grow up on a farm, there are probably quite a few facts in here that you probably don’t already know. For example, did you know that pigs are one of the few animals that will stop eating when they are not hungry? In other words, a pig won’t…pig out.

Turning to picture books, we have Dumpy La Rue by Elizabeth Winthrop. Dumpy loves to get down, even though everyone tells him that pigs don’t dance. “They grunt, they grovel, they sniffle for truffles” says his father. His mother and his sister also scoff. But Dumpy just won’t hear of it. His dancing attracts the other animals, who just can’t believe what they are seeing. Dumpy’s family is pretty mortified (check out the illustration of his sister).

However, the other animals get into the groove, and soon everyone is twirling and bustin’ a move, including the folks and sister.

Too cute. The story is told in rhyme. And for those folks who are overly eager to skip picture books? This baby has words like grovel, cavort, amazing, references to dance styles, and references to musical genres. A child’s listening level is more sophisticated than his/her reading level. There is plenty of time for novels later on. Don’t be too eager to rush the picture book stage.

I can’t end a book bundle post about pigs without mentioning these books:

The Olivia books by Ian Falconer

Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith (don’t miss his All Pigs Are Beautiful for younger children)

and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, featuring the radiant Wilbur and his best friend, Charlotte.

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