a list of…five books plum full of pigs!

What is it about pigs?!  There just seem to be a lot of books starring these little porkers!  I could do a pig-blog ten times more I think and scarcely get started on the long list of pig stories!  Perhaps we will have Even More Pigs one day at Orange Marmalade.  For today, here are five  pig tales from our bookshelf.  Of course, numerous pig stories also feature big bad wolves or various other cunning-creatures-up-to-no-good, so be sure you know what your kids will tolerate.  Mine liked the little shivers that went with these endangered pigs, as well as the joy of their eventual victory!

Yummers, written and illustrated by James Marshall 

Emily Pig is upset because, wouldn’t you know it, she has been gaining weight and doesn’t know why.  She decides to get fit with exercise.  But…jumping rope does not really agree with her.  Enter Eugene, a turtle who is Emily’s best friend.  Eugene suggests that going on a nice walk with him might be a cheerier form of exercise and Emily readily agrees.  Along the way, Emily becomes a bit peckish, however, so they stop for sandwiches.  And corn-on-the-cob.  And tea at Granner Guffy’s Cozy English Tea Room.  And Eskimo Pies.  And on and on it goes until, inexplicably, Emily develops a tummy ache!  Eugene hails a taxi and sees his friend safely home.  When he pays her a visit the next day, Emily is much better and has figured out why she was taken ill.  What is Emily’s explanation? You’ll have to read it to find out. 

This is such a funny, dear story about these two friends.  James Marshall was a genius at portraying quirks in his characters which are oh-so-familiar to all of us, as well as the sweetness of friendships.  We’ve read Yummers many, many times, and we smile and chuckle at Emily every time. 

Piggins, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jane Dyer 

Proving that pigs aren’t always simply the butt of jokes, this book introduces Piggins, an utterly respectable and highly intelligent butler! 

Piggins butlers for the Reynard family who reside at 47 The Meadows, a sumptuous townhouse suiting their elegance and their elegant friends.  Piggins typically oversees such duties as shining the silver teapot, ensuring that the servants have set the table properly for the lavish dinner parties, and answering the front door bell.  On this occasion, however, something electrifying occurs  — while everyone is enjoying the shrimp soup , “Suddenly the lights go out.  A strange tinkling sound is heard.  There is a scramble of feet.  Several objects thud to the floor.  There is a high, squeaky scream.”  When the lights are turned on moments later, Mrs. Reynard’s diamond necklace has gone missing!  Horrors!  Who do you suppose solves the mystery?  Quite right.  Piggins. 

This is a delightful story, just begging to be read with a hoity-toity British accent!  Its tongue-in-cheek ingredients include the world-famous explorer Pierre Lapin and his three unmarried sisters — those who know French will recognize this as Peter Rabbit.  The illustrations are gorgeous, detailed, vivid creations which bring to life the 1920-era mansion and fashionable friends of Piggins’ world.  Sequels are available; I believe two of them. 

Piggie Pie!, by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Howard Fine 

And now something positively preposterous!  Piggie Pie is a brash, zesty, ridiculous story about Gritch the Witch and her craving for something really yummy…something truly tasty…some Piggie Pie!! 

Gritch wakes up grumpy one morning and nothing but nothing will satisfy her hunger but some scrumptious Piggy Pie.  After locating the recipe in her Old Hag Cookbook and running down the list of ingredients, Gritch discovers only one problem:  she needs 8 plump piggies to make this thing work.  When Gritch has a problem, things are not pretty!  She screeches, stomps, and generally carries on.  Finally, Gritch decides to head to Old MacDonald’s farm, which advertises in the Yellow Pages as carrying pigs.  But she does not reckon on the cunning nature of Old MacDonald’s pigs.  How those pigs do outsmart Gritch!  What on earth will she do now?  A surprising visitor to the farm clears that problem up.  Or does he? 

Especially for children who know their fairy tales, as well as their Old MacDonald, Piggie Pie is a very funny spoof!  It is such a treat to see that nasty witch get her come-uppance from those clever pigs, to watch her throw those outrageous temper tantrums, and to know better than Gritch at every turn.  Howard Fine’s over-the-top illustrations are perfect for this story.  They are large, bold, exaggerated, and very, very clever!  Fine’s take on Gritch’s pantry shelves, the ad in the Yellow Pages, and a surprising message in the skies all contribute a pig-sized portion to the humor of this book. 

Garth Pig and the Ice Cream Lady, story and pictures by Mary Rayner 

We’ve collected a number of stories about Garth Pig and his large piggly family, and we love them all! 

Garth is the youngest piglet in a large, boisterous family — 10 piglets in all.  They are a happy, hard-playing, fast-moving lot. And spectacularly brave.  On this particular occasion, after a hot morning of outdoor play, they rejoice at hearing the faint ting tong tingle tong of the ice cream truck.  Garth is elected to run and fetch ten Whooshes from Lupino’s Icecreams, and off he rushes.  But…he fails to return!  When it appears that the wolfish-lady behind the wheel of the pink and brown Volfswagon has snatched Garth, the other 9 piglets quickly take action!  An icecream trail, a brilliant 10-seater bicycle, and a steep hillside all figure into the dramatic rescue of Garth!  Ten delicious icecream treats are a fitting reward when Garth is safe at last. 

Mary Rayner’s stories all feature fantastic, well-developed plots.  It is surprising how unusual that is in the world of picture books.  She excels at it.  In addition, it is completely unfair how equally talented she is at illustrating her works!  She gives us exuberant, active, light-drenched watercolor s filled with personality.  There are a number of other stories in which Garth and company outsmart Mrs. Lupino, and they are just as thrilling as this one! 

The Adventures of Paddy Pork, a wordless book by John S. Goodall 

John S. Goodall was a prolific, talented, well-loved British illustrator.  He created a number of small-sized wordless books with an unusual format.  For every two-page spread, there is an extra half-page in the middle which, when it is flipped over, changes the scene and creates a bit of action in the wordless story.  One of his beloved characters is a pig with a knack for finding trouble, named Paddy Pork. 

In this story, Paddy is on a slightly-boring shopping expedition with Mama Pig when he notices a circus wagon going through the town.  While Mama is busy at the dry goods counter, Paddy slips away unobserved to follow that caravan.  Only, Paddy gets lost, and finds himself all alone in the dark night forest.  A bushy-tailed gentleman comes along and guides Paddy to his cozy little home in the woods, but Paddy discovers in the nick of time that this gentleman is up to no good, and makes his escape.  Paddy does eventually find the circus, but discovers that he is not very good at the kinds of tricks expected of circus pigs.  When all seems lost, a kindly Mama Bunny takes the weeping piglet by the hand and — oh, joy! –shows him the way home.  

Goodall’s black-and-white ink drawings are ingenuous, artistic renditions of a turn-of-the-century world.  The fact that you can flip through the book and clearly understand the whole action-packed story with nary a word is a testimony to his work.  The stories are so good, they can be “read” again and again.  Great for children who cannot yet read, yet even your readers will love and recite the story that you make up, so dust off your storytelling skills and track down some Paddy Pork!