Pigs are excellent characters for kid’s books. They make the perfect over-looked hero to overcome adversity as, after all, people always underestimate the humble pig.
The Pig Plantagenet by Allen Andrews, which I had never heard of and discovered a few months ago in an op-shop, is certainly a humble, yet extraordinary pig. Plantagenet was discovered in the forest, a small white pig in a litter of black boars. He has the unusual talent of running very fast, dubbed “The Flying Pig” by his cousins in the forest. He has some delightful habits, such as meticulously cleaning his pen, pining for his mistress Adele, and eating lightly to avoid putting on weight and being eaten by the Master. He also has excellent manners. Set in medieval France, the Local Lord and his farmers want to rid the nearby woods of all the local wildlife, wolves, bears, boars and all, and plan a savage hunt to exterminate them all. Plantagenet, much loved by his Mistress and her Father, must help his cousins and friends escape the woods and save their lives. Written in a traditional fantasy style which can swing wildly between the very light-hearted and the terribly bleak, it’s an absolute classic. The language is fantastic, and I especially enjoyed the parts where Plantagenet would sit and ponder (or sulk) on Why No-One Understands Me.
Next I read the Sheep Pig, now known as ‘Babe’, my first Dick King-Smith book. I’ve seen the movie dozens of times, and the movie doesn’t seem to stray much from the original story. It is, in a word, charming, and he writes wonderfully well. As I had seen the movie so many times there wasn’t much to surprise me in the book, and I polished it off in half-an hour or so. When I finished it I discovered I had a two-in-one volume (I hadn’t noticed when I bought the book) and the second book was called ‘Ace’ Ace was the great-grandson of Babe, and is on a quest to be allowed in the house. After completing this quest, he develops a habit of watching television and being able to change the channels and follow the programs. He’s not really remarkable (as watching television is fairly unremarkable) but the book is entertaining enough, and there is an excellent cat. The reference to Mrs. Hoggett is gold.
Wilbur, of course, is one of the most famous, and humblest, pigs of all. I read Charlote’s Web in Primary School and remember getting to watch the movie (the old animated version) at school for a treat. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve read this book, I probably read it a few times a year, usually in an hour-ish sitting. One of my favourite scenes from Charlotte’s Web
‘I’m a doctor. Doctors are supposed to understand everything. But I don’t understand everything and I don’t intend to let it worry me’
Mrs Arable fidgeted ‘Fern says the animals talk to each other. Doctor Dorian, do you believe animals talk?’
‘I’ve never heard one say anything’ he replied ‘But that proves nothing. It is quite possible that an animal has spoken civilly to me and that I didn’t catch the remark because I wasn’t paying attention. Children pay better attention than grown-ups. If Fern says the animals in Zuckerman’s barn talk I am quite ready to believe her. Perhaps if people talk less, animals would talk more. People are incessant talkers, I can give you my word on that’