Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan
It is always great to see children’s books that challenge the norm and, like the recently published Round Fish, Square Bowl (New Frontier), A Pig Called Pete does this is in a simple and entertaining way.
I bought this book at my children’s urging from the Sunday market at the Arts Centre, Southgate in Melbourne.
A Pig Called Pete is the story of an unconventional pig who travels the world. It starts by asking questions – “Pigs are Pink. Yes? No!” and lets children understand that it is acceptable to challenge the norm – Pete is not pink, he is purple. He does not like dirt, or mud, but most importantly, Pete can fly.
It is this ability that allows him to travel the world. This is a simple idea that resulted in some delightfully entertaining can caning from my daughter and bull fighting from my son.
Pete’s journey around the world introduces young children to geography and some of the characteristics of the places he visits. Pete climbs pyramids and paddles a gondola. My children asked a lot of questions, such as are there really gondolas and what’s a matador?
What I particularly like about this book is the message at the end – give children freedom and they might surprise you.
This book is suitable for the 3-6 year age group and we have enjoyed it as a night time story over and over again. The language also allows beginner readers to read it independently.
A Pig Called Pete, by Alan Bowater, illustrated by Pete Pascoe
Published by Alan Bowater and Pete Pascoe
PB rrp $15
One morning in the farmyard, Piglet lost her mama.
“Oinkkkkkk!” cried Piglet.
When Piglet loses her mama, the other animals want to help. Duck offers to give her a cuddle, Donkey offers to play chasey and Cat suggests they snooze in the sun. But Piglet wants her mama and won’t be consoled until she finds her. When she does, she will do all those things with Mama.
Piglet and Mama is a delightful story for preschool children about the bond between mother and baby. The images of an increasingly despondent Piglet searching for her Mama culminate in a bleak – but not too dark for young readers – moment, when Piglet covers her eyes and gives one last oinkkkkk, a sound which is echoed by Mama’s response as the pair are reunited and proceed to joyfully do all the things the other farmyard mothers have suggested – a gentle cuddle, a a delighted game of chasey and so on, before settling down for a content snooze in the sun.
Stephen Michael Kings gorgeous illustrations – watercolours outlined in black ink – are gentle yet joyful, with the golden glow of Piglet and Mama’s cuddle especially endearing.
Piglet and Mama, by Margaret Wild and Stephen Michael King
Working Title Press, 2004, reprinted 2005
With no eggs and no fat chickens, all Pierre has left is his pig. But oh, how he loves Jean-Jacques! He is a fine fellow, big and black and whiskery.
It is Autumn and the poor farmer, Pierre and his pig, Jean-Jacques, are searching for truffles. Pierre dreams of the money they will have if they can find some. He will buy himself a new red beret and, for Jean Jacques, a fine leather collar.
Jean-Jacques does not know what truffles smell like, but Pierre tells him they smell like the breath of an angel. When Jean-Jacques smells something beautiful, he is sure it smells like an angel. But are there truffles underneath the mound of leaves in the forest – or something far more beautiful?
Angel Breath is an evocative book from one of Australia’s foremost children’s authors. Set in the European forest, the tale is warm and the characters endearing. The subdued colours of Dee Huxley’s illustrations are perfect for the setting and tone of the story.
Children will love the twist in the story and guessing what it is hiding under the leaves. Adults will love the gentle, lyrical text.
Angel Breath, by Glenda Millard and Dee Huxley
ABC Books, 2005