February 9, 2012

Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore!

Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore!
By David McPhail; illus. by the author
No Author Website
2-4 Preschool, Primary Scholastic 28pp.
0-590-48883-X Paperback $6.99

Imagine that you’re sitting your favorite chair, quietly reading a book. Imagine that you hear “the sound of feeding” (“Munch, Crunch, Slurp, Burp”), and that when you go to investigate, you slip on a banana peel and land on a pile of charmingly dressed pigs. And these pigs are not alone. There are “pigs aplenty, pigs galore” in every part of your house. The human protagonist of David McPhail’s romp of a picture book finds himself in this very situation, and it only gets sillier from there. McPhail’s rhyming text provides the perfect playful, yet solid structure for the ebullient illustrations. The rhyme scheme is simple enough for pre-schoolers to anticipate and follow along, while younger listeners will enjoy the nursery rhyme / school yard quality of McPhail’s poetry (“Pigs from England, Pigs from France, Pigs in just their underpants. The King of Pigs, The Piggy Queen – The biggest pigs I’ve ever seen”). But the real stars are McPhail’s pigs. From the moment the cover is opened, they tumble across the title page and end papers, dressed like cowboys and baseball players and Elizabethan maids. You know the protagonist, who looks like the consummate reasonable adult, is in for a wild ride, but McPhail, an award-winning author/illustrator, manages to make the pigs, with their innocent smiles and expressive ears, look both vulnerable and endearing. The pigs are not malicious. They are exuberant little ids, perfect toddlers in piglet form, so it is no surprise that the narrator allows them to stay on condition that they clean up the mess and get ready for bed. Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! does not seek to teach an obvious lesson, and it is because of this that it works. This book is pure fun, which makes it stand out in a sea of concept books that teach various skills and morals. Young readers are welcomed to jump into the action and identify with both the human narrator and his piggy visitors as the action goes from silly (“Pigs in tutus, Pigs in kilts”) to ridiculous, to cozy, with narrator and pigs tucked safely into bed. McPhail’s pigs are allowed to enjoy themselves immensely in these pages, and young readers will too. That is the whole point, and it’s a wonderful point, indeed. 

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