Something about the rhythm of the language reminded me of The Poky Little Puppy. I guess they're both American children's books from the same era, soSomething about the rhythm of the language reminded me of The Poky Little Puppy. I guess they're both American children's books from the same era, so that may have been 'in the air'. This story has a remarkably cosy feeling to it and I enjoyed it very much considering nothing much happens....more
**spoiler alert** This is the one where it turns out Jim is actually in love with Junie B. But those of us who've seen love stories saw that coming, r**spoiler alert** This is the one where it turns out Jim is actually in love with Junie B. But those of us who've seen love stories saw that coming, right?...more
The reader of the audiobooks does an excellent job. She has a voice a bit like Lisa Simpson, which would probably be annoying outside anything other tThe reader of the audiobooks does an excellent job. She has a voice a bit like Lisa Simpson, which would probably be annoying outside anything other than Lisa or Junie, but she does an absolutely excellent job of reading Junie's strange grammar -- the character really does sound like a six-year-old....more
OMG, I gave birth to the real life Junie B Jones. She even got on the wrong school bus on her first day of kindergarten and caused a big stink. She loveOMG, I gave birth to the real life Junie B Jones. She even got on the wrong school bus on her first day of kindergarten and caused a big stink. She loves sharpening pencils down until they're stumps with my electric pencil sharpener, and is in love with band aids.
Needless to say, the real life Junie B loved this book.
Barbara Park must have known a real life Junie B Jones herself, because she has the voice and character down pat....more
A realistic depiction of the difficulties of friendships at about age 7, in which the concept of 'the best friend' is king. This story doesn't do muchA realistic depiction of the difficulties of friendships at about age 7, in which the concept of 'the best friend' is king. This story doesn't do much to quash that concept, but at least promotes cross-gender friendships....more
This was the first of the series I read -- it is right up the alley of my seven year old daughter. The author has a solid grasp on the social difficulThis was the first of the series I read -- it is right up the alley of my seven year old daughter. The author has a solid grasp on the social difficulties surrounding birthdays at that age, and what a big deal they are....more
I wasn't especially engaged by the second half of this novel, so may well be missing something deeper, but in general I'm not a huge fan of books whicI wasn't especially engaged by the second half of this novel, so may well be missing something deeper, but in general I'm not a huge fan of books which promote 'magical thinking'. That's not an argument against the entire fantasy genre, because fantasy is often a complex device for commenting upon real world issues, but there are some storylines which seem to berate the reader for *not* believing in magic. An example is the picture book The Polar Express. I can't know if this one fits into that category because I'm a skeptical adult reader, but the Grinch in me doesn't like to promote the idea that fortune tellers have a single useful thing to say. Yes, yes, elephants don't fall from the sky either, and children have discerning brains, but look around. Magical thinking is everywhere....more
No one has done more for my understanding of children's literature than Nikolajeva, and this book is no exception.
Ironically, I read more kidlit nowNo one has done more for my understanding of children's literature than Nikolajeva, and this book is no exception.
Ironically, I read more kidlit now than I did in the nineties, so I haven't actually read most of the books analysed and used as examples here. Some of Nikolajeva's lesser known examples are now out-of-print and hard to source, which always makes me panic a bit -- what else is about to fall out of print, even though it shouldn't?
I think the typology of prelapsarian/carnival/postlapsarian is a useful one for children's fiction, and I think this will change my general view of children's literature....more
If you have to choose, I'd say go with Pig the Pug, because this next one in the series relies on the exact same gags and jokes, with the addition ofIf you have to choose, I'd say go with Pig the Pug, because this next one in the series relies on the exact same gags and jokes, with the addition of a cheap but effective farting joke, in which Pig blames the smell on Trevor. Still, this never fails to be a winner with the seven-year-old set....more
Pig the Pug and Trevor the sausage dog live together in a flat. Pig is greedy and selfish and refuses to share his toys. Trevor suggests they play together, but Pig refuses. [SPOILER ALERT] He piles up all his toys and sits on top of them, but the pile collapses. Pig ends up covered in bandages, completely unable to escape Trevor's attentions. For now, Trevor is allowed to share.
WONDERFULNESS When creating characters for film, Truby says that the best stories feature main characters who have both a psychological need and a moral need. In Pig the Pug, these needs are spelt-out for the young reader on the very first page:
Pig was a Pug
and I'm sorry to say,
he was greedy and selfish
in most every way.
Pug's psychological need is that he's scared that if he shares his toys he'll lose control of them. Pug's moral need is that he needs to start treating other dogs better, and learn to share his toys.
Main characters also need an obvious desire. Pig desires to keep all of his toys to himself.
But Pig would just grumble,
'They're mine! GO AWAY!'
The other thing Truby says must happen in a good story: The main character and the opponent must find themselves thrown together. In real life, people who don't like each other tend to avoid each other, so storytellers must contrive naturalistic scenes in which opponents have to somehow work out their differences. Here we have the naturalistic environment of two dogs pushed together by dog-owners oblivious to the machinations of dog-friendship. Blabey makes the most of this discomfort in the illustrations, and the following facial expressions say it all:
[caption id="attachment_5383" align="aligncenter" width="518"] Trevor and Pig, reluctant housemates[/caption]
A note on Pig's range of change: Usually in picture books (and indeed in film for adults), main characters have some sort of epiphany and realise they'd better start treating others better. The transgressive thing about this story is that Pig has not necessarily changed at all. He may be just as selfish as he ever was, but wrapped up in bandages, there's nothing he can do about Trevor using his toys. The character arc has happened in Trevor, who has realised that Pig needn't always be the top dog (quite literally) around here. Pig's lack of character change is all the more comical because the previous two double spreads lead us to think that this is your average moralistic story about a dog who learned to share:
These days it's different,
I'm happy to say:
It's so very different
in most every way
Next we see wonderful use of the close up, on Pig and Trevor's faces. The close up is necessary because we need a bit of a build up -- to be given the wider context so quickly would ruin the surprise ending. Notice that on the penultimate spread, Pug's bandages are shielded by the arm of the clown toy, who has sort of come to life as a character in its own right...Turn the page and we see what has really happened.
The main character in a good story is not self-aware of his moral need, otherwise you have no story at all. When Pig tells Trevor he is 'a sausage-shaped swine', this demonstrates the ultimate lack of self-awareness; after all, Pig has been named after a swine. He thereby projects his own failings onto his opponent, making the insult even more comical.
The interesting thing about Trevor (apart from his hilariously Australian name) is that he seems to know that he's the goody-two-shoes of this story. Take a look at the following facial expression:
Is that a self-satisfied grin if ever you saw one? My daughter definitely feels sorry for Trevor, and was even a little upset when I laughed, but this grin is definitely for the adult co-readers if not for the children themselves -- Trevor knows full-well that he is the Designated Good Dog. This allows us to empathise with Pig a little, too, and results in a story that isn't black-hat, white-hat. The morality in this picture book for young readers is just a little more complex than that, should the reader be old enough to recognise it.
The use of idiomatic expression in this book is particularly appealing. I'm not sure how particularly Australian it is, but phrases such as, 'Well, Pig flipped his wig' add to the humour. NOTES ON THE ILLUSTRATION The first unusual thing about this picturebook is the close-up of the main character on the cover. Very few picture books feature a close up -- it's far more likely to be a smiling medium- to long-shot. (Another exception in picture book world is the excellent retelling of Snow White, illustrated by Ekholm Burkert. Perhaps this is because pug dogs are inherently funny -- at least if we ignore the ethics behind the over-breeding of dogs, which is a topic for a different blog. However, the fact that we have a close-up on Pug's face AND the fact that Pug is not smiling, as is usual for characters on the front of picture books, tells us that we are to expect something just a little transgressive within.
There is humour in the intratext: Pig's dish says 'Mine' rather than his name (more expected), and says to the reader that Pig's owners know exactly what he's like. Someone has given Pig a toy which says 'Top Dog', indicating that Pig is a spoiled brat, and probably came into the family before the more laid-back Trevor did.
This is a picturebook illustrated in modern style, with much use of negative space. The main action happens inside a house, and all the reader needs to know is that this is 'inside a house'. There are no distinguishing features about the house at all -- our attention is drawn only to the two dogs and the toys which are essential to the plot. Even when we see Pig piled high up on top of his toys in front of a window, the only clues we are given about there being a window is a view of the tops of pine trees and a couple of 'm' shapes in the sky to indicate birds. We therefore know that he is 'high'.
One of Pig's toys is a creature with googly eyes, much like Pig's eyes. I'm not sure if it's meant to be a crocodile or a sausage dog. If it's meant to be a sausage dog, I love that it reinforces the 'shadow in the hero' idea.
Interestingly, Pig falls out the window rather than simply falling to the floor in a sorry heap. This allows for a different colour scheme of dark bricks rather than pale interior decor, and signals with colour the climax in the story.
But as mentioned above, the stand-out feature of these illustrations are the wonderfully expressive faces, which tell a good chunk of the story in their own right.
[caption id="attachment_5386" align="aligncenter" width="660"] Every facial expression is different, even though pugs don't have such a wide range of expression in real life.[/caption] STORY SPECS I've seen actorsput outsome very average books, but Pig The Pug is proof positive -- alongside Julieanne Moore's Freckleface Strawberry -- that not all picture books written by actors are published due to platform alone. This is a genuinely wonderful rhyming picture book, and my seven-year-old daughter loves it. Her class has been working its way through all of Aaron Blabey's books and she has asked me to buy them for her. I would happily do this, but it looks like Pig the Fibber is out of stock, I hope due to popular demand. I hope there's going to be a reprinting/paperback version soon... I live in fear, because excellent Australian picturebooks quite often fall out of print, or never make it to softback. However, I predict this series will become classics.
Published July 1st 2014 by Scholastic
Shortlisted for 2015 CBCA Picture Book of the Year
COMPARE AND CONTRAST This story reminds me of a subplot in the comedy Office Space, in which the character of Tom Smykowski is ironically overjoyed at having been severely disabled in a car accident which just happens to result in a big insurance payout as he is about to be laid off from work.
[caption id="attachment_5382" align="aligncenter" width="720"] The adult comedy version of Pig the Pug?[/caption]
This, of course, is what makes Pig the Pug a little transgressive -- the reader is encouraged to laugh at a creature covered in bandages. The humour wouldn't work nearly so well if the character had lesser injuries of the type anyone might sustain--it's the hyperbolic head-to-toe nature of the bandages which make these scenes funny.
I'm also reminded of the relationship between Garfield and Odie.