Pighearted by Alex Perry

Pighearted

Alex Perry, Author

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Oct. 26, 2021

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Pages: 304

Themes: Animals, Chronic illness, Family life, Pig, Science, Ethics, Humor, Friendship

Synopsis:

Jeremiah’s heart skips a beat before his first soccer game, but it’s not nerves. It’s the first sign of a heart attack. He knows he needs to go to the hospital, but he’s determined to score a goal and not let his heart condition get in the way.  Charging after the ball, he refuses to stop…even if his heart does.

J6 is a pig and the only one of his five brothers who survived the research lab. Even though he’s never left Room 23, where he has a bed, good food and a TV, he thinks of himself as a therapy pig, a scholar, and a bodyguard. But when the lab sends him to live with Jeremiah’s family, there are two other new titles he’s desperate to have: brother and family.

At first, Jeremiah thinks his parents took in J6 to cheer him up. But before long, he begins to suspect there’s more to his new curly-tailed companion than meets the eye. When the truth is revealed, Jeremiah and J6 must protect each other at all costs—even if their lives depend on it.

Why I like Pighearted:

Alex Perry’s novel is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, but it is the most original and entertaining story I’ve read in a while. It is a story about a boy with a fatal heart condition and a pig with a heart that could save his life. It is also a contemporary story that tackles difficult topics and pushes the boundaries of science and medical ethics, making it an excellent classroom discussion book. 

The story is narrated in the alternating views of the boy, Jerimiah, and the pig, J6. Jeremiah is a relatable character, especially children with chronic illnesses. Even though he has a fatal heart condition, he is a bright and compassionate boy who wants to be a normal kid. After the heart attack, a device is implanted inside his chest to help his heart pump. There are strict rules he has to follow to protect the device.  

J6’s pigs-eye view of the world is hilarious, since much of what he’s learned is by watching TV. (For me, J6 steals the show.) He may have a human heart, but he also may have a human brain. He is mischievous, cheeky, smart and opinionated. He has a lot to say, but the only sound that escapes him is: OINK. He will leave readers chuckling throughout the story with his pig-hearted narrative. It is Jeremiah’s little sister who teaches J6 to read and communicate with letter cards. He loves Jeremiah and they swiftly develop a brotherly bond. When J6 realizes that his mission in life is to give his heart, he worries about becoming “pulled pork on a bun served with French fries.” 

There is never a dull moment in this fast-paced, action-packed story. There are hospital trips, escape plans, searches for a refuge for J6, festival antics, hurricanes and floods. And there is a large cast of memorable characters who all play a significant support role in the story — especially his sisters, Jazmine and Justus, and friends, Adnan and Paloma. 

Pighearted is a hopeful story, with heart at its very center. The unselfish bond between Jeremiah and J6 is unbreakable. It involves a sacrifice each is willing to make for the other. But, I won’t say anymore. The ending is a whirlwind that I did not anticipate. Sorry, no more spoilers. This is a fun and engaging middle grade book, suitable for all ages!

Alex Perry used to teach middle schoolers in Houston, but now she writes books for kids everywhere. When she was six, she babysat a potbellied piglet, and she’s been obsessed with his cuteness ever since. She just had to get the messy little guy into a book, and now she has. She lives in Arkansas with a messy little human baby, her husband, and two huge dogs. Pighearted is her debut novel. She invites you to visit her website, or follow her on Twitter @Alextheadequate.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Copy reviewed from a library book.

Why Me? The Courage to Live — Lupus Awareness Month

Why Me?  The Courage to Live, written by Deborah Kent, is an amazing story about a very healthy, active, normal  15-year-old girl, Chloe Peterson, who suddenly develops a virus that eventually lands her in the hospital, after she faints at school during a tryout for “The Sound of Music.”   Her world is shattered when she is diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythatosus (SLE), a chronic inflammatory disease.   She fights for her life.  Her journey begins when she has to learn to live with this unpredictable disease that steals her energy and leaves her fatigued.   Chloe faces social and emotional  issues, isolation, concerns about her future –until a nice  guy from work, Todd, continues to pursue a relationship with her.  This excellent young adult  book is about resilience and the courage to live in the face of adversity.

I also wanted to mention that the author, Deborah Kent, was the first totally blind student to attend her local public school.  She  received her bachelor’s in English from Oberlin College, and a master’s degree from Smith College School of Social Work.   Her lifelong dream was to become a writer, and she has written dozens of young adult novels since  1975.  She has written a number of young adult books for youth with special needs.

It is difficult to have a chronic disease, especially for children and teens who often feel alone and isolated. You may look normal, but suffer with pain and overwhelming fatigue that no one can see.  Friends and classmates don’t understand.  There are many issues for teens and young adults.  They wonder about relationships, college, careers, marriage, and childbearing.  And, there are very few books written for children and teens to help them cope with lupus.   Although lupus can be severe and life-threatening, many children and teens with lupus will do very well.  And there are periods of remission.  It is a disease that leaves parents feeling helpless.  It impacts the entire family.

The Lupus Foundation of America, Inc.  is an important organization with an informative  and educational website about the disease, the symptoms, the diagnosis, treatment,  research, resources for parents,  videos, and personal stories.  The more informed you are about this chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body like the skin, joints, blood and organs, the better equipped you are to help and support a loved one or friend.  The only children’s picture book I found on lupus is published by the foundation, Loopy Lupus Helps Tell Scott’s Story About a Disease  Called Lupus.  It is a very unique book written in collaboration with Scott, his mother and family,  his third-grade classmates and teacher.   It is an excellent book for parents to use with their children and in the classroom.  It can be found on the website.

The Lupus Foundation of America collaborated with Lupus UK  this year for the first-ever worldwide Lupus Awareness Day, celebrated May 10, although the awareness will run through May.   Lupus is a global health problem.  And, people of African, Asian, or Hispanic origin have a higher risk of lupus than Caucasians.  The actual number of people with lupus is really unknown, however researchers believe at least 5 million people worldwide have lupus.  More than 100,000 new cases develop every year.  In the United States 1.4 million Americans are affected.

When I learned that it was Lupus Awareness Month, I wanted to write this post because a friend mine has a  teenage daughter living with lupus.    It has been very difficult for my friend to watch her beautiful, healthy, vibrant and athletic daughter became so debilitated by the disease.  She is waiting for a kidney transplant.