The Pig War by Emma Bland Smith

The Pig War: How a Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Share

Emma Bland Smith, Author

Alison Jay, Illustrator

Calkins Creek, Nonfiction, Nov. 10, 2020

Suitable for ages: 7-10 

Themes: Pig, San Juan, Settlers, Americans, British, War, Sharing

Opening: “On this spring day, an American settler name Lyman Cutlar looked out of his window and spied a large pig rooting in  his potato patch. The pig was British. Or at least its owner was.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

In 1859, the British and Americans coexist on the small island of San Juan, located off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. They are on fairly good terms–until one fateful morning when an innocent hog owned by a British man has the misfortune to eat some potatoes on an American farmer’s land. In a moment of rash anger, Lyman Cutlar shoots Charles Griffin’s pig, inadvertently almost bringing the two nations to war. Tensions flare, armies gather, cannons are rolled out . . . all because of a pig!

Emma Bland Smith’s humorous text and Alison Jay’s folksy illustrations combine in this whimsical nonfiction picture book that models the principles of peaceful conflict resolution. 

Why I like this book:

Emma Bland Smith has written a delightful story about a nugget of history few people know about. It is a true story about how two great nations almost went to war over a poor pig that paid the ultimate price. Smith’s humor and whimsical storytelling makes for an intriguing read.  “Maybe Lyman hadn’t had his coffee. Maybe he’d slept poorly. Maybe he was thinking of the many painful miles he’d rowed to buy the potato seed. But for whatever reason, when he saw that pig, he got cranky.”  Tempers flare between the two neighbors and result in the deployment of the Queen’s military and American battleships. “Oh dear. What started as Pig Incident and turned into a Pig Argument was fast escalating into a Pig Situation.” Eventually both sides put down their weapons and islanders agree to look beyond their differences and share.

Alison Jay’s illustrations are rendered in a crackle glaze varnish which give each illustration a mid-19th century feel to the story. Her folksy illustrations are warm and invite readers into this fun and humorous story.

Resources: This is a great discussion book! Make sure you check out the Author’s Note that goes into more detail about the incident and what the Pig War teaches readers today about sharing resources and solving problems peacefully. She shares historical pictures of the U.S. Army soldiers and the Royal Marines. 

Emma Bland Smith is a children’s librarian and professional writer. Her first picture book, Journey: Based on the True Story of QR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West, won Bank Street College’s Cook Prize and Northland College’s SONWA award. She is also the author of To Live on an Island and the Maddy McGuire, CEO, chapter book series. Many of her books feature real-life animals. She lives with her husband and two kids in San Francisco. Visit her at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
 
*Reviewed from a library copy.

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City

Jodi Kendall, Author

Harper Collins, Fiction, Oct. 3, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-11

Themes: Pigs, Animals, City Life, Gymnastics, Belonging, Family Relationships

Book Synopsis: Little pig. Big city. Lots of trouble. Josie Shilling feels invisible. Her family is too big, their cramped city house is too small, and her parents are always distracted.

Then, on Thanksgiving Day, her older brother, Tom, brings home a pink, squirmy bundle wrapped in an old football jersey — a piglet he rescued from a nearby farm. Her name is Hamlet.

The minute Josie holds Hamlet, she feels an instant connection. But there’s no room for Hamlet in the crowded Shilling household. And who ever heard of keeping a pig in the city? So it’s up to Josie to find her a forever home.

But taking care of Hamlet makes Josie feel special when she usually feels overlooked in a family with five children. And there’s something about Hamlet that reminds Josie of herself.

Why I like this book:

Move over Wilbur, Hamlet’s going to steal your heart. Jodi Kendall’s debut novel is a heartwarming and rollicking story about the unlikely bond between a girl and a piglet runt.  Her story is loosely based on her childhood experience of owning a pet pig and finding it a home.

Hamlet arrives in time to boost eleven-year-old Josie’s self-esteem and give her purpose. At home she feels unnoticed. At gymnastics Josie feels like a freakish giant when all she wants to be is a really great gymnast. Josie’s bond with Hamlet boosts her spirit and helps her find courage and determination.

Readers will enjoy hanging out with Josie, Hamlet and all the Shillings. There are her friends, Lucy from gymnastics, and the Three Stoops gang, who work together to create a plan for finding Hamlet a home. The clock is ticking, Hamlet is growing, and Josie and her friends have until New Year’s Day to find a home for Hamlet.

There is heart, connection, humor and unexpected plot twists. After all, Hamlet is a one smart pig who learns quickly to use a litter box, fetch a flying Frisbee, open the fridge door, and climb the bunk-bed ladder. Although this pig causes a lot of mayhem, he unites Josie’s family during some challenging times. Readers will cheer for Hamlet!  Verdict: It’s a winner!

Fans of this piglet story will be delighted to know that there will be a sequel in the fall of 2018. Visit Jodi Kendall on her website.

Resources:  The author has included a curriculum guide on her website for activities and classroom discussions.

Jodi Kendall grew up in the Midwest with her family of seven and their household of countless pets, including hamsters, ducks, dogs, rabbits, an iguana, and, yes . . . even a farm pig!  You can find Jodi typing away at home in New York City, where she’s still an animal lover at heart. Jodi holds an MFA from the University of Arizona and is an active member of SCBWI. Visit Jodi at her website.

Greg Pattridge is hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Author Shannon Messenger has been on a whirlwind tour promoting her sixth book, Nightfall, in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, which was released November 7. Thank you Greg for keeping the MMGM family together!