Author: Emma J. Virján
Illustrator: Emma J. Virján
Audience: Toddler – preschool
Summary: An offstage narrator announces, “What this story needs is a pig.” In quick succession a lone pig gains a wig, a boat, and a gaggle of mismatched but congenial companions. When the boat gets too crowded, the pig sends everyone away but soon realizes her mistake and calls them all back to a bigger boat.
Literary elements at work in the story: This easy reader could serve as an illustrated textbook about the perils and joys of writing fiction. The literary building blocks fit together easily enough at the outset: start with a main character (a pig in a wig) and provide a setting (a boat in a moat). The addition of supporting characters begins smoothly at first (a frog, a dog, and a goat on a log), but soon extra actors pile up alarmingly and provide the driving force of plot. Flat, bright cartoon illustrations add hilarious dimensions to character development.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This is a story where variety is the norm. No two characters are alike, and unless one counts a bit of prejudicial aroma-phobia when the skunk appears, everyone gets along.
Theological Conversation Partners: Easy readers are usually more concerned with consonant blends and rhyming vowels than with deep theological insights, but this story demonstrates that conversations about faith can take place just about anywhere. The unfolding of the cast of characters in the first pages of the book echoes the creation stories in the first chapters of Genesis. One can almost image God musing, “What this world needs …” as the birds of the air and the living creatures of every kind that walk on the earth come on the scene. The variety of creation in both narratives is immense, and yet there is a place for everyone. The phrase “what this story needs …” recurs throughout the story as the unseen narrator recalibrates at each critical juncture in the plot. In similar fashion, Judeo-Christian scriptures tell of a God who enters into history, regularly and lovingly redirecting the world when it veers off course. Another conversation partner in this simple tale is the universal need for companionship. Pig realizes soon after she has sent everyone away from her overloaded boat that the single life is far too lonely. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” says the Psalmist (133:1), and Pig and her companions would heartily agree.
Faith Talk Questions:
- The author of this book thought up lots of friends for Pig. Which ones can you name?
- God thought up lots of creatures to make for the earth, too. Can you name some of the birds? What about some animals?
- If you think of today as a story, how would you tell it? How would you start the story?
- Think about the rest of the day that hasn’t happened yet. Make up some more of the story, starting with, “What this story needs is …”
- What do you imagine God thinks when God looks at our world now? “What this world needs is …”
- Why do you think that Pig sent all the animals away from her boat?
- Why do you think that she called them all back?
- If you could have a boat of your very own, who would join you there?
This review is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary Alum Beth Lyon-Suhring