Old Pig
by Margaret Wild (with illustrations by Ron Brooks)

Puffin Paperback 1998    4.99, 15 pages    ISBN 0 14 056211 7

Old Pig is a delightful story that sensitively explores the issue of death. Grandmother Pig and her granddaughter live with each other in a loving, supportive relationship where everything is shared. The only area of conflict is around the granddaughter's reluctance to eat her corn and oats, which the old pig insists she does, stating "While I'm alive my dear you'll eat them up". The granddaughter agrees to do anything if it means old pig will live forever. Old Pig soon realises that she will soon die and goes about preparing not only her granddaughter but also herself for her final rite of passage.

The story addresses a range of feelings including fear, courage, hope and joy, which are cleverly explored using the pigs' eating routines. When Old Pig is too tired to eat, the granddaughter begins to acknowledge the inevitable although her hope is restored when old pig indicates that she wants a feast. She soon realises that old pig is not interested in food but rather a feast full of the celebration of nature. The feast they share is a feast of the senses: "Do you see how the light glitters on the leave? Let's taste the rain". When the time to say goodbye arrives, the two pigs say goodbye to each other in the best way they know.

The last page is without words and offers the reader an opportunity to observe and reflect on the granddaughter's experience whilst leaving the story with a sense of hope.

This book is polysemic in that the pictures tell a story which is not always reflected in the text. The charming caricatures of the pigs would appeal to young pupils but may be viewed as twee by older pupils. The message of the story is sensitively approached and this book would be a useful addition to a collection of books exploring the theme of loss and bereavement.

Recommended for Key Stage 1 pupils

Reviewed by Geraldine Maggio
Primary Adviser, Redbridge Advisory and Inspection Service

For more reviews try Amazon.com - they give it a five star rating.

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