The classic fable of the Three Little Pigs is given a comic book-like twist in this retelling that delivers plenty of punches, kicks, and limericks to boot. The basic plot remains the same: a mean and hungry wolf is determined to defeat (and eat) the pigs, and each pig chooses a different method to keep the wolf from achieving his goal. In this version by author Corey Rosen Schwartz, each pig chooses to study a different style of Japanese martial arts in order to defeat the wolf. Pig one chooses aikido, pig two chooses jujitsu, and pig three chooses karate. Each confrontation takes place at the house of the individual pig, and fans of the original will be happy to see that the houses are straw, sticks, and brick, respectively. Pigs one and two fail, but the stoic and dark-haired female pig three wins the final battle with her mix of determination and persistence.
Dan Santat illustrates the characters in a hilariously anthropomorphic style. The art is vibrant, full of movement, and the characters appear to jump off the page. Santat utilized a sumi brush on rice paper technique combined with Adobe Photoshop, which gives an Asian-aesthetic to each image. The illustrations come across as an homage to Japanese art and culture. When the wolf confronts the female pig outside of her home, they are surrounded by falling petals from a cherry blossom tree while a serene statue of a pig-like Buddha meditates in the background. From each pig’s home to the dojo, Japanese-style architecture is represented with great care.
Perhaps most surprising about the book is Schwartz’s uses of limericks for each spread. There is never a hitch in the rhyme and, when paired with the action-filled illustrations, the structured verse keeps the momentum moving forward to the final battle scene. Facing the wolf in preparation for the fight, Pig Three says, “Quit huffing and puffing, / and I am not bluffing. / I warn you, I’m willing to fight.” The rhymes are snappy and laugh-out-loud funny. Classroom students may enjoy taking turns reading each limerick aloud. “Schwartz’s irreverent verse never falters—and any book that rhymes “dojo” with “mojo” is one that’s worth a look” (Publishers Weekly 2012).
This book has wide appeal. Children (and adults) who love the classic fable, fans of martial arts or ninjas, poetry lovers, folks who want a little bit of girl power in a picture book, and admirers of Japanese art and culture should all find something to enjoy. The glossary at the back also offers a great lesson in new vocabulary, as well as a further lesson in culture. This is definitely a story that many children would love to act out, so a reader’s theater is my first suggestion. For a writing exercise, ask children to come up with different settings for a new story about the wolf and pigs. On a personal note, this is now one of my top favorite children’s books and I cannot wait to share it with the families who visit my library!
Publishers Weekly. July 2012. Publishers Weekly.com. http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-399-25514-4. Accessed September 19, 2013.