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Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Hog Prince, written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and illustrated by Jason Wolff. Dutton, Penguin Group (Canada), 2009. $20.00 ages 5 and up

"'Why?' Petunia would snort. 'We already live high on the hog.' But Eldon didn't think so. He was fed up with mud-wallowing and slop-gobbling. Instead, he dreamed of the princely life. After all, he thought, princes live in luxury and they always get the girl. What's not to like about that?"

Eldon does, indeed, have high aspirations and as he daily watches the glittering carriages pass his mudhole, he dreams of being a prince. When an inept and somewhat confused fairy godmother announces that he has been under a spell, he discovers that his escape from this tiresome tedium is dependent on a kiss from his true love.
Delighted and optimistic, Eldon kisses every beautiful lady he lays his eyes on, while Petunia (his best friend) follows in his wake. Petunia is offended by his behavior and when she finally lands a kiss on Eldon's portly cheek, she has something to say that needs to be said: 'you just don't get it, do you?' The kiss changes nothing.

As in other alternate tellings of a fairy tale, there is something amiss. We are soon to discover that the fairy godmother's message was meant for a frog (we knew that, didn't we?) and Eldon remains a porker. But he is a porker loved by Petunia and finally aware that he might have a good thing going here. The two seem happy with their new reality.

Petunia is persistent, patient and personable as she outsmarts the object of her affection. Eldon is egocentric, eager and finally enchanted by the turn of events when he discovers that his best friend is his best 'girl'. Both are endearing and humorous. The cartoon-like artwork adds to the appeal, giving us strong textures and charming twists for out visual enjoyment. Familiar fairy tale characters, the 'eeeuww' of the porcine kisses and the subsequent happy ending will make this a memorable and enjoyable read in an early years classroom, or at home.

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