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Friday, December 28, 2012

The Three Ninja Pigs, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Dan Santat. G.P.Putnam's Sons, Penguin. 2012. $18.00 ages 5 and up

"She got in a groove
and mastered each move:
the cartwheel, the crescent,
the crane.
She balanced and blocked
like an expert,
and practiced her lessons nonstop.
By the time she was through,
she could break boards in two
by performing a perfect
pork chop!"

I can't wait to share this book with a classroom full of kids!

I have always been interested in alternate tellings of traditional fairy tales; and you know that there are many wonderful tales told. This one just adds to that growing list. The three little pigs are two brothers and a sister...we note on the title page that they are in a zen zone as the story begins. Bedecked in colorful kimonos, they sit with eyes closed, backs straight and determination in their bearing.

They are tired of living in fear:

"Once upon a dangerous time,
a wolf loved to huff and to puff.
He'd go around town
and blow houses down
till three little pigs cried,

Taking it upon themselves to rid their town of the wolf's bullying, they decide that the martial arts might be the key. The first brother tries aikido, tires of the drills and drops out. The second brother chooses jujitsu and learns some of the moves but is anxious to try his new skills as quickly as possible. The sister pig chooses karate, and with long hours of constant practice and earnest persistence comes away with her black belt.

When next the wolf pays a visit, he is met with confidence by each pig in turn. Aikido is no match for the wolf's quick moves. The flying kick of jujitsu fares no better. Soon, both brothers are in a race to the protection of their sister's house. Having taken the time and patience to ensure success, she is more than ready to outwit the bully:

"Quit huffing and puffing,
and I am not bluffing.
I warn you, I'm willing to fight."

You know what happens...a lesson is learned by all involved:

"They devoted themselves to their training
till each proudly earned a degree.
Three pigs full of mojo
then ran their own dojo,
and life was forever wolf-free."

It's a rhythmic riot that will have listeners begging for more.

We are told that Dan Santat's illustrations are fashioned using Sumi brush work on rice paper, then finished in Photoshop. I know nothing about that but that he is obviously an expert at it. If you have read this blog on any regular basis, you will know how much I admire his artwork. I am always on the lookout for his new books. I love how he has incorporated traditional Japanese settings and patterns to give it authenticity for his audience. Kids really appreciate his graphic style and are sure to be intrigued by the characters created for this retelling of a familiar traditional story.  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the wonderful review! A "rhythmic riot"... Love it! :)

    Please let me know if you would like some Ninja Pigs bookmarks. If you email me with an address, I'd be happy to mail a bunch out to you!