Friday, June 14, 2013

Traditional Tale Review: THE THREE LITTLE PIGS AND THE SOMEWHAT BAD WOLF, by Mark Teague



The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf1.      BIBLIOGRAPHY
Teague, Mark.  2013. The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf. New York, NY: Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic.  
ISBN 978-0-439-91501-4

2.  PLOT SUMMARY
In this fractured version of the traditional tale of the "The Three Little Pigs," Mark Teague puts his own spin on the story.  The three pigs are set free from the farm and do still build their three houses.  The girl of the story is the third pig who is smart and builds her brick house.  The first and second boy pigs are amusing because of their affinity for chips and “sody pop.”  The wolf is hilarious in this story as well.  He didn’t expect the blowing down of the house to work.  It made my children giggle every time we read of his amazement.  When he gets to the third pig's house, everyone is in there and their nonchalant response, “Not now, we are watching our favorite show,” makes him huff and puff so hard that he passes out. The pigs kindly revive him in this version and he is quite abashed at his terrible behavior.  He explains that he was just so hungry he couldn’t think straight.  The third pig is about to serve a healthy meal, naturally, so they invite him to stay.  Both the other pigs plus the wolf move in.  She insists that everyone keep their rooms clean and the wolf was, “hardly ever bad again.”

3.      CRITICAL ANALYSIS

Teague follows the basic storyline of the familiar tale of, "The Three Little Pigs," with enough twists and variations to make the story fun and unexpected.  Teague is considered the actual author of this book—the cover does not say, “retold by.”  Dr. Vardell, in Children's Literature in Action (2008), distinguishes a fractured fairy tale as "in which authors have altered, parodied, or modernized the characters, setting, plots or language of more traditional well-known tales" (85).  It would be very important for a child to know the original tale for this one to be nearly as amusing as it is.  Unfortunately, as Vardell points out, "many times children have missed the so-called originals or know tales from other cultural traditions and not the usual "Three Bears" or "Cinderella" root tales" (86). 

Teague's humor and cleverness sets his book apart.  The smart sister pig's response to the first and second pig's excitement about buying chips and "sody pop' is, "Let's buy building supplies!"  This is amusing in part because it is both anticipated (we all know the third pig is the clever one), but also because of the silly idea of pigs carrying around cash and buying from human stores in such an explicit way.  The humans in this book look shocked repeatedly, with the exception of the first farmer, who gives the pigs their cash and sends them on their way.  The sister pig even gets given a sandwich at the building supply store, waving it in thanks as she drives off in the big construction work lifter machine full of bricks.  The wolf's shocked response each time he succeeds at blowing down another house is not usually found in the traditional tale, either, nor is his sudden apology at the end, or the unlikely peaceful ending.  But it's okay for this story to end this way-- it is meant to play against the ending of the traditional tale, in which the wolf gets his comeuppance. 

The art is a wonderful addition that adds a great deal of depth to the story.  In a cartoon-style, Teague adds delightful details such as diner signs that say, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Wolves!” and the owner of Donut Dan’s running out the back door when the wolf comes to eat.  The tiny detail of the duck that shows up in several scenes and ends up in the final scene is something that children might pick out after a second or third reading.  The brightly-colored, clear-toned art support the story's light-hearted and fresh tone. The illustrations are appropriately cartoony for a talking animal tale.

4. REVIEW EXCERPT(S)

Teague's two-page cartoon oil paintings in warm fall colors feature contented-looking pigs infused with jovial good humor and a puzzled, very childlike wolf disarmed by his own success. The result is a thoroughly delightful reading experience.”  School Library Journal, May 1, 2013

“Trading in the original story's sense of justice for the notion that villainy can be cured by a good meal seems a bit off-track, even for a fractured tale. Still, children will enjoy the humor here, including the wolf's bemused I can't believe that worked! after he blows the straw house down. Animated with drama and deadpan wit, Teague's large-scale oil paintings show up very well from a distance, making this a good story-hour choice.”- Booklist, May 1, 2013

"Teague (the How Do Dinosaurs books) throws his hat into the fractured fairy tale ring with a funny twist on this tale that's fit for the era of Michael Pollan…. Readers familiar with the original tale will be amused by Teague's humorous meta-commentary ("I can't believe that worked!" says the famished wolf after blowing down the straw house), as well as the clever details in his creamy, textured oil paintings (one pig escapes on a Vespa).”  Publishers Weekly, March 18, 2013

 5. CONNECTIONS

  • This book could be paired other versions and retellings of this story, such as Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, or The Three Little Pigs, an Architectural Tale by Steven Guarnaccia, both of which are considered fractured fairy tale versions of the story.  It would be a great way to talk about fractured fairy tales.
  • This book could be tied into a flannelboard presentation of "The Three Little Pigs," complete with counting "How many pigs?" for the younger preschool crowd, showing how, "One pig plus one pig equals two pigs in the second house!  And then two pigs plus the last pig equals how many pigs total?"
  • This book could be used to begin a discussion on wise choices.
  • An author study would be appropriate; given that Mark Teague has been on the New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller list.  Some book titles to consider are:  One Halloween Night, Pigsty, Dear Mrs. LaRue, Firehouse!, Funny Farm (which also has pigs), How I Spent My Summer Vacation and any of his famous work from Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs… series.

  • Give children marshmallows and pretzels and see who can build the sturdiest structure.  Or, non-food items could be used, allowing students to build a small structure at their desk if they are in school, perhaps using newspaper or sticks or Legos.

6.  PERSONAL REACTIONS

I found this book amusing and delightful.  I love new versions of fairy tales and folk tales, fractured or not, and this one fit the bill.  The wolf was just a bit sweet with his shock over the turn of events and I liked the happy ending, instead of the wolf ending up in a boiling pot of water.

This book review was written for LS 5603, TWU.

Works Referenced, except Mark Teague’s works:

Guarnaccia, Steven.  2010.  The Three Little Pigs:  An Architectural Tale.  New York, NY:  Abrams Book for Young Readers.  ISBN

978-0-8109-8941-2

Scieszka, Jon.  1996.  The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.  St. Louis, MO: Turtleback Books.

 Vardell, Sylvia.  2008.  Children's Literature in Action.  Westport, CT:  Libraries Unlimited.

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