Skip to main content

What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig by Emma J. Virján


Being an elementary school librarian has changed how I think (and feel) about books in really positive ways. During the decades that I was a children's bookseller, I had the luxury of being selective and critical with my tastes. Now, of course I am still critical and selective, but I am also more open minded in how I think about a book. What This Book Needs is a Pig in a Wig by Emma Virján is a perfect example of this shift in my thinking. As a parent and a bookseller, I held picture books to  rigorous standards. After all, if I was going to spend my hard earned money on a picture book - or handsell it to a customer - it had to be pretty darn amazing, both in story and illustration.  By this criteria, What This Book Needs is a Pig in a Wig would not measure up. It is a relatively short rhyming story with basic, cartoonish illustrations. However, as a librarian, I hold books to different standards. If I am going to spend my measly, shameful budget on a book for the library, it HAS to be one that kids CAN read and one that kids WANT to read, especially when it comes to beginning readers. According to these standards, there are not enough books on the shelf like What This Book Needs is a Pig in a Wig, which calls to mind a Dr. Seuss book. Theodore Geisel was inspired to write  The Cat in the Hat by a 1954 article on literacy that determined children weren't learning to read because children's books were boring. Geisel wrote The Cat in the Hat using a predetermined list of 236 words that all first graders should know and he nailed it. Yet, in many ways, save for the sainted Mo Willems and his Elephant & Piggie series that kids understandably go bananas for, books that kids are given when they are learning to read are STILL by and large very boring. What Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems have taught us, or should be teaching us, is that silly is super when kids are learning to read, and rhyming can be pretty darn helpful, too. It can be the comical, savvy kind of silly that Gerald and Piggie bring to the page or the straight up crazy rhyming nonsense that Suess dispenses. In this way, Virján and What This Book Needs is a Pig in a Wig are bringing silly - and rhyming - back to beginning readers.

What This Book Needs is a Pig in a Wig begins, "What this story needs is a pig in a wig. A pig in a wig, on a boat," from there the rhymes come tumbling out, naturally and humorously. And, as I discovered when reading What This Book Needs is a Pig in a Wig out loud to several kindergarden classes, the rhymes and the well-timed page turns give little readers (or listeners) the opportunity to predict what comes next. As I am learning by eavesdropping on teacher talk, making predictions when reading is HUGE for readers in all grades. The sooner kids start making predictions, the better. 

Another wonderful (and I suspect something that is also helpful for beginning readers) thing that happens in What This Book Needs is a Pig in a Wig is the reverse action that occurs midway through the book. The Pig in a wig fills up her boat with rhyming animals and objects then, tucked in too tight, she unpacks. What This Book Needs is a Pig in a Wig has a happy ending, though, with the Pig inviting everyone back and getting a bigger boat.


I hope that this is the first in a series for Emma Virján because it is one that I would purchase in multiples for my school library!

Source: Review Copy



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Seeing Stick, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazini

The Seeing Stick is an original Chinese fairy tale written by the prolific (and prolifically award winning) Jane Yolen. First published in 1977 with illustrations by Remy Charlip (author and illustrator of the brilliantly fun picture book Fortunately and friend and muse to Brian Selznick, who asked him to pose as George Méliès while he was working on the Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Seeing Stick was reissued with new illustrations by Daniela J. Terrazini in 2009. I have not seen Charlip's version, but Terrazini's is a beautiful work of art and the book itself is yet another magnificently packaged book published by Running Press, the house that brought us Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling, yet another superbly and uniquely packaged children's book with artwork by Terrazini. Interestingly, both The Wikkeling and The Seeing Stick were designed by Frances J Soo Ping Chow.

The Seeing Stick begins, "Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there l…

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…