If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff and Illustrated by Felicia Bond. Published in 1998 by HarperCollins Publishers
It was personally really interesting reading this book again for the first time in years — it was one that I often asked my mom to read to me, and it has been good to reflect back on why I loved it so much, and what benefits it may give to children today.
The classic book follows the story of a little pig who climbs into a little girl’s window after she offers him a pancake and follows a series of hilarious events that all build on one another. The style of the story goes “if (insert previous silly thing)….then (insert another silly thing), etc.
The illustrations in this book are both realistic and simple, with a bright color palette and plenty of amusing detail (see little big who dressed itself up in the girl’s sweater below). The illustrations serve to characterize the pig as fun-loving and mischievous, as the pig never speaks in the story, which is mostly told from a third person’s point of view (with the voice of the girl). Thus, the illustrations are irreplaceable as they serve as the primary point of characterization, both for the pig and the girl.
The writing style of the book is simple for young readers to understand; the repetition of the same sentence structure provides a good flow for the story, as well as helps create anticipation for each page turn.
In terms of mechanics, the two title pages did a good job of setting up the story — the first showing the pig as a little fugitive with a small sack (like the ones people carry when running away from home on a whim) and the second showing the pig peeping into the little girl’s kitchen. There are no special endpage illustrations (at least in the edition of the book that I have), and there is not a great use of gutters in the book as oftentimes art is lost in the gutters — the illustrator didn’t seem to use gutters to divide up characters or events well.
When reflecting on why I enjoyed this book so much as a kid, I think it was the way the pig seemed to ‘live life to the fullest’ that attracted me — the way it flew from one thing to the next and tackled it all with the same gusto. It’s unpredictability made each page turn a suspenseful moment, which was always followed by a squeal of delight when the little pig’s journey continued. I would still recommend this book to elementary-school aged students, if anything it is a good example of the fact that the choices we make lead to very real consequences, and can be given an educational twist by helping children think through why they make certain decisions, and how they can ensure that they make the right ones.
Posted by: Abby