You’ve heard it on the playground, in the classroom, on playdates, in the lunchroom: “You’re so weird.” The statements that poke fun at another kid who has the nerve to do or be something different. Enter Pip, A NORMAL PIG.
Despite the assertion that we’ll be reading a book about a “normal” pig, we can guess from the cover that Pip’s the “odd pig out” in a classroom of fairly homogenous pigs.
Then inside the cover, we are treated to a spread that gives us a sense of her home life, all of which looks fairly “normal.”
You gotta love those baby photos and her terror-filled face at the amusement park.
We see Pip at school doing “normal” things among those homogenous pigs.
And a string of “normal” things that “normal” pigs do, including all the “normal” dreams of what she wants to be when she grows up.
But soon her world darkens. A new pig comes to school and starts pointing a hoof at Pip’s “weirdness.” In the lunchroom, Pip’s homemade lunch “stinks,” according to the new pig.
In art class, the new pig makes fun of Pip’s unusual artistic perspective.
And yes, the band leader (an adult) asks Pip if her mother is her babysitter (her mother’s skin color is different). So Pip begins to feel different. At home, her parents see that Pip isn’t her usual sunny self.
Her outburst “WHY CAN’T YOU MAKE ME A NORMAL LUNCH?!” offers the clue that sparks her mother’s brilliant response.
The family goes to a place where different is “normal,” the city.
I absolutely ADORE this spread where pigs of all colors and stripes are speaking different languages. And I LOVE that the dialogue translations can be found on the copyright page.
At a city playground, Pip observes that “all of the pigs looked so different.” And “even the food was different.”
Then she parrots those cutting words to a city pig who is not like her:
“Is there anything on the menu that’s not so weird?”
But unlike Pip who became self-conscious when scrutinized and criticized for being weird, this pig shrugs off her criticism.
“Maybe it’s weird for you, but not for me. I like it.”
And then the pig offers some of the “weird” food to Pip.
The result? When they get home, Pip decides to take her “normal” lunch to school.
In the cafeteria, Pip’s transformation is complete. When the bullying pig makes yet another “weird” comment, Pip stands up to the criticism and offers to share. Her friends like her food, and the bullying pig sulks off with its white bread sandwich, LOL.
“And weirdly enough, by recess Pip felt pretty normal again.”
Love, love, love this story! Letting kids know that they should not allow their perceptions of themselves to be diminished by others opinions AND that “normal” is really an internal feeling, not artificially prescribed by an external judge. I’m thinking there are plenty of adults who would benefit from giving this revelation a long thought, too.
All this in a funny, sly polka dot package. K-Fai’s illustrations are filled with nods to “real” families and kids’ behavior, from the expressions on the faces of the pigs in the classroom photo on the cover, to the games being played by the pigs in the bus, to the painfully real question about a parent being a “babysitter” because Pip looks so different from her mother.
A fabulous new book to share with kids!
- Pair this book with SWEETY (reviewed here) by Andrea Zuill. Sweety, a naked mole rat who likes interpretive dance, mushrooms, and rainy days, struggles to find “her people.” Discuss diversity from both angles: being friends with those who are different from you as well as with those who are similar. Discuss the many ways it’s possible for two friends to be both different and similar. Ask the question: How are they the same yet different from their own friends?
- Plan a multi-cultural food tasting at home or at school. Invite families/kids to make and bring foods from a culture that is not their own.
- Building Positive Identities and Respect for Differences: Diversity lesson plan from Scholastic
- Seek out and read books with diverse main characters: We Need DiverseBooks offers an extensive listing of sites that recommend books according to interest.
TITLE: A NORMAL PIG
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: K-FAI STEELE
PUBLISHER: HARPER COLLINS, BALZER & BRAY, 2019
AGES: PRESCHOOL-3RD GRADE
THEMES: DIVERSITY, SELF-CONFIDENCE, VERBAL BULLYING
For more perfect picture books, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.
As a co-producer of Kidquake, the elementary school program of San Francisco’s annual Litquake literary festival, I’m pleased to say that K-Fai will also be sharing her illustration process of NOODLEPHANT with our 3rd-5th graders this fall. Yay!
I am lucky enough to have snagged an F&G of A NORMAL PIG to share with you today. (Thank you, K-Fai!) A NORMAL PIG’s book birthday is officially June 4, 2019. But it’s never to early to pre-order!!