The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
This is a retelling of the story of the “Three Little Pigs”, but with the roles reversed. The three little wolves keep building houses out of bigger and better materials and the Big Bad Pig keeps destroying them. Unlike the wolf in the classic tale, this pig does more than just huff and puff. He pulls out all the stops with a sledgehammer and even dynamite! Each house is systematically destroyed and the wolves only just escape each time. After their reinforced steel house is blown up, they come to the conclusion that the problem lies in their building materials and they try building a house from a radical material – flowers! The ending is cheesy, but cute and very appropriate!
The story in this book is wonderful. It has lots of character, energy and originality. There are so many retellings of fairy tales out there that few stand out any more. This one takes the original tale and, rather than trying to make it realistic (which is the most common tactic these days), it makes it even bigger and more unbelievable. The result is a fairy tale that few could forget. The wolves are both more innocent and more wise than the pigs in the original tale, and the pig is much worse than the wolf ever was (if for no other reason than his resourcefulness). The writing is very standard for fairy tales with lots of parallel structures and repetition, rhythms and even a sort of melody. It sounds wonderful read aloud, and encourages you to do so! It all adds up to an excellently crafted story.
The pictures complement the story well. They aren’t as memorable as the story itself, but they almost don’t have to be. While it would have been nice to have illustrations that match the text in originality and memorability, it would have been hard to achieve them without competing with the story. They work because they frame the story, allowing the reader to focus on the text and the tale rather than the bright colors or fantastically detailed characters. While I would have liked to see amazing illustrations for such a great story, it wasn’t bad to have understated ones that allow the story to shine on it’s own.
This is a great book. It will amuse adults as much as children, if they allow it too. It is rare to find a retold tale that stands up to the original, and while I doubt that this book is timeless, it does manage to do so. It may end up seeming dated in fifty years, but considering we still tell the pigs’ story with straw and stick houses, it may not. Regardless, for the moment it doesn’t matter. It is a fun story excellently told. The illustrations aren’t memorable, but the book more than makes up for it in other ways! I highly recommend this book.