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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
Goodnight, Sweet Pig
Goodnight, Sweet Pig
by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Josée Masse
Kids Can Press,(February 2007)
To sleep, or not to sleep? That is the question.
1 Pig number one was trying to sleep,
plumping her pillows and counting sheep.
2 But pig number two liked to read with a light
and eat buttered toast all through the night.
3 Pig number three liked to watch TV
and paint her trotters and drink iced tea
--Goodnight, Sweet Pig, by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Josée Masse, p. 1-3.
Goodnight, Sweet Pig is a comforting, sweet bedtime story that cleverly incorporates counting into the tale, without seeming to teach counting. A little pig is trying to get to sleep, when in walks another pig who wants to read with the light on and eat buttered toast. Then another pig walks into the bedroom—this one wanting to watch TV, paint her trotters and drink iced tea. And on and on it goes, all the way up to ten—until the little pig bursts into tears and asks them to let her sleep. And then the pigs, ten downwards, each leave or do something to help the little pig sleep.
Bailey's rhyming text is pleasing to the ear—the lively rhymes work well, they're fun, imaginative, and quirky, and they tell a brief but entertaining story while counting up to ten and back down again. The writing is full of energy, both in the words chosen and in the plot. The text moves quickly as each new pig enters and then later leaves the little pig's bedroom, engaging in some imaginative and unique activity (juggling plums, playing drums, dancing, carrying a cake); readers will want to turn the pages to find out what happens next.
The story has a nice movement, with a climax about mid-way through the text, where the little pig bursts into tears at not being able to sleep, moving into a wind down from the other pigs' apologies and quick escapes to the remaining pigs doing things to comfort the little pig and help her sleep (one brings clean sheets and a pillow for the little pig, one reads the little pig a bedtime story, one gives her a kiss goodnight). Right before and during the climax, the text breaks out of the counting but continues the rhyming, and continues the story, showing the havoc the pigs are making, the little pig's distress at not being able to sleep, and then her gentle sweet way of asking them to let her sleep.
Baily's word use is thoughtfully chosen; in the beginning of the book, leading up to the climax, words show the silliness and fun of the visiting pigs, and add to the fun for the reader. Later, after the climax, key words help add to the calming down mood of the book, using comfort and sleepiness to encourage the reader to sleep or to see bedtime as a positive thing ("sleepy head," "gentle bedtime book," "tender kiss goodnight"). We are also clearly told in the climax that pigs are nicer than they look, and that they were affected by realizing that they'd prevented the little pig from sleeping—thus reassuring any reader who might have been troubled by some of the pigs' lively antics.
Beside each rhyme is a large digit matching the number spoken in the rhyme, so children following along can visually match the number to what they are hearing.
One small thing that I found didn't work for me in the text was the wrapper to the rhymes—the beginning and end sentences that do not rhyme. They stood out to me because they did not rhyme, and, in the case of the beginning sentence, did not seem to match the mood of the rest of the book. However, the opening phrase may be what sets the tone for so many Shakespearian references throughout the illustrations. One other small thing that didn't seem to quite fit the fun of the book was a pig showing up in a wedding dress. Somehow, the other silly things the pigs were doing were easy to go along with, but the wedding dress pig (who isn't doing anything) briefly stopped me. This may not be true for other readers.
Masse's acrylic illustrations are a perfect match to Bailey's text. The counting doesn't stop in the text—each of the pigs wear their number on their clothes. And the little sweet pig is indeed sweet, engulfed in giant, soft bed in her white nightgown with blue stars (which later gains aesthetically pleasing purple and yellow stains).
The pigs look almost 3-D; shadow is used to enhance this. The pigs each wear distinct clothes (and often hairstyles) that fit their character, as if they were in a play—the drummer wearing jeans, a t-shirt with an open dress shirt over top, dark sunglasses, and gelled up hair, the reader and buttered-toast lover wearing glasses, a yellow dress, and a blue robe overtop with a book shoved into the pocket, and only a tiny curl of hair, and so on. None of the pigs wear shoes, instead showing their trotters.
Masse uses bright colors (but not too bright) that work well together, especially the pink tone of the pigs' skin, the subdued yellow-brown of the walls, and the light green of the bedspread and bed, the fainter echo of green in the floor. There is a streaked texture to the illustrations that adds to their richness.
There are some jokes for adults in the illustrations—references to Shakespeare and theater by books placed throughout the story with a twist on famous titles: "The Merry Sows of Windsor" and "Porkeo & Juliet," a sign on the little pig's door saying "Hamlette's Room," the laughing and crying theater masks placed above the little pig's bed, the period costume on her teddy bear, and more.
There is a lot to look at on each page. Many of the illustrations go right to the edges with no white space on one page or the entire spread, while others are like cutouts of the characters and their objects against white space. Some illustrations also move into the white space of the adjoining page, which is a nice touch. There is a lot happening in each image, especially after pig number three arrives (and thereafter). We see each new pig in the foreground doing their thing, with the little pig and the previous pigs (with their belongings) reacting to the new arrivals or interacting amongst themselves. We also see all the fallen objects from the previous pigs strewn around the room, and, when the pigs leave, we see many of them through the bedroom window. Readers may want to slow the story down to look at what's happening in each illustration, or go through the illustrations a second time to catch up. At times the illustrations seem almost too busy or chaotic, even in the winding down stages, until about number six, but some of the pigs are obviously upset or angry with each other (until the little pig speaks up) which may cause concern in some young or sensitive readers. But overall, the illustrations are delightful.
This is a nice combination of a story and a counting book. This book is for younger readers—there is not as much plot as there is in a picture book for an older reader—but older readers may also enjoy the lively rhymes, the silly and then the soothing events, and the activity in the images. For those readers who don't like the thin dust jackets on hardcovers, you'll be pleased to know that you can slip them off and discover a full-color cover beneath, embedded right into the hardcover.
Goodnight, Sweet Pig will leave you with a smile on your face and good feeling. It reinforces that people will listen to you if you explain what you need and why, and it offers a pleasing amount of silliness, comfort, and reassurance. It's a perfect bedtime story or a story to read at any time, especially for those readers who dread going to bed. Highly recommended.
-Added February 2007
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