Monday, March 11, 2013

The True Story of the Three LIttle Pigs

Scieszka, J (1989). The true story of the three little pigs! By A. Wolf. New York: Viking.

(Thanks, Shurree Clouse)

This was probably the only one of the children’s books on the list that I actually recognized. I had a very foggy memory of The True Story from way back in my childhood, and only remembered it being told by the big, bad wolf instead of an outside narrator like the original. When I found the book on the shelf on the library I got really excited.

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs is told from the wolf’s perspective. He directly addresses you, the reader, and makes a case for how the real story of the three little pigs happened. In order to persuade you to believe his side of the story, he reminds the reader that you eat food too—it’s just that your cheeseburgers aren’t considered cute and fluffy, which keeps you from looking like a criminal.
Furthermore, instead of aggressively huffing and puffing, he had a cold, which caused him to sneeze and knock down the houses. When each house was knocked down, the subsequent little pig was killed. Instead of allowing that “ham dinner” to go to waste, he ate the little pig and went on to the next house until he came to the one made of bricks. When his sneezes didn’t break down the house of bricks, he was apprehended by the (piggy) police, and was framed for crimes he didn’t commit.
The illustrations in the story are quite detailed and are done in a way that reflects the narrative. Characters and settings are a little over the top, and just a little bit askew in their reflection of real-life objects. For example, the wolf’s version of a cheeseburger looks like ours, with the exception of rabbit ears, mouse-tails, and other bits of forest animals peaking out from beneath the bun. Each picture is an exercise in hyperbole. 
The colors in the paintings are muted and darker, so that they look like or remind you of old newspaper clippings that have aged. It is also interesting that we never see one of the little pigs in its entirety. They are always hidden beneath straw, sticks, or in side their brick house. This removes some of the gory reality of the story for the children who read it. We’re supposed to be on the wolf’s side in this story, and so we shouldn’t see the victims.
I think this would be a fun book to use to teach persuasion or the importance of perspective. Many times students think that their opinion should be enough to convince others to come to their side or to believe what they have to say, but don’t do much work in the way of finding facts to back up what they believe. Here the big bad wolf just claims to be the victim of some bad circumstances, and therefore he is innocent of any real crime.
When we only get his perspective of the story, students can learn to think about perspective in their own writing so that they can think about who their audience in when they write. Many times they write to himself or herself or to me, the teacher, but don’t give other audience members any consideration. This story would be a good way to show them that who you are writing to can greatly influence what you write.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this story again after so many years, and it is fun to think of ways to incorporate these children’s picture books into a high school classroom. I feel that it would lend a feeling of nostalgia and being a child again to a setting that isn’t always welcoming and friendly—a high school. I like to try to make my classroom a different environment for students so that they are happy to be there and are relaxed and comfortable. Adding more of this type of reading to my curriculum may be a fun way to do that.  
Here is one last thing I found when doing an image search for picture from the book. It is a Venn Diagram for The True Story versus the original Three Little Pigs story. Another good tool to use in order to teach Diagramming.

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