I loved postmodern picture books (otherwise known as fractured fairy tales) even before I knew that they were called such. I recall that the first picture book that was truly a laugh-out-loud moment for me was Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales. Henceforth, I was literally addicted to this genre. Perhaps a review of two postmodern picture books devoted to the Three Little Pigs could provide some insight as to why I find them fascinating (not to mention endlessly and intelligently amusing).
In The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs as “told to Jon Scieszka and Illustrated by Lane Smith” we are regaled with a behind-the-story kind of story – by guess who… A. Wolf. His full name actually is Alexander T. Wolf, Al for short. As we can see, right at the beginning, the animal is humanized by being given a name. He is – Essentially Misunderstood.
“It’s not my fault wolves eat cute little animals like bunnies and sheep and pigs. That’s just the way we are. If cheeseburgers were cute, folks would probably think you were Big and Bad too.”
The story revolved around Mr. Al claiming that he has been “framed.” He isn’t the bad guy, you see. In fact, he is a very thoughtful wolf who just happened to be preparing a nice birthday cake for his dear old granny. The entire debacle can all be explained by a perfectly harmless sneeze and a cup of sugar. I shall not ruin the tale for you by letting you know exactly what the “real story” is – but suffice it to say that he has portrayed the pigs as being ‘not too bright,’ remarkably snotty, and selfish. It was all a huge accident brought about by Mr Alexander’s having the sniffles and his running out of sugar.
On top of the originality of how the wolf’s story was conceived, everything was neatly packaged in a brownish-parchment like quality in almost all of the book pages, reinforcing the newspaper-reporting kind of feel behind the factual rendition of the tale by the Wolf. The illustrations likewise portray Mr Al as being respectable and smart – he is outfitted in a tux and he wears eyeglasses – overall impact is generally aimed at crafting a nerdy-like, highly-credible look.
The pigs, on the other hand, are illustrated to be somewhat crafty and evil-looking, or just plain yummy, with their bottom and tails sticking out after their houses have “blown down” on account of Mr. Wolf’s sniffles. He noted that the whole “Huff and Puff and blow your house Down” was merely a ploy used by the reporters on the scene to make the story seem more sensational than the cup of sugar and sniffles that it actually was.
In Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury’s The Three Little Wolves and The Big Bad Pig we are initially introduced to “three cuddly little wolves with soft fur and fluffy tails who lived with their mother.” Everything in this story is turned topsy-turvy! The wolves are portrayed as all huggable and plain adorable, whereas the pig is depicted to be this savage wild boar with bad intentions. What makes this story even more interesting from my end is the fact that the three wolves initially started building a house made of bricks! They’re actually pretty smart. However, the Pig is way smarter. He used a sledgehammer to knock the first brick-house down. The story progresses in an even more hilarious tone with the wolves creating even sturdier (and high-tech) houses complete with “barbed wire, iron bars, armour plates and heavy metal padlocks.” Wow, how safe can you possibly get. Except when the Bad Pig cleverly blew it up with a dynamite.
The story ingeniously ends with the tale going back to basic (again the reverse can be discerned). From brick house to a house made of sticks and flowers: walls of marigolds, daffodils, pink roses and cherry blossoms – magically transforming the Pig’s bad heart to a tender, loving, and yes, contrite one. And yes, it ended happily ever after with the wolves and the pig playing “pig-pog” and “piggy-in-the-middle.”
I believe that these stories, in addition to being cleverly written and beautifully illustrated, challenge the young reader to think beyond the tale. If you are an educator who wishes to develop critical and creative thinking skills among your students (this is pretty big here in Singapore), you can not go wrong with these two fractured fairy tales. There are so many things that can be done inside the classroom to dissect and deconstruct the stories. Parallelisms and Divergences can be drawn, and the students empowered and encouraged to come up with their own Ingenious Versions of the Stories!
For parents, on the other hand, over and beyond the belly-laughter it can induce in your read-aloud at nighttime, the stories would spark off the inquisitive nature in your child’s mind and open the creative eye that may simply be lying dormant and sleeping in your creative child’s brain.
Do you know of any other version of the 3 Little Pigs? Do drop us a line if you find anything remotely interesting and clever enough to be added to this modest compilation and review. Happy Huffing and Puffing Everyone!