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The Princess and the Pig

Posted on Nov 15, 2011

Jonathan Emmett (text) & Poly Bernatene (illustrations)
(Macmillan Children’s Books)

After a terrible incident in the royal nursery, Pigmella the princess finds herself brought up by a poor but loving family while Priscilla the Pig finds herself in royal household learning the ways of princesses, with difficulty. The poor family who were desperate for a child believe that this is the work of a good witch while the grumpy Queen blames a bad witch for her daughter’s funny ways. After many years, the farmers realise what has happened but the stubborn Queen does not believe them, and she has high hopes for marrying Priscilla off. Because if kissing a frog turns it into a prince, then the same works for pigs, right?

This inspired and funny new offering from the team who brought us the wonderful The Santa Trap (see my review here) has all the ingredients of the best fairy-tales, without actually being one. No fairies, no spells, but rather, a good pinch of slapstick and some rather unfortunate circumstances form the basis of this story. Yet, traditional fairy-tales are very much at the core of the tale, with each new event being met by adults in the book with the phrase “It’s the sort of things that happens all the while in books”, showcasing many traditional stories such as Beauty & the Beast, Thumbelina, The Prince and the Pauper and many more. This will create great interaction between adult reader and young audience as they recall the original stories and what they might have in common with The Princess and the Pig as well as a wonderful opportunity to (re)discover some old favourites.

The story’s theme of “riches does not buy you happiness” is one that is also present in many traditional tales with Pigmella growing up happily and marrying humbly but for love and without regret. Things are not quite that straight-forward for the princess, who understandably creates chaos in the palace. Many a little reader will find himself in stitches when witnessing what she gets up to.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Poly Bernatene, whom I admire greatly, and his use of vibrant colours is particularly striking (I am no fan of pink usually but the one used for Priscilla really is gorgeous). I also love how a clever use of double-spreads and the illustrations allow to show the parallel between Priscilla and Pigmella’s lives:

Bernatene’s artwork is subtle, and beautifully detailed too. It conveys a great sense of space, and also of sunlight. His style is genteel and yet really cheeky and fun. I urge you to discover his work if you have not done so already.

His artwork, teamed with Jonathan Emmett’s wonderful storytelling skills come together to create another fantastic story, full of mischief, but also a great ode to fairy tales and books in general (whether you like to read them, or eat them!).

All illustrations © Poly Bernatene

Many thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books for providing a review copy of “The Princess and the Pig”.

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