Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Porcine Tale

If you utter a single word, once, even without the upon a time, you will have the attention of the people in the room or at the very least those within hearing distance of you.  This word is laden with potential.  People instinctively wait for the revelation of the powerful w words.

This, like the title or first sentence in a written story, welcomes, tickles the funny bone and intrigues readers.  What This Story Needs Is A Pig In A Wig (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, May 12, 2015) written and illustrated by Emma J. Virjan certainly hooks readers with the title.  After reading this title and the first sentence what word immediately pops into your head?

What this story needs is a pig. 

With the page turn the bright red wig is on the pig.  Our porker pal is next seen floating in a boat in a nearby castle's moat.  Before we can even blink a leaping green frog is sharing the ride.

It's a rhyming romp!  Next a dog joins the passengers along with a goat who is balancing on a _______. (You will in the blank.)  The unseen narrator proceeds to insist on adding another member.

Quick as a wink the rodent is donning apparel while being balanced on the trunk of an elephant.  It's starting to get a tad bit crowded when a rather smelly animal makes an appearance along with a small residence.  This is becoming ridiculously hilarious.

Two more creatures, one dressed in a fancy blouse, arrive on board.  Fearing the boat will sink, the pig issues a series of firm requests until, finally, things are back to the beginning.  The luxury of solitude is bliss.  Or is it?

It's obvious Emma J. Virjan had as much fun writing this book as we do reading it.  Her selection of words shouts out comedy with contrasts beginning with the beginning.  To top it off, how often have you noted pigs living nearby a castle on a sandy island surrounded by a moat?  Her choice of animals elevates the laughing level due to the mix; a dog, frog and goat with an elephant is not something you see every day.  Once readers realize Virjan is supplying them with giggles and grins, each page turn will be relished for the surprise it reveals.

Created with charcoal sketches then colored digitally, the illustrations intensify the narrative.  A full color palette with vivid blues (and complementary) colors as a background canvas and images outlined in black lines will attract the intended audience.  How can you resist that pig on the front?  On the back, to the left, a stack of animal friends peeking in from the left seem to be ready to answer Pig's request.  On the opening and closing endpapers in two shades of pig we are greeted with rows of pig snouts.  Emma J. Virjan does not waste any space starting the visual story on the verso and title page.  Pig is pulling on a line attached to a pink boat with a snout painted on the bow.

The first illustration spans two pages accompanying the first sentence.  It's all pink except for a spotlight shining on the pig.  After this pacing is generated by the visual sizes; in the beginning most are single page surrounded by a wide white border creating rounded corners.  After the pig asks the uninvited guests to leave the boat, all the pictures span two pages, edge to edge. 

With every reading more comical details emerge.  When pig is putting on the wig, the mirror has a snout topper and the pattern on the rug in the room is filled with snouts.  The dog licks the pig to its disgust.  When the goat is balancing the frog and dog are holding up numbers like judges.  In the next image, the dog and goat are holding hands.  As more of the story is told you will find yourself smiling nonstop.  

A favorite illustration is when the elephant arrives.  The boat is weighted on one end like a teeter-totter as another new rider stands on the tip of the elephant's trunk.  At the higher end of the boat is the pig with the goat clinging to the wig with the frog clinging to the goat and the dog is standing on the log embracing the frog.  The look in the pig's face is akin to complete astonishment.

What This Story Needs Is A Pig In A Wig written and illustrated by Emma J. Virjan gets funnier and funnier every time you read it.  It's a story about building a story.  It's a story about inserting humor into a telling.  It's a story about the value of sharing your story with others.  You can expect to read this repeatedly to your listeners.  This would make an outstanding puppet show or reader's theater.

Please visit Emma J. Virjan's website to learn more about her and her work by following the link attached to her name.  Emma J. Virjan and this title were featured in a podcast interview at Storybook Spotlight.  During author Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo Emma J. Virjan wrote a guest post about this book.  There are sketches of the process.  Enjoy the book trailer.


  1. As a children's librarian I get asked ALL THE TIME for books similar to Mo Willem's, i.e. irreverent, silly humor. I think this may be one to add to my recommendations list!

    1. I think that's a great idea. Have you read Bob Shea's Ballet Cat? It would be a great one to recommend too.