Thursday, February 27, 2014

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs As Told To Jon Scieszka by A. Wolf (Illustrated by Lane Smith)

Published in 1989

Scieszka's book The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs is a parody of the traditional tale and would be a great book to use for teaching point-of-view. Alexander T. Wolf, but you can call him Al, claims he has been framed by the cops and thrown into jail under false pretenses. Al, the wolf, tells the story of The Three Little Pigs from his point of view to a reporter who publishes it in the local newspaper the Daily Wolf. As you can see, the cover of the book looks like the front page of a newspaper, and the lead story is titled "The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!"

According to Al, "Everybody knows the story of the Three Little Pigs. Or at least they think they do. But I'll let you in on a little secret. Nobody knows the real story, because nobody has ever heard my side of the story" (frontmatter). Al claims the real story is about "a sneeze and a cup of sugar."

On the inside front cover dust jacket, Scieszka encourages his readers to read his book for themselves and then decide what really happened:
"You may think you know the story of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf--but only one person knows the real story. That person is A. Wolf. His tale starts with a birthday cake for his dear old granny, a bad head cold . . . and a bad reputation. It ends in the Big House: the Pig Pen. What really happened when A. Wolf was at the door? Was it an historic pig out or a Mother Goose frame-up? You read it. You decide." 
Scieszka recommends The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs for ages 3-8, but I think readers of all ages would enjoy his unusual twist to this well-known tale.

The "Big Bad Wolf" begins his story, "Way back in Once Upon a Time, I was making a birthday cake for my dear old granny. I had a terrible sneezing cold. I ran out of sugar." He doesn't want to let granny down, so he decides to visit his neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar. When he comes to his first neighbor's house, whose house is made of straw, he comments, "He's not too bright." After all, "[W]ho in his right mind would build a house out of straw?"

Al knocks on the door, but no one answers. When he opens the door, his nose starts to itch, and that's what causes him to huff and puff and blow the house down. He acts as if the entire event happens by accident. He finds the first pig laying in the middle of the pile of straw. When he discovers he is dead, he decides to eat the pig. It seems like such "a shame to leave a perfectly good ham dinner lying there in the straw."

Al still doesn't have his cup of sugar, so he ventures to his second neighbor's house, the first little pig's brother who has built his house out of sticks. When he knocks on his door, the second pig yells, "Go away wolf. You can't come in. I'm shaving the hairs of my chinny chin chin." As Al grabs the doorknob, he feels another sneeze coming on and blows his house down too. When the dust clears, the second little pig is "dead as a doornail" laying upside down in a pile of sticks. He decides to eat him as well because "you know food will spoil if you just leave it out in the open."

When Al visits pig number three, he discovers his house is built out of bricks. He accuses the third little pig of being impolite because he won't give him the sugar and says his granny "can sit on a pin!" Al responds by saying, "I'm usually a pretty calm fellow. But when somebody talks about my granny like that, I go a little crazy." He begins trying to break down the Pig's door when the cops drive up and arrest him. The next thing you know, the news reporters appear on the scene and unfairly make the wolf out to be the "Big Bad Wolf," and that's how it's all supposed to have happened. The reporters destroyed his reputation; he claims he was framed!

Lane Smith's illustrations are hand-drawn sketchings and present the wolf in a positive light. For example, when Al is approaching the first little pig's house, he is depicted walking in a carefree manner, whistling a tune, and simply tossing a cup into the air. He doesn't have any intention of harming anyone. In another illustration, he is politely wiping his snout with a napkin as he contemplates eating the dead pig. After all, polite wolves have manners. When the cops appear on the scene and arrest Al, news reporters can be seen at the bottom the the illustration racing towards the house with microphones in their hands. The illustrations using the newspaper reporters and articles are brilliant. They place the blame of the wolf's bad reputation on the media, probably where it belongs, according to his point of view. The images are light and humorous in tone.

I believe this book could promote interesting discussions in the classroom, especially with older students. In order to make the story relevant to today's students, teachers could lead a discussion regarding the media's impact on today's culture. Does the media have the power to destroy a person's reputation? Has this been done in the past? Could it happen in the future? Can you think of any examples? Thought provoking questions could make the story interesting and relevant to today's teens.

I highly recommend this book for all ages. Comparing and contrasting the two versions of this timeless tale could engage students in critical thinking skills and could promote meaningful discussions. For younger children, the book could just be plain fun! If you haven't read Jon Scieszka's book The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, consider adding it to your read-a-book list.

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Published in 1999
Ten years after The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs was published, a bilingual flip-over book was released in Spanish and English. This edition of the book could be used to reach out to ESL students.

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