On the sixth day of Christmas, my blogger shared with me…
a pig who helps “the least of these”!
Pippin the Christmas Pig, by Jean Little, illustrated by Werner Zimmerman
(2004, Scholastic Press, ISBN 0-439-65062-3)
Pippin is a young pig who has never heard of Christmas, but all she’s getting for an explanation from her barn-mates is a lot of bragging about what their ancestors did for “the baby” so long ago. Pippin’s feelings are hurt by their insistence that a pig couldn’t have been there because pigs have nothing to offer, and she leaves the barn to search for a place “where pigs matter but Christmas doesn’t” out on a snowy Christmas Eve night. Her tender heart is moved by the plight of a young woman with a child who she meets trudging along the road out in the terrible weather, and she leads them back to the barn she vowed to leave forever so that they can be in a place that’s safe and warm for the night. Her act of kindness and insistence that the other animals provide for this little family what they proudly claim their “very-great-grandparents” gave on the first Christmas remind the animals that giving of yourself now is more important than trying to rely on the past for your sense of worth. In this story, Jean Little brings the focus of Christmas from the back then to the right now. This simple story of how a little pig shows compassion that inspires others to give of themselves is a great reminder to all of us that celebrating Jesus’ birth is meaningless if we don’t also live out the love for mankind that prompted God to send His Son in the first place. Although the text doesn’t state this, I am strongly reminded of the verse that says that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40b).
The artwork in this book, in watercolor and pencil, is done in a soft realism that complements the country scenery. The little pig is the only character that gets a little more cartoonish of an appearance, but that is likely because the illustrator wanted to show Pippin’s emotions more clearly than a strictly realistic piglet rendering would allow. (Somehow the artist manages to make each of the other animals project appropriate emotions with expressions that you might actually see on a real specimen of that sort of animal.) The colors inside the barn are warm and inviting, the cool blues and whites of the outdoor scenes help create the feeling of desolate cold that a winter’s night can bring. A simply bordered page of text is set next to a white-rimmed illustration page, and this works well for the relatively large amount of text needed to tell the story.
GirlChild’s Reactions: GirlChild loves pigs, so this was the first book from my new batch that she selected to have me read to her. Although the references to the original Christmas story never make use of the names of the people involved and only bring up pieces of events, she was able to tell to which baby and stable the animals were referring in their boasts about their families’ involvement, so it gave us a chance to discuss the real Christmas story again while we were reading. (We often stop when we’re reading books with longer blocks of text to discuss them so she stays involved and interested in the story and I can make sure she’s understanding.) When we were done, we talked again about giving to others at Christmas to show God’s love and our love. We regularly transport donated food to the Salvation Army shelter near us and fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child each year, so we were able to make the connection between the acts of love and giving in the book with what we can do that shows the same love to those around us. At a time when getting is often more emphasized than giving, this book is a refreshing reminder that you can be a gift to others in the love that you show.
(It’s not too late to give to the Operation Christmas Child effort this season! Although box collection is over for the year, you can still go online and donate towards the filling of a generic box, or you can use the Build a Box feature to customize a gift from your family to be delivered this year at Christmas! Also, it’s never too late to donate your time or money to organizations that benefit families near you!)