Tag Archives: friendship

The Beasts and Children, Day 9: Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All

Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All

Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All, by Ted Dewan (2000)

Crispin and his abundance of both belongings (especially the car on the cover) and ennui reminded me strongly of Milo from The Phantom Tollbooth, but this story has a more focused point and less journey than that one. Still, both Crispin and Milo undergo a personal change when they experience unfamiliar interactions with others, and a dynamic main character makes for an interesting book! In addition, both kids were appalled by Crispin’s callous treatment of his belongings…which I hope will help their minor case of ingratitude!

“Crispin Tamworth was a pig who had it all.” Each year at Christmas, he gets more, of course, and he soon gets bored with each new thing. (The story says that each item gets broken, but one illustration makes it clear that Crispin destroys his expensive toys when he is tired of them…in as short as a week in one case!) This Christmas, Crispin is excited to see a huge box under the tree; the note on the box says, “Master Crispin, In this box you will find the only thing you do not have. It’s the very best thing in the whole wide world. S.” The box, however, is empty. Crispin shoves the box outside and goes to his room to pout. When he sees a rabbit and raccoon find the box and attempt to take it with them, assuming it’s being discarded, he is seized with jealousy and goes to guard the box until he gets too cold and goes back inside. The next day, he catches the same two children playing in the box and goes outside to yell at them again, but they manage to involve him in the game of Space Base they are playing instead. The next day, he skips his weekly trip to spend his pocket money at the arcade to wait for Nick and Penny (the raccoon and rabbit) to come by; they end up playing Store, Pirates, Castle, and Space Base. Crispin is heartbroken the following day to find that the rain overnight has ruined his box and is afraid his friends won’t come back again. They do come, however, and bring even more playmates, and they spend the day repurposing the debris from his broken toys to make a really amazing game of Space Base. When the family’s new refrigerator arrives later that week, the housekeeper has the deliveryman haul away the “junk” from Crispin’s room while he’s at school, and he is horrified at the loss of yet another thing that he believes is keeping his friends around. In the backyard, however, he finds the refrigerator box that was left behind, and he discovers that it is full…of friends.

GirlChild was able to figure out by the end of the story that the note on the empty gift box was referring to friends, and the sparkly snowflake pattern bursting from the box at the end suggests the snowflake and star pattern from the wrapping paper on that box earlier in the book, giving another hint. We all felt kind of bad for Crispin that he thought that he could only have friends if he had things to entertain them, so it was really nice to see how many playmates he acquired by the end who were only interested in playing, however it came about! Stumpy little Crispin with his enormous ears is an adorable little guy, too, and all the more so when he stops being so self-absorbed and starts enjoying his friends. This is a great book for reminding children that friends are a gift!



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The Beasts and Children, Day 8: Wombat Divine

Wombat Divine

Wombat Divine, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Kerry Argent (1995)

I had to pick this up since the juxtaposition of “wombat” and “divine” was too sharp to ignore! My family went to Australia when I was ten, and I recognized many of the animals in this book from that trip!

Wombat loves everything about Christmas, especially the nativity play, and he is finally old enough to audition. He finds that his physical attributes and sleepy tendencies make it impossible for him to take any of the parts he so willingly volunteers to try. Each time he proves to be a vital mismatch somehow, the animal who is chosen instead comforts him with a gentle touch and kind words and encouragement: “Don’t lose heart! Why not try for a different part?” When all the parts have been given out, Wombat struggles not to cry in disappointment, and all his friends look on with concern. Then Bilby (one of BoyChild’s new favorite animals from the Plum Landing game on pbskids.org) has a sudden inspiration: Wombat is perfectly suited to play Baby Jesus! After his convincing performance on the night of the play, his friends congratulate him on the “best Nativity ever,” and Emu, the director, says, “You were divine, Wombat!” And Wombat is suitably pleased.

The illustrations are semi-realistic (for a book about anthropomorphic Australian animals auditioning for a Christmas play!) and expressive. You can see how bad Wombat’s friends feel that he isn’t able to participate the way he wants to, and they aren’t as happy about their own parts because of how unhappy their friend is. There are no bad friends or meanies or ungracious winners or sore losers in this book, so there are no bad behaviors to discuss away. Wombat Divine is simply a sweet book about a hopeful wombat with theatrical aspirations and his strong, caring support system! A very cute read-aloud or independent reading book for preschool to middle elementary, particularly those with a Wild Kratts-level of love for Australian animals! (Oddly enough, there is another book about a wombat and Christmas by a different author (of Diary of a Wombat fame) and with a very different focus: Christmas Wombat, by Jackie French.  I’ve not read this one!)



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The Very Best Pumpkin, written by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by Karen Hillard Good

The Very Best Pumpkin, written by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by Karen Hillard Good (2010, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ISBN 978-1-4169-8288-3)

Peter lives at Pumpkin Hollow Farm with his grandparents, and one day he follows a long vine away from the patch and discovers a lonely little pumpkin growing at the end. He takes special care of this little pumpkin while his unnoticed new neighbor, Meg, watches from a distance. In the fall, when all the pumpkins are ready, Peter helps visitors to the farm select just the right pumpkin. Meg comes with her family but has trouble finding just the right pumpkin. In the end, Peter leads Meg to the very best pumpkin out at the end of the very long vine. Meg admits that she has been secretly watching Peter tending this pumpkin all summer, and Peter tells her that he knew it all along and that was why he wanted her to have it. The two become friends (of course) and tend pumpkins together the next year.

This was a very cute, simple story about two apparently shy children becoming friends over a (covertly) shared experience. As the last line of the story says, “And just like the pumpkin, their friendship grew and grew and grew.” For anyone looking for a lesson out of the book, nurturing friendships is one almost as apparent as pumpkin care. (The last page of the book actually has “Peter’s Guide to Growing Your Own Very Best Pumpkin” for anyone wanting a basic tutorial on pumpkin husbandry.) I also loved the vocabulary: curlicue, clambered, rambling…fun, fun words!

My favorite part of this book, however, is the art. It has muted, earthy colors that have a vintage feel despite the simple lines, kind of like the weathered style of scrapbooking and cardmaking, kind of like an old quilt. I peeked at the publication page and was delighted to find that the illustrations were “rendered in watercolors, instant coffee, and bleach”–a definite first in my experience! They are the kind of pictures, sort of like the illustrations in Mathilde and the Orange Balloon, that you could use to decorate a little girl’s room without being overly cutesy or babyish. They feel more hand-crafted than just painted on a two-dimensional surface. Very charming art! (Click on the illustrator’s name above and you can go to her website to see more of her work!)

GirlChild’s Reactions: GirlChild quietly enjoyed this book, and she says she likes the mice and the pictures of Meg the best. (I was kind of surprised she didn’t mention the ladybugs and rosettes that pop up in many of the pictures, but I guess she was concentrating more on the story than on the smaller elements in the pictures.) Afterward, she said she wanted to plant pumpkins, and she paraphrased the page that says, “Big pumpkins, small pumpkins, short pumpkins, tall pumpkins,” adding, “I want to grow all kinds of pumpkins!” Apparently, she also wants to grow them in the front yard…sorry, kiddo. 🙂

Additional titles:
(by the author and illustrator (with different last name))

(by the author and illustrator)

(by the author and illustrator)

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