Long time no see! I don't think I've posted anything on the blog since Februrary, so it's nice to be back on the vintage books again. I'm easing myself back in with a picture book for easy reading, and I've chosen Pig on the Run as the next stop on the bookworm trail, as it has the same author (Mira Lobe) and illustrator (Winfried Opgenoorth) as Valerie and the Good-night Swing.
The title Pig on the Run is slightly misleading. I was expecting Pig to be in some sort of trouble and escaping the law, or at least an angry farmer or two. But no. Piglet Pat is just running around the countryside for no apparent reason. I think he's just bored and restless, as you probably would be if you had nothing to do but hang around in a wood eating acorns. So after dreaming about being on a motorbike, he runs off in search of adventure, and soon gets into trouble. First he is almost hit by an actual motorbike, then he takes a ride in a hot air balloon, which gets spiked on a church spire. Then he somehow accidentally changes the signal on a railway, and eventually gets chased by ducks. Of course he ends up back in his peaceful wood with his family, where he decides he is content just to dream about adventures from now on.
As a grown up, I thought the story was pretty dumb. Just where is he going anyway? What is he trying to acheive? Doesn't he know it's dangerous to climb railway signal towers? You might fall. Especially if you have trotters. But kids of course, see things differently, and they would probably enjoy the spontaneity. To them, why wouldn't you run about aimlessly in the countryside, or climb up a signal tower if it's there?
The text works quite well for the most part. It's written in rhyme which does lift the story up - somehow you can get away with a fairly nonsensical story when it reads more like a song. The rhymes are often cleverly placed to span two pages, so that the reader has to guess the last word. You can imagine little ones enjoying getting involved, and feeling quite pleased with themselves for being able to guess what is coming next.
However, the text doesn't always quite work. Sometimes the rhymes do feel a bit forced and difficult to read fluidly:
"Don't worry, Duck, because I caught a
Glimpse, when up that tower, of water."
I'm sure small children probably wouldn't notice, or care. But it's the adults who have the read the story, and this sort of clunkiness would annoy me if I was reading it out loud. The book does say that it was first published in Germany, so I'm guessing that things didn't translate quite so well in places.
The illustrations are quite nice. For the most part they are drawn in different sized panels, but now and again they escape their boxes, which adds a bit of variety and interest. They also have a nice contrast between panels which are quite simple and focused on Piglet Pat, to very busy images with lots going on and multiple things to spot. The illustrations definitely do lift the story and make it much more interesting than it actually is.
About the author
Mira Lobe was an Austrian jew who wrote over 100 children's books - many of them focusing on peace and tollerance. Her first book, Insu-pu (1948) was about a group of children stranded on a desert island, and it was made into the TV series Children's Island in 1984. You can see some more examples of her work here. She stated that though laughter and learning were important features of children's books, she felt the most important thing that they offer is longing. She believed that books could inspire children to improve themselves and could impart a yearning for them also to improve the world around them.
I suppose Pig on the Run may seem like superficial nonsense to us grown ups, but it does speak to children about seeking out adventures, following their dreams, and not being afraid to explore the world around them.
Details and Availability
- Title: Pig on the Run
- Author: Mira Lobe
- Illustrator: Winfried Opgenoorth
- Date: 1986
- Link to previous: Author and illustrator
Pig on the Run is out of print.