The Three Pigs


David Wiesner

The Three Pigs is the Caldecott Medal winner for 2002! The book is Wiesner's second Medal winner. Tuesday previously won. This retelling of the traditional Little Pigs' story in a non-traditional way will undoubtedly continue to garner awards throughout the year.

The story is that Mr. Wiesner researched many kinds of real pigs to eventually draw the three pigs on the cover of his book, each a different, but real, breed. The title page might fool us into believing we are venturing into a traditional tale with traditional artwork, but don't fall for it! It's a beautiful drawing, typical of why the Caldecott would be awarded to this artist, but it isn't representative of the inside story.

As the tale opens, we see more traditional artwork, this time the wolf observing the little pig building a house of straw. In the distance, his brothers haul their own building materials over the hill. The next page continues the folk story we are used to, but what's this? The wolf huffs and puffs and blows the pig . . . right out of the story! The part of the pig left in the picture is still the traditionally drawn pig, but the larger part outside the picture frame is the more realistic pig. And the puzzlement on the wolf's face in the last frame is evident, as he looks for the pig, in spite of the words continuing to say that he "ate the pig up."

From this point on, the story becomes more and more interesting as the second little pig is invited outside the picture frame by his brother. The third little pig joins them, and now the picture frames are lying on their sides and bending, so that reality and the tale are strangely intertwined.

The pigs decide to "explore this place" and fold a traditional picture into . . . a paper airplane!

Several pages are spent flying the plane, until a crash landing puts an end to the fun. One pig peers out the page toward the reader and says, "I think … someone's out there." His brothers, however, want to investigate the flowery cartoon land pictured in the upper corner.

They visit the Hey diddle diddle rhyme, becoming typical Mother Goose pigs, and then choose a story of knights and dragons. In the dragon tale, a dragon is about to be slain by the king's son. The pigs help the dragon escape, again with the reality outside the picture frame and the black/white drawing still inside the frame.

The cat from Hey diddle diddle shows up and all the characters examine picture pages from many stories. The cat discovers (what's this?) the picture showing the third little pig's brick house. The animals pick up the story pages, including the crunched paper airplane page, from the traditional little pig story. They straighten them out and put them back in order. Falling letters are put back into story form, and the last page shows all the characters, except the wolf, of course, living happily every aft….

What a wonderful imagination! Makes us wonder why we didn't think of it, doesn't it? And what a terrific springboard for writing! Your students could fill in many of the stories which the pigs might visit, along with what might happen to them there, what new characters they might pick up to take back home, etc. They might come up with other ways for the pigs to travel besides the paper airplane. They might come up with conversation for the flying pages where there is no conversation.

Students might use the craft demonstrated by David Weisner in this story to take a different story and change it.It might spark students' imaginations about what happens to other folk and fairy tale characters who disappear, such as the Troll in Three Billy Goats Gruff, the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood (some versions), or Rumplestiltskin. What about writing other tales about coyote or raven in the American Indian tales?

Six traits connections: Organization, Ideas, Voice

Note: Take a look at Tuesday. There are few words, and wonderful pictures to inspire students to write stories detailing what the pictures demonstrate. And the last page might inspire a whole new story along similar lines.

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