The Three Pigs by David Wiesner

Wiesner’s book begins, as you might expect from a story about the three pigs, with the Big Bad Wolf huffing and puffing and blowing the first straw house down….however, things begin to diverge from the traditional storyline (and illustrations) by the third page, when the wolf huffs and puffs so hard that he blows that first little pig right out of the frame of the illustration into the surrounding white space, leaving the confused wolf searching the scattered straw fruitlessly.

The “straw house” pig quickly scampers off to his “stick house” sibling’s dwelling to get his sibling safely out into the white space framing the book’s illustration, leaving the wolf once again puzzled and thwarted in his desire for piglet. The two retrieve the third “brick house” sibling, and the three fly away on a paper airplane made from the ‘pages’ of their book, knocked loose in the third escape. They climb into the “Cat and the Fiddle” nursery rhyme, but scoot out as quickly, as they can’t find what they need there. Instead, they release a dragon from its fairy tale, just before the king’s eldest son comes to slay the dragon, and bring it back to their fairy tale, just in time to give the Big Bad Wolf the scare of his life. The pigs, the dragon and the fiddling cat all live happily ever after, together in the third pig’s brick house, having rescued just the right letters when the text from their original story scattered upon the dragon’s startling the wolf.

Don’t be put off by the first few pages, which Wiesner has illustrated in a thoroughly conventional manner, halfway between cartoons and Edwardian illustrators such as Jessie Willcox Smith. Wiesner breaks the fourth wall of storybook convention on every subsequent page; the pigs falling out of their own story and knocking the pages loose is only the beginning. They travel between stories, changing in appearance to fit each story’s illustration style. They look out at the readers, and indicate the selfawareness of being in a story which is being read by an outside entity. They travel through a museum cum library in which the illustrations for other story books are arranged1. They take the initiative of changing their own story and that of others to suit themselves.

Who might like this? Pretty much anyone who’s wearisomely familiar with all the old fairy tale chestnuts. What to read next? Well, there are Wiesner’s other picture books, for starters, not to mention the other post-modern self-aware retellings of other fairy tales, such as Cinder Edna.

1think the Wood Between the Worlds in C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, but for fairy tales.


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