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Horn Book(Preschool, Primary)
Here's a new recipe for an old favorite: Take Joseph Jacobs's classic "The Old Woman and Her Pig" as recounted in his English Folk and Fairy Tales (Jacobs cites several predecessors and variants for this cumulative tale; alas, Aylesworth doesn't acknowledge a single one). Subtract the sixpence and at least half the woman's age; name her "Aunt Pitty Patty." Appoint a winsome child, niece Nelly, as chief negotiator. Make the language marginally less challenging (but deprive the pig of its one good excuse for its recalcitrance) by changing the stile where Piggy balks into an open gate. Temper the threatened violence (it's still "fire...burn stick"; but has become "butcher...scare ox" (rather than "kill") and "rope...tie butcher" (not "hang"). Extend the tale by adding a handsome farmer to give Nelly hay for the cow to exchange for milk for the cat so the cat will "chase" the rat, etc.; this farmer then comes home with Nelly to eat the supper pretty Auntie's been cooking while Nelly was questing for help getting piggy through that gate. Meanwhile, plump up the tale with extra words, though not enough to alter the meaning much, or to interfere (well, only a little) with its pell-mell trajectory. Lace well with Barbara McClintock's sweetly old-fashioned pencil and watercolor art, which sets this comic saga of willful disobedience in a bucolic nineteenth-century landscape with sunflowers blooming in Aunt Pitty Patty's garden. Top with McClintock's humorously expressive, delicately characterized cast-especially that stubborn, yet ever-cheerful, pig. Yield: one picture book, a bit sweeter and less assertive in flavor (as suits contemporary palates); still, good nutritional value. j.r.l.