From the Publisher
A sly look at the tensions caused by class and race--or, more correctly in this case, species. Young Bennett Gibbons comes from a prominent cow family and enjoys all the advantages that come with his position. His parents are displeased when a family of pigs with a son, Webster, who is just Bennett's age, moves into their building. And although the Gibbonses agree that Webster is nice enough, he is, after all, a pig, so they can't condone the friendship. Tensions reach the boiling point when Bennett throws off all bovine respectability and jumps into the mud with Webster. Faced with his parents' fury, Bennett runs away. Only Webster is able to track him down at his favorite place, the Natural History Museum, and then the Gibbonses realize how silly they've been to block such a sincere friendship. Bennett returns, reasonableness reigns, and Mr. Gibbons proves that he has seen the error of his ways by jumping into the mud with the pigs. Told in a wry voice, yet kidlike in its essence, this appealing story, with its very New York setting, is lifted to a higher level by the delightfully offbeat ink-and-watercolor art. Dressed in similar thirties-style garb, the pigs and cows are intentionally sometimes hard to tell apart; both are as round as Weebils and the exact same color. Children will catch on that any animosity comes from the head, not from real differences. Isn't that silly?
March 1, 1996 Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
Bennett Gibbons, a young calf in a prominent cow family, is forbidden to befriend a nice young pig, Webster Anderson, because e was, after all, a pig.Bennett runs away, but Webster finds him, and the families become friends, taking delightful (if undignified) mud baths together. The splendid romp through bovine and porcine prejudice is made more pointed by the extremely urban and sophisticated setting, portrayed in richly colored watercolor and ink illustrations.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a scenic art-deco city, pigs collect tickets from movie-going cows, and a generous cow gives coins to some piggy street musicians. This social hierarchy remains unquestioned until Bennett, a lonely calf, makes friends with his porcine neighbor, Webster. Both are too young to know any better, though Bennett's father harrumphs, "Frankly, Bennett, it's a little unusual for a cow to be playing with a pig." Yet after Bennett's irresistible urge to play in the mud brings his and Webster's families together, they realize they have a lot in common: "They all liked the same music and the same books. And they all were vegetarians." Egan revisits the tolerance theme of his Friday Night at Hodges' Cafe, and although his message is somewhat cliched, his dry, measured narration rescues the story. His watercolor-and-ink illustrations are composed with an eye for balance, and his sophisticated palette of pine green, burgundy and creamy yellow conveys the cows' celebrated "dignity." The grand apartment buildings and the animals' dapper dress suggest prewar New York; 20-cent pretzels and Webster's porkpie hat reinforce the nostalgic motif. Egan tends to moralize, but his artfully detailed spreads makes the symbolism easy to swallow. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Bennett Gibbons is a well-to-do calf living with his socialite parents in a large city. He has everything he could possibly want-except a friend. When Webster Anderson moves in next door, he finds his friend at last. Only one fact threatens to spoil this excellent relationship. The Andersons are pigs. And cows do not associate with pigs. How Bennett and Webster change the status quo is the crux of this little fable about integration.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Bennett Gibbons is an upper-class calf whose privileged lifestyle exposes him to all the perks of urban high society. He wistfully watches a family of pigs wallowing in the mud at the park, but his parents explain that cows are too dignified for such nonsense. Bennett is delighted when the Anderson family moves in next door, for Webster Anderson is just his age. The two become friends and Bennett introduces Webster to the wonders of the city, especially the Natural History Museum. Bennett's parents are not pleased, however, because the Andersons are pigs. Their worst fears are realized when, in a moment of abandon, their son joins Webster in a mud bath. Finally, the abject cows realize that friendship is more important than sophistication and that diversity is something to celebrate rather than abhor. The thinly veiled message could have become heavy handed if not for Egan's witty language and amusing illustrations. His watercolor paintings are enlivened by little details-George Seurat's Sunday Afternoon in the Park with cows hangs in the Bennett apartment, and a poster for Swine Lake adorns the wall of a theater. In addition, these funny characters don't take themselves as seriously as the words might indicate. In the end, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett discover that mud baths can be refreshingly liberating. Unabashed lighthearted fun.-Barbara Kiefer, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
Bennett Gibbon is a lonely bovine, the only calf in his part of town. Then a little pig, Webster Anderson, moves into the apartment next door. The two become comrades, much to the dismay of Bennett's parents, who have some mighty intolerant ideas about pigs. Bennett's friendship with Webster thrives anyway, until, "in a moment of pure recklessness," he takes a dive into the local pig wallow. His parents explode, Bennett flees, and Webster saves the day. Social barriers drop, the Gibbon and Anderson elders find they have much in commonbooks, music, vegetarianismand a beautiful friendship is born. Not a new story, but a pretty good kick in the pants of ignorance and pomposity. Egan (Chestnut Cover, 1995, etc.) sculpts the message smoothly into the story, and while his writing demonstrates a light touch, the artwork provides a smart counterpoint. A Deco air invests the story with a droll mood and city shadowsthe colors are muted, and the wit is urbane.