Hobart yearns to become a world famous tap dancer. Of course, this isn’t easy when you are born a pig. But Hobart is one of the world’s great optimists, and he is convinced that if he can just keep himself and his siblings Violet (an acrobat), Byron (a poet), and Wilfred (a singer) from being turned into pork chops that they can make their dreams come true. Anita Briggs herself narrates, and the high-spirited musical finale will delight listeners of all ages.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers|
|Product dimensions:||5.54(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.44(d)|
|Age Range:||7 - 10 Years|
About the Author
Anita Briggs is a concert harpist who lives at Willow Hill, an 18th century house high on a flowery knoll above the village of Cherry Valley, New York. She shares the house with her husband, Walter, and their cranky feline, Miss Kitty. Hobart is her first book for young readers.
Read an Excerpt
Hobart's dream had begun one evening in the past summer when he wandered close to Farmer Mills' house and heard a lovely clicking sound through the open parlor window. Standing on his hind feet, he peered in and saw Mrs. Mills, the farmer's wife, rocking and knitting, her eyes fixed on a flickering screen. There on the television was a little curly-haired girl dancing around a ship's deck. Her feet were tapping so fast that Hobart's eyes could scarcely follow them. Her curls bounced, and she had a bright smile on her face.
Hobart was enchanted. How happy he would be if only he could dance like that little girl! He shuffled merrily about in the flower bed beneath the window, making Mrs. Mills' daisies and petunias fly right and left. But after a few moments he stopped. His feet weren't making the same sounds that the little girl's feet had made -- beautiful crispy sounds, like beechnuts when he cracked them in his teeth. Something was missing, but he didn't know what. He watched for a little while longer and then went back to the barn to think.
The next morning, while rooting for a snack in the soft ground under the beech tree, Hobart found two old bottle caps. He looked at them for a long time. Then he fitted them carefully to his hind feet and tried a few of the steps he'd seen through the parlor window.
To his disappointment, his feet still didn't make the nice noise he'd heard on the television. So he sat down under the tree and tried to remember what he'd seen. The little girl hadn't been dancing in the dirt. She'd been tapping on a ship's deck!
So Hobart, always hopeful, trotted over to the loading dock in front of thebarn.
Hop-shuffle-step, hop-shuffle-step went Hobart, exactly like the curly haired girl, and there! Just like magic, there was that lovely sound. Clickety-click! Clickety-click!
Then he had an idea. The little girl had only two feet, but Hobart had four. Wasn't that even better? He ran back to the beech tree as fast as he could go. He put his pink snout into the earth around its base and rooted. He rooted on the north side of the tree, then moved around to the south and tried again. And there, shining underneath the loose dirt, were two more bottle caps.
Hobart stepped into them with his front feet and loped back to the barn. Clickety-click click click! Clickety-click click click! Why, this was twice as good as the curly haired girl! And if he moved gracefully sideways, swinging his head jauntily to the beat while tapping on all fours...clickety-click -- CRASH!
Unfortunately he had fallen over his own left hind foot. But Hobart was always hopeful. Picking himself up, he dusted straw from his hindquarters. "Practice!" he cried happily. "That's all I need, more practice. Then people will come from miles around to watch me. 'Just look at that pig!' they'll say. 'He's a tap-dancing fool.'"
And so Hobart's dream was born.
One night, a week after the new cow had arrived, Hobart, Byron, Violet, and Wilfred lay in a circle on the barn floor. Though it was late, they were wide awake. Moonbeams shone through a cobwebbed window onto the hay.
"Did you see it?" asked Violet, her little eyes glistening with tears in the silvery light. "That big truck that drove in today? And the man with the loud voice who got out and talked with Farmer Mills? Farmer Mills looked sad. 'I wish I'd never thought of raising a litter of pigs,' he said. 'I didn't know how hard this was going to be. But I do have to pay the bills.' Then he told the loud man he'd leave a note in his mailbox tomorrow morning. There's no doubt about it, our days are numbered."
"What truck?" asked Hobart. "I didn't see any truck."
"That's because you were tap-dancing," explained Wilfred patiently. "And I must say you looked very promising, Hobart. Not that you'll have any use for that sort of thing in the future. Who ever heard of a bunch of pickled pigs' feet tapping their way across a meat counter?"
"The truck was big," recited Byron slowly and dreamily.
"A painted pig In red and white Stood on its right.
The letters spelled
'City Meat Co., Wholesale and Retail.'"
"Arrgh!" he squealed. "It NEVER comes out right!"
"'Processed to Your Specification. Custom Cut and Wrapped,'" added Wilfred glumly.
"'Choice Corn-fed Pork. Sausage. Bacon. Baked Glazed Hams by Special Order,'" continued Violet, her voice breaking.
Hobart leaped to his feet, his eyes horrified. "WAIT A MINUTE. Are you telling me that WE are PORK?"
Violet nodded. "We've been trying to tell you for days. We were wondering when you were going to wake up to Life, Hobart."
"But -- we're -- we're ARTISTS!" Hobart protested. "They can't eat artists!"
"Artists today, picnic hams tomorrow," muttered Wilfred.
"Never." Hobart took a deep breath and spoke firmly. "This must NEVER be. It would be a dreadful loss to the world. We'll -- we'll just PROVE ourselves," he continued in a more cheerful voice. "When they see what talented artists we are, they'll never think of grinding us up for sausage." He sat back down on the straw, trying not to shiver.
"But we're not ready!" Byron cried. "Wilfred has a fine singing voice, but he doesn't know any songs. You trip over your own feet when you tap-dance. Violet still falls down two out of three times when she tries to spin around on her snout. And as for my poetry -- well, there's always at least one line left over."
"Time," said Hobart hopefully. "That's all we need...time. Time to practice our acts."
"How do WE know how much time we have?" asked Violet. "The City Meat truck could carry us off any day!"
"She's right," said Wilfred with a sigh. "There's nothing we can do but wait to be made into bacon."
"Dig," said Hobart.
They looked at him in bewilderment.
"Dig!" he repeated, louder this time. "We'll dig our way out under the fence. Come on, let's get going!" He lurched to his feet and dashed for the barn door.
As they crossed the barnyard the lights went on in the parlor. The pigs halted, then crept cautiously up to the window. Farmer Mills was pacing slowly back and forth across the room, his head bowed. As they watched he sat down at his desk, drew a sheet of paper from the drawer, and began to write.
"Poor Farmer Mills," whispered Violet. "He can't sleep. See how worried he looks? He's writing that note. That means the truck might be coming tomorrow!"
"You mean today," Hobart said as the stable clock chimed midnight. "What if he hears us and comes out to investigate? Hurry up, everybody, and don't make a sound!"
Fearfully the four pigs tiptoed past the house, around the chicken shed, and out to the fence in the meadow.
"We'll dig here, by the beech tree, where the ground's soft," said Hobart.
Through the darkness under the tree came sounds of snuffling and rooting, and then a crunch as Wilfred cracked a juicy beechnut between his strong, white teeth.
"Stop that noise, Wilfred!
I hear your molars crunch!
This is desperate business.
We have no time for lunch!"
Hobart and Violet looked at Byron with awe.
"That's much better, Byron," said Violet. "It came out right that time, didn't it?"
"As a matter of fact, it did," Byron murmured, looking modestly down at his toes. "Though properly it should have said dinner...no, breakfast, now. If I had more time, I could polish the rhyme -- "
"Later," whispered Hobart. "Dig for your life! That snoopy gander must have heard us, and now he's coming up the path! If he sees what we're up to, he'll start squawking his head off, and then we will be sausage."
Dirt flew from four pink snouts as the hole under the fence grew wider and deeper.
"There!" cried Hobart. "That ought to do it. You go first, Violet, and hurry!"
Violet dived quickly into the hole, did a rolling turn, and scrambled to her feet on the other side of the fence. Byron and Hobart followed, but when it was Wilfred's turn, he got stuck halfway under and couldn't move.
The gander waddled into view, his feathers gleaming in the moonlight. He was beating his wings and screaming a furious warning now, his beak pointed to the fading stars. The farm dogs began to stir and growl. Then one of them barked sharply, and a screen door slammed.
"Come on, Wilfred," urged Byron desperately. "You can make it!"
Now they heard the dogs barking hysterically.
"It's my rib cage!" Wilfred moaned. "It's too big. Go on without me, or you'll all be caught!"
"Ah!" cried Hobart. "Good! A big rib cage -- the mark of a great singer! Dig, everybody, dig!"
In a moment Wilfred was free, and the four pigs were scurrying into the shelter of the woods as fast as their legs would carry them.
Text copyright © 2002 by Anita Briggs Illustrations copyright © 2002 by Mary Rayner