Imagine being a fastidious pig in a town called Slobbyville, where King Hog's visit means preparations that include the scattering of trash and the dumping of pungent garbage. Spiffen is a pig who sweeps and cleans and tidies to the beat of a different drummer, forced to stay inside when King Hog comes to town. The stench of the garbage awakens a dragon, and it is Spiffen's bucket of suds that douses the beast's fiery breath. Spiffen is, of course, a hero. A dilemma that is undoubtedly predictable, Spiffen's woeful tale will find favor with beginning readers. Munsinger's illustrations, which place this in a village of stucco and beam homes, give this silly situation extra zip. Spiffen looks continually bewildered by the reactions of others to his habits; he wears a sort of ``Who, me?'' gaze that lets everyone know that this pig is no goofhe is simply being true to himself. Ages 3-8. (August)
K-Gr 3 Spiffen, a clean and tidy pig, lives in a world where messy and dirty are the norm. Schwartz uses the source of Spiffen's differentness as the means to conquer the villain, a fire-breathing dragon (Spiffen uses a pail of soapy water to put out the dragon's fire). The theme of the outsider as rescuer is one that provides innate satisfaction for children, who will also be amused by (and probably envious of) the backward world where spilling and getting dirty and eating like a pig are valued activities. The folkloric elements of the story go nicely with the Renaissance setting. Schwartz uses simple, direct language and moves the story along at a good pace. The illustrations are also nicely varied. Some pages show minor actions with small pictures, while double-paged spreads are used sparingly for dramatic effect. Munsinger's use of costume and detail (such as the cobwebs on the King's crown) add humor as well. This certainly does not have the depth or truth of true folklore, but Spiffen is a worthwhile addition to most library collections. Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, Ill.