A Normal Pig
“What looks like a simple story is an important one for polka-dotted, striped, or tan children out there. For pink ones, too!”
A Normal Pig looks like a normal picture book. It has cute pigs doing childlike things like going to school, eating lunch, playing on the playgrounds, and having troubles with being teased. But upon a second read, one begins to see that the book is about skin color, prejudices, and fitting in.
Pip is the pink and black polka-dotted pig in a small world of all pink pigs. The cover shows him standing for the class photo and sticking out with his polka dots. When a new pig challenges Pip’s weird lunch and asks if Pip’s black mom is a babysitter (she’s holding a polka-dotted baby), the reader begins to understand that this book is about more than dealing with a troublemaker. It’s about feeling normal in a world where Pip looks different from the others.
When Pip asks, with tears in his eyes, why she can’t make him a normal lunch, Pip’s mom suggests a family trip to the city. Pip’s pink dad agrees. The next scene shows the family rushing to catch the B+B train. Suddenly the other pigs are not all pink ones. There are lots of shades of pigs, some even brown and white polka-dotted, plus other black ones like his mom.
On the next double-paged spread, pigs have stripes, polka dots, or solid colors of pink, black, brown, tan, beige, etc. They are speaking nine different languages, The speech bubbles include, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, and some others. Each are saying different things. The Spanish bubble says, “Let’s see where the tour begins.” There’s a pig in a wheelchair and pigs with cameras around their necks as tourists.
Pip realizes that her family fits right in to the variety of pigs found in the city. On the city playground, the child pigs are having fun together regardless of their looks.
The food in the city is different, too. “Is there anything on the menu that’s not so weird?” Pip asks a striped pig.
“Maybe it’s weird for you, but not for me. I like it,” the striped pig says.
He offers Pip some food. When the family gets home, Mom offers to make Pip a normal lunch, as she holds the sack of Wonder Bread and a jar of peanut butter.
Pip goes back to his school of mostly pink pigs and gets teased again about his lunch. Pip says he likes his lunch and offers it to the teaser, who stomps off with his peanut butter sandwich. The other pigs all try it and like it. Pip is happy again, hanging upside down on the playground.
The strength of the book is in the art, showing pigs doing childlike things at school. The message is clear: being different, looking different is a-okay.
The end papers are pink with black polka dots, of course. The author/illustrator is from San Francisco. It all makes sense now. What looks like a simple story is an important one for polka-dotted, striped, or tan children out there. For pink ones, too!