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Friday, December 30, 2016

Pig In A Wig Books by Emma J. Virján

Jenna Friebel is a Materials Services Librarian at the Oak Park Public Library. She was on the 2016 Geisel Award Committee and has been elected to the 2018 Printz Award Committee. She’s on twitter @jenna_friebel.


Cover image from harpercollins.com
A Pig in a Wig is back! 2016 gave us two new installments of this early reader series by Emma J. Virján that started last year. What This Story Needs is a Hush and a Shush is a bedtime story that leaves our Pig in a Wig unable to sleep because of all the other animals joining her in bed, making noise, and taking up space. In What This Story Needs is a Munch and a Crunch, the Pig in a Wig is having an outdoor picnic with lots of food and some friends and games until it begins to storm.
There are a lot of strong elements in these books: simple and repeated words, rhyming, no more than a few lines per page, and illustrations that match the text. There is no doubt that these are solid early reader books worthy of their places in classrooms and libraries. But! We are not here looking for good early readers; we are looking for excellence. So it’s time to take a much closer look and get nit-picky.
Both titles include a mix of single page illustrations and double page spreads. The double page spread illustrations are filled in all the way to the edges whereas the single page illustrations have a white border (with the exception of the first one in both books- I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this inconsistency). The white borders help guide readers through the different scenes of the story.
Cover image from harpercollins.com
As for the illustrations themselves, the flat colors combined with thick black edges are very child friendly. In Hush and a Shush, Pig in a Wig has some fun face expressions. Just a few lines make her surprised, angry, and exhausted. In Munch and a Crunch, close readers will notice the clouds becoming gray before the storm hits. However, in both books the illustrations sometimes become too busy.
The font is a good size (although it uses the typeface “a” and “g” that doesn't mimic how children write them—c’mon early reader publishers!) and alternates between black and white depending on the background color. The text placement varies from page to page which can disrupt the flow of reading, particularly on pages with busy illustrations. This is more of a problem in Munch and a Crunch. There are several single page illustrations in a row with just a few words per page, and the placement of these words jumps all over creating a risk that the reader might completely miss a few words.
Speaking of words, let’s take a look at the word choices. In this regard, Munch and a Crunch is the stronger of the two. It has accessible words easily depicted in the illustrations. Hush and a Shush is filled with animal sounds. While most of these can be sounded out, it is a little trickier for the reader who really needs the illustrations for help. The animals making the sounds on each page are at the window, but with more and more animals on the bed on each page, it can be overwhelming.
Overall, these are both really good early readers that are worth consideration. However, I did have some concerns with both of them. Are my quibbles enough to knock these titles out of the running or are they small enough to be overlooked when considering all the strengths?

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