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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Good Good Pig

Montgomery, Sy. 2006. THE GOOD GOOD PIG: THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF CHRISTOPHER HOGWOOD. Detriot, MI: Thorndike Press. ISBN: 0786289511.

Author Sy Montgomery, a widely traveled animal-writer, has used this chapter book as a format to share about her home life, and about her amazing pet pig named Christopher Hogwood. Sy has always had a great relationship with animals, and tells about some of her more exciting adventures and moments with wild animals in far-off countries throughout the book. Christopher, however, was her first domestic pig. He was the runt of runts in a large litter of pigs, and not expected to survive. After over thirteen years of living “high on the hog,” Christopher had outlived his litter-mates by twelve and a half years, and weighed 750 pounds when he died!

THE GOOD GOOD PIG is the story of how Christopher lived, his habits, his diet and exercise, and his intelligence. More importantly, however, this true story is about the relationships other people formed with him, and because of him. As sad as Christopher’s eventual death from old age was to so many people in the book, he left a legacy of human friendships and created family behind, and he helped a lot of adults and children deal with their sicknesses, traumatic experiences, and sadness over the course of his life. Readers are reminded that we make our own families, and while these include many wonderful humans, animals are a vital part of our family group, too.

The author does a great job of painting pictures of some of the funnier moments with her words in this non-fiction work. Readers can easily picture the traditional “Running of the Pig” every day for his slops and spa treatments, hear the different noises and special grunts Christopher used for different situations and people, and sense his enjoyment of special culinary delicacies like bruised strawberries or stale blueberry muffins. Readers also get a good understanding of the author’s difficulties in relating to people rather than animals throughout her life, until Christopher gave her something to relate to them about. While the writing is occasionally repetitive—Sy tells us about about getting undressed by an Orangutan at least five times, without variation in telling or impact, for example—the prose will be clearly understood by a wide range of ages and ability levels from middle school to adult reader, and the topic covered also has wide appeal. Ms. Montgomery has also inserted many stories about other animals’ habits and her unusual relationships with them that one need not be a pig enthusiast to connect with the writing.

Library Journal: “As she recounts Christopher's adventures (his many escapes into neighbors' gardens, his picky delight in the slops offered to him by his many fans), Montgomery throws in fascinating tidbits of pig lore and natural history.”
School Library Journal: “This book is not merely a chronicle of her love for and life with Christopher Hogwood, but also a testament to the lessons learned through her 14-year relationship with him… More importantly, the author's engaging writing style will captivate even the most uninspired teen readers.”

==> Use this book as a jumping off point for a research project on an endangered species, the meat industry, unusual pets, or some other adventure author/naturalist.
==> Discuss the idea of a created family, and what kind of traits each person in the group wants in their chosen family members. What keeps most of us tied to the family we were born with? How do we interact/feel when we are with each family?
==> Make a large wall display including essays, poetry, stories, photos, and other information relating to the students’ pets or animals they have known or researched.
==> Great place to start talking about death, about discrimination (vegetarians discriminate against eating meat, Sy’s mom discriminated against Jews, etc), and why these things happen, and how different people choose to deal with them.

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