|Image from OpenLibrary.org|
“Once and only once there were three pigs who kept perfect rhythm.” So begins this jazzy retelling of the classic three pigs story. The three pigs, Satch, Mo, and Ella, were the members of a jazz trio that perform to sold-out audiences. There was also a wolf, “the baddest cat to walk the land,” who is set on catching the pigs and eating them for dinner. Wolfie was badly burned by the pigs’ uncles when he tried to huff and puff their houses down and he just won’t let it go. When the wolf finally catches up with the pigs during a performance the pigs turn the tables on the wolf by asking him to sing. He realizes if he eats the pigs he won’t be able to make sweet music with the band. The band becomes known as 3 Swingin’ Pigs and Wolfie.
This fractured fairytale parodies the classic Three Pigs story while at the same time celebrating and paying tribute to the world of jazz. The swinging text is full of fun slang words, “Daddy-O,” and a phrase of scatting that is repeated throughout the story. Even the names of the pigs tip their hats to jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.
Although the story is based upon the Three Pigs story it does not follow the traditional plot or format; there are no houses that are huffed and puffed down nor is the wolf defeated in the customary manner. The wolf tells us that he’s a “classic fairytale villain,” but instead of defeating the wolf, these pigs decide to convert the wolf. In this version the theme focuses on the transformed wolf’s decision that music, “sweet music,” is far better than getting revenge on the pigs.
The illustrations bring to life the jazzy settings and quirky characters with neon colors and spiffy duds. The pictures help to keep up the brisk pace of the book. Time passes very quickly in this fairytale world full of references and flashbacks to other fairytale characters and stories, such as Little Red Riding Hood and the Gingerbread Man. Readers unfamiliar with these other fairytales may miss these allusions, however the main storyline can be appreciated by all.
The music of the book is a big part of this book. Explain the idea of scatting. Play examples of vocalists scatting and try scatting to a familiar song, such as The Alphabet Song. If possible, play music performed by Louis Armstrong and/or Ella Fitzgerald:
You Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini) (skip to 1 min to hear Ella scat).