Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book #316: The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell, Illustrated by Jim Harris

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It was summer in the desert and three little javelinas set off to seek their fortunes. Each hairy javelina took a different path. The first was accidentally swept into a dust storm that collected many tumbleweeds, which he used to make his house in no time at all. The second javalina met a Native American woman who was gathering up the sticks, saguaro ribs, from dried up cactus. He politely asked for a few and built himself a house. The third pig was the smartest. She built her house from adobe bricks. The little javelinas were quite happy, until Coyote came along. Using his magical tricks he demolished the houses of the first two javelinas and chased them into the adobe house. Luckily, the javelinas were able to outwit trickster Coyote by lighting a fire as he crawled down the stove pipe. To this day you can hear Coyote howling in the desert at night, remembering how the three little javalinas escaped from being his dinner.

This southwestern adaptation of the classic three pigs folktale is lively and humorous. The text is retains parts of the tale that readers will be familiar with, such as Coyote’s threat to huff and puff and blow house down, but culturally and geographically appropriate material is incorporated to ground the story in it’s new setting. Lowell includes a quick preface that identifies the desert setting and explains what a javelina (also known as a collared peccary) is to readers. The book finishes with a longer note from the author which provides more information about the human characters included in the story (the Tohono O’Odham woman and the Mexican-American man), information about saguaro cactus flowers and ribs, as well as the historical/cultural accuracy of the building materials. The illustrations capture the essence of the desert as described in the text. Flora and fauna of the desert are included in the illustrations – quails, snakes, rabbits – which add authenticity to the visual world. The javalinas are a rowdy bunch and Harris gives them a slightly exaggerated appearance that fits the humorous tone of the story very well.

You can use this book with other versions and adaptations of the three pigs story and then encourage kids to compare and contrast. There are dozens of versions and adaptations of the folktale, however my current favorites are The True Story of the Three Little Pigs!, The Three Swingin’ Pigs, and The Three Pigs by David Wiesner. Discuss the different building materials the pigs use in the stories, the personality of the wolf/coyote, the final outcome of the story, etc. Ball State University’s Electronic Field Trip website has a printable that can be used to aid this discussion.

For a southwestern themed storytime try pairing this book with Roxaboxen. Learn more about the Sonoran Desert’s animals and plants in non-fiction books such as Desert Giant: The World of the Saguaro Cactus and Cactus Hotel.

If you like to extend the books you share with kids through reader’s theater, check out the reader’s theater script written by Jill Jauquet and provided by

If this book has you loving javalinas, check out Josephina Javalina. Also by Lowell, but this time illustrated by Bruce MacPherson, this book follows the adventures of the third javalina who built her house of adobe. She decides to become a ballerina, so she picks up her concertina and heads off to Pasadena.


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