Ah, read-aloud time. Those lovely minutes when you bond with your children while reading to them from a favorite story-book. Maybe, before you had kids, you had visions of this time dancing in your head like so many sugarplums: your delectable toddler in fuzzy jammies, curled against your lap, the two of you chuckling at some winsome anthropomorphic creature frolicking in a woodland dell.

And then, like so many parenting visions, reality hits, in the shape of your willful toddler (still in fuzzy jammies, so at least some dreams never die), shaking Thomas the Train at you for the seventh million time, and you think that you’d rather re-live the Bataan Death March than read about The Fat Controller and his proto-fascisti train station.

Enter Ninja Mom, whose Assassins Carousel is giving all of us recovering story-tellers a place to share our battle stories.  This month, I get to join this illustrious company, where last month the Underachieving Domestic Goddess gave Walter the Farting Dog a serious talking-to about his intestinal issues.

My turn on the carousel! My turn! Oh my friends, I have had a difficult time thinking about what to choose.  I thought about that homage to imperialism and colonialism that masquerades as Babar, in which Babar gets to be King of the Elephants because, you know, he has a car and a nice suit.  Then my mind turned to that damn monkey, George, who is happy – HAPPY – to be kidnapped from his jungle home and come live with the yellow-hat dude…But no. No, no, I had to go with the book that made my heart sink when chubby-fingered Caleb would grab it from the shelf for pre-bed story-time.

That damn pig. That insatiable, home-wrecking, tap-dancing, mofo of a pig from If You Give a Pig a Pancake, by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond.

First of all, I have to ask why it is that the heroes of picture books have to be such disasters. Why does Max, of Max and Ruby (which, sorry, Middletini, I still sort of love) always win, always get the second chocolate chicken; why is Froggy of the Froggy series never punished for the utter chaos that follows in his wake? It’s a metaphysical question, I realize, but one that I’d like someone to answer for me.

In the meantime, however, on to the pig.

cover image source

First I have to ask: unless it’s Wilbur, would anyone want a pig as a pet? Much less a pig in the house grubbing about for pancakes?  Do not be fooled by this cover image: this pig does not sit still, plate in hand, oh no.  This pig is, literally, a pig: a relentless appetite on the hoof.

Like all seduction stories, this one starts easy: syrup with pancakes. Syrup, you think, sure. Not a problem. But then…then things spiral out of control and we realize we’re reading a book about a pig with an addiction. Fueled initially by sugary syrup, this pig needs ever bigger hits of adrenalin to get that same rush, and the results aren’t pretty.

Who knew pancakes were the gateway drug? From pancakes, syrup, from syrup to big bubblebaths, to bath toys, to tap dancing (on furniture no less), to a narcissistic request for photo-shoots, and some clearly photo-shopped images of excessive pig-strength: image source

Then this damn pig wants to mail all the pictures to friends and family back home (can you imagine the cost of postage?) but in true addict fashion, the pig gets distracted when she’s wheeling her towering pile of letters out to the mailbox.  And that’s when the true nature of the pig comes clear:  not only is the pig an adrenalin addict, my friends, this pig has one of the worst cases of ADD ever seen in childrens’ fiction. The pig finishes nothing (other than the pancakes, a task accomplished by licking the plate. Add bad manners to the list of this pig’s fabulous qualities).

The pig drops her excessive mailing to begin a home-building-and-renovation project involving sharp tools and nails, as well as wallpaper paste.  A renovation project in a tree, no less. I mean please. We all know pigs can’t fly, and thus, no way is a pig building a house in a tree.

Leaving behind a trail of unfinished projects and household destruction, the pig retires to the kitchen, and demurely requests a snack. Of pancakes.  Which means, yep, you guessed it: this story is an endless feedback loop. To read this story once is to risk being commanded by your toddler “READ IT AGAIN!” because, of course, your fuzzy jammied genius of a child has figured out that… the whole cycle will repeat itself, ad infinitum. Ad nauseum.

The pig, you see, has no respect for the exhausted parent friend who has followed her around all day offering up supplies to service the pig’s ugly addictions.  (Add co-dependent enabling to the list of pig-related horrors).

Do you see, my friends, the evidence of the pig’s domestic carnage in this picture? The camera, casually tossed on the ground (is this how we treat expensive equipment?), the litter of letters (oh! the waste of paper), the wallpaper spread across the table, the laundry on the floor…This pig needs some serious behavior modification, I’d say, or else it’s time for the sequel in which that exhausted little girl gets pancakes…

with bacon.

Ride the carousel next month with Kim, from Let Me Start By Saying