Published by Working Title Press, 2004.
MARGARET WILD was born in South Africa and came to live in Australia in 1972. She worked as a newspaper and magazine journalist, then for sixteen years as a children’s book editor, writing only in small snatches or at night when she had the energy. When she began to write fulltime, she felt that she could attempt longer projects for older children. In 2001 her first story for older readers, Jinx, was published. Now that Margaret has a young granddaughter, her focus has been drawn back to stories for the very young and Piglet and Mama is the result.
“I wrote Piglet and Mama because my small granddaughter was captivated by things (and especially people) being lost and found. I wanted it to be a warm, reassuring story so I set it in a farmyard where Piglet would be surrounded by helpful friends.
“We read lots of books together, and I’m learning from her the kinds of stories that will engage her. The most successful ones are those that contain an emotion that she can relate to. I made the main character a pig because pigs are visually such appealing animals—and Stephen Michael King’s pigs are glorious!”
Margaret’s books have received many awards over the years. She has been shortlisted and commended by the Children’s Book Council of Australia many times for such well-loved picture books as Pocket Dogs (illustrated by Stephen Michael King, also won a Children’s Choice Award for 2002), The Midnight Gang (illustrated by Anne James) and Thank You Santa (illustrated by Kerry Argent). In 2001, Fox (illustrated by Ron Brooks) won the CBC Picture Book of the Year. Her young adult novel, Jinx, was shortlisted for the CBC Book of the Year Award for Older Readers and the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in 2002. In 1990, her book The Very Best of Friends (illustrated by Julie Vivas) won the CBC Picture Book of the Year.
Although Margaret does most of her writing on computer, she likes to carry a notebook with her to write down ideas wherever and whenever they strike her. She says that, “I hardly ever refer back to my notebooks, but writing things down helps to fix them in my memory.”
STEPHEN MICHAEL KING has loved drawing since he was very young. When he was ten years old, he became partially deaf and he found communicating with people difficult. Drawing and daydreaming became Stephen’s escape and they have remained two of his favourite activities to this day.
After he left school, one of the jobs that Stephen had was as an assistant in the children’s section of a Sydney public library. He loved reading stories, showing films and generally hanging out with children. After this he worked at the Walt Disney studios, which he found much more arduous. While working as a freelance artist Stephen was asked to do a book on drawing cartoon animals. This book sold so well that the publishers employed him for five years in their art department illustrating and designing books and magazines. Now Stephen works freelance, illustrating, designing and writing, and has worked on over twenty books.
Like Margaret, Stephen’s books have received wide acclaim. A number of them have been translated and published overseas and he has been nominated several times for Children’s Book Council of Australia awards. In 2002, Where Does Thursday Go? (written by Janeen Brian) was a CBC Honour Book. Pocket Dogs (written by Margaret Wild) was shortlisted by the CBC in 2001 and won a Children’s Choice award in 2002. The Australian Publishing Association nominated Emily Loves to Bounce (also written by Stephen) for a book design award.
Now that Stephen is working freelance, he and his wife (a photographer and graphic designer) live with their two young children and their numerous pets on a coastal island near Sydney. The beautiful natural surroundings include a river, nearby beach, and ten acres of rainforest and orchards. He loves being with his family all the time and fitting his work around them.
Nowadays Stephen works mostly in his studio, which he describes as an “architect designed shack” out the back of his house. He finds that since he has worked as an illustrator for so long, he works fairly fast, perhaps only doing two or three draughts until he is happy. However, before he puts pencil to paper, he still has to put a lot of energy into considering the characters and the mood that he has to create. People that he knows often inspire his work.
One morning in the farmyard, Piglet can’t find Mama, so she sets off to find her. One by one, Piglet meets lots of mother animals. They each offer to comfort and play with her in their own special ways. But Piglet doesn’t want to play. She wants her own mama.
Finally Piglet cries an “Oink” of dismay, and Mama hears her.
After Piglet has a comforting cuddle with her very own mama, Piglet can play all the games that she could not enjoy with the other mother animals.
Piglet and Mama is written in a simple, repetitive style. It opens with a statement of what has happened: Piglet can’t find her mama. Then Piglet looks for Mama. This part of the story has a strong, repetitive pattern. First Piglet calls for Mama, then another animal mother says that her mama is not there and offers to comfort or play with her along with their own babies, then it is stated that Piglet would rather have her own mother and she goes on looking. After this has happened several times, Piglet and Mama find each other. They have fun doing all the things that the other mothers offered to do with Piglet in the same order as they were initially presented.
At each step in the story, the same words are used to describe what happens. Each mother says “Your Mama’s not here,” and when Piglet sets off again she always calls “Mama!” This pattern reinforces the fact that Piglet cannot be distracted from the task of finding her mama and that nobody but Mama will do.
Within these familiar words, the only thing that changes is the activity that the other mothers offer to Piglet. These activities are all repeated using the same words in the second part of the story, when Piglet feels quiet differently about them. Words and phrases are also repeated at key points to reinforce the larger framework of the story. For instance, Piglet’s search begins and ends with a mournful “Oinnnk!” and the list of activities, both when Piglet does not and then does join in, end with snoozing in the sun. The two sections of the story are strongly marked in this way by, in one instance, loud oinks and in the other by the use of alliteration.
Within this strongly repetitive, rhythmic story, melodious touches are added by the words that the author has chosen. In the sections of the story that are not repeated word for word, alliteration is used to bring the words to life. For instance, Piglet sets off with a “snuffle and a snort” (p3), Horse asks Piglet to join her for a “dance in the daffodils” (p20), Cat offers her a “snooze in the sun” (p25) and when Piglet and Mama rest together they “snoozed side by side in the sun.”
The author has not used a lot of words telling us how Piglet and Mama feel. We only know from the words that Piglet is dismayed because she cries out “Oink” and calls “Mama!” Lots of room has been left for the illustrator to show us how the animals feel.
Stephen Michael King’s ink and watercolour illustrations are cartoon-like and sketchy. They make use of fresh, soft pinks, blues and yellows. Although the animals are outlined in black, the scenery, and especially the sky, lack hard edges. Details in the scenery are added in squiggly, scribbly lines. All of these features of the illustrations create a gentle and at times humorous mood.
The animals’ faces have clear, readable expressions achieved with simple lines and dots. For instance, we can clearly see the joy of the puppy rolling in the mud with its mother (p18) and the friendliness of the horse that asks Piglet to join her in a dance (p21). Touches such as the donkeys’ toothy grins (p13–14) also give each of the animals distinctive characters.
The animals’ posture also tells us a lot about how they are feeling. The duck that stretches with her wings towards Piglet, for instance, shows her motherly concern (p5). Piglet’s ears are especially expressive. When she is miserable, they droop down (p8) and when she is happy they stick up (p30). Piglet is also always seen as very small, either in relation to the landscape (p3) or to other animals (p20). This means that she seems very vulnerable and the poignancy of her being lost is more keenly felt.
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