All great books that unfortunately bear the dubious label of `children's literature” are subversive. They have to be, or they won't survive at all, as they are caught in a continual crossfire of adult's intentions and children's resistance.
Somewhere between those siege lines of kid/adult mentality exists a magical, liminal realm wherein self-transformation is celebrated as the overarching virtue. This realm harbors the very best of children's literature. The only true evil in children's literature is the failure of self-transformation. If you forget the spell, lose the password, misplace your wand, betray your familiar, break your oath—you can die or, even worse, become an adult, a curse than can last forever.
The goal of children's literature is to not to create immature adults but immortal kids.
Enter David Weisner's The Three Pigs, a new perspective on the classic tale about the dangers of substandard housing and windy wolves. When Weisner's wolf shows up and blows the first beautifully drawn little pig out of his house of straw, he inadvertently blasts the pig right out of the story's picture framework and out of the accompanying text! The pig lands in the white space between illustrations—and lives! Far from being literally `marginalized,” the first pig is now free to run amok throughout the book, urging the other pigs to abandon their contrived story-book destinies as wolf-food or heavily-mortgaged owners of ugly brick houses, and instead enter other fables and bedtime stories.
These pigs now `live” in Weisner's (and in our) imagination. They have departed from the classic tale itself (which keeps spinning out on the pages like an old movie projector running in the background) and they can do anything they want. They glide about on a paper airplane which they make from the abandoned and now folded-up text and illustrations of the original Three Little Pigs tale. These adventuresome swine meet and liberate other fated storybook creatures—and who knows where this will end up?
See how wonderfully subversive children's literature can be? Is Weisner's The Three Pigs primarily intended for adults so that they will not accept their fates and kill their imagination? Or is he simply telling children how to survive a hand-me-down world by slipping out into their own `white space” of wonder and creativity? Maybe he is promising both, but in the end, simply celebrating the artistic license to provoke and entertain both children and adults at the same time?
This version of Three Little Pigs will delight for years to come. Indeed, The Three Pigs contains practically everything you will study in college-level philosophy courses [e.g., the limits of language and sensory perception to contain/describe/transform `reality”] yet with gorgeously illustrated pictures, which you never seem to find in college textbooks, sadly enough [and that's why they are being supplanted by laptops maybe?].
All I know is that if Weisner's The Three Pigs doesn't win a Caldecott for the remarkable illustrations, well, then, I'll just huff, and puff and blow it right into everyone's home anyway!
© Copyright 2001 by KNS Maré