Monday, August 26, 2013

danyelle recommends The Adventures of a South Pole Pig by Chris Kurtz

You know that oft-repeated bit of parenting advice, If your child refuses a certain food, continue to offer it to him and he may develop a taste for it?  Well, although no amount of exposure has helped me develop a taste for mushrooms--no way, no how--I have found that advice to be helpful for not only picky eaters, but for picky readers, as well.  Continue to offer (and sample) a variety of books and before long you'll have a reader with expanded reading tastes.  But, here's my confession:  Besides detesting supposedly-edible fungus, I am also not a fan of talking-animal books.  I can't quite put my finger on the reason for that--after all, it's not as though they have an unbearably squishy texture--but generally, books with animals that talk end up at the bottom of my to-read stack.  So, here we are in August, and I have just gotten around to reading the January release, The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, featuring Flora, a talking pig.

Flora lives with her mother and her brothers in a cage; well, not actually a cage, as her mother points out, "It's a pigpen." (1)  But, it's all the same to Flora who longs to see new things and have adventures.  More than anything, Flora wants to be a part of a dog sled team, so when an opportunity to get out of her pen and join the dogs presents itself, Flora takes it.

Flora tells the story with her consistently upbeat voice and positive attitude.  As she heads to Antarctica believing she will be a sled dog, readers understand that she is being taken on the voyage as food.  This irony creates some amusing situations like the time Flora is chained in the ship's hold, and yet she persuades herself to hold on to her dream.
"Was it possible . . . could she be the precious cargo?  Being put down here had to have something to do with being special.  Or maybe it had to do with the training a sled pig needed.  Yes, that was it!" (90)
With a couple of unlikely friends, Flora discovers how "adventure comes to those who choose it but turns into trouble quick if you don't know how to land on your feet." (46)  And through all that adventure and trouble, she refuses to give up.

Plenty of action that moves the plot along quickly and clever humor that rises above silliness will hold young readers' interest.  But, the best thing about the story is the characters.  Yep, that's right, it's the talking animals:  Oscar, a dog who is "more than a dog"; Sophia, a cat who changes her solitary ways; and Flora, who tries "hard not to be too piglike." (257)  Flora's optimism and her enthusiasm for new experiences make her an irresistible character and make this a book that I'll be re-reading, this time to my kids.

Move this book to the top of your to-read stack today.

The Adventures of a South Pole Pig: A novel of snow and courage
by Chris Kurtz
illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
January 2013
Recommended for ages 7-12

*Chapter 2 makes a great book talk.
**A great read-aloud scene is at the end of chapter 35 when Flora and Oscar talk about sled dogs being "a little crazy".  See pages 259-260.


  1. I have been looking at this one, but how many talking animal books can you have? If it is really that good, I am going to have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Talking animal books are not my favorite either, but my 9 year old loves them. Good to know this will not be a painful pre-read.