June’s Big Picture
What If, Pig?
written and illus. by Linzie Hunter
Pig is just about the best friend Mouse could ever have; he’s kind, fun, and generous and everyone likes him. It’s therefore no surprise that thoughtful Pig invites everyone to a great party, complete with “top tunes,” decorations, and snacks on sticks (“NO sausages”). Now that the “fancy invitations” are in the mail, though, Pig has a problem, a terrible secret he’s been hiding: Pig is “a tremendous worrier. A porky panicker! A proper nervous Nelly,” and he’s convinced the party will end in disaster. Like any worrywart worth their salt, Pig catastrophizes a wealth of tragedies (What if a lion eats all the guests? What if there’s a blizzard? What if everyone comes and has an awful time?), at last reaching a fever pitch that many listeners may know well: “What if . . . no one really likes me at all?” Can Mouse assuage Pig’s fears and convince him that their friends truly do love him?
Hunter’s picture book will draw its audience with vibrant colors, oh-so-adorable characters, and plenty of silliness; her digital art features bold character designs unencumbered by outlines that pop off of solid or lightly textured backgrounds, with doodle-esque accessories adding to their charm (Pig, for instance, sports a pair of glasses and frequently wears a transparent party hat). Background details such as Pig’s party supply list, intermittently appearing donuts, and conversations among partygoers make for delightful surprises for more astute viewers. The book truly shines, though, in conveying Pig’s anxiety. Hunter employs hand-lettering for the text, twisting the words around Pig as he spirals into despair, shrinking sentences to show embarrassment, situating text between gloomy tree trunks as Pig hesitantly asks Mouse, “What if I always feel sad?” Shifting fonts make for an easy guide for less experienced readers-aloud, encouraging changes of pitch, volume, and even character voices to fit with the energetic lettering. As Pig grows more and more despondent and his worrying changes from elaborate fantasy to palpable despair, the book transitions to a focus on the world around Pig and Mouse, with forest green and blue-gray replacing earlier pinks, oranges, and teals; backgrounds become more detailed and realistic, and foliage and nearby birds are brought into focus to suggest Pig’s gentle ascent back to the real world. It’s a subtle change that slows the jovial pace, allowing both listener and Pig to sit with his concerns and reflect on their own. A page turn and a step into a clearing reveals a surprise party Mouse and friends have planned for Pig, and the partygoers begin to share fears big, small, and comically absurd (states a nebulous, bi-pedal creature, “I worry that no one can tell I’m a horse”).
In this silly second cousin to Charlotte Agell’s Maybe Tomorrow, Pig’s struggle serves as a clear, approachable introduction to anxiety and imposter syndrome that may come in handy for older readers as much as little ones. Seeing Pig supported and accepted by his community for all his worrying ways puts a sweet finish on this charming tale. Even sweeter is Mouse’s encouragement when Pig realizes he has “the kindest, most generous and fun friends a pig could meet.” This is certain to please at storytime or more intimate readings, and it may result in a fair share of great parties. (See p. 427 for publication information.)
Kiri Palm, Reviewer
Image from What If, Pig? © 2021 by Linzie Hunter, reproduced by permission of HarperCollins.
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