A mischievous pig gets into all sorts of trouble in a mildly amusing animal fantasy.
Martha begins life ignominiously as the runt of the litter. Her brothers and sisters push her aside at mealtimes, further stunting her growth and deepening her hunger. But Aunt Kate is quick to notice that Martha isn’t growing as a healthy pig should. The kind-hearted woman takes a shine to Martha and begins hand-feeding her plump pink shrimp while the others are left to plow through an unsavory blend of scraps and leftovers. Simple humorous illustrations include an obvious nod to Charlotte’s Web: Martha stands in the barnyard door, a spider’s web stretched across one corner. But any similarities between Vosper’s Martha and the children’s classic end here. The adorable hot pink pig depicted in illustrations of baby Martha soon gives way to portraits of a big, bossy and remarkably less-adorable hog. Martha’s antics soon get her into trouble with her fellow farm animals and the doting Aunt Kate. Tom the Turkey doesn’t appreciate Martha’s merciless teasing; she constantly pesters him by pulling at his tail feathers with her teeth. Nor is Aunt Kate impressed with the once vulnerable Martha after the pig goes on a rampage and ruins her backyard party. Aunt Kate’s crime? She forgot to feed Martha her customary shrimp dinner in the frenzy of preparations. A subsequent scene in which Martha attacks a grumpy bull by grabbing at his throat is particularly jarring and inappropriately violent for the book’s intended audience of preschool readers. Why Martha’s destructiveness and selfishness are tolerated for so long is unclear; her behavior toward the other barn animals is, for the most part, so mean-spirited that there is little to endear her to the reader.
Despite generic prose and plot, Martha the Pig contains at least a smile or two.