After a decade’s hiatus, Pig Pig Returns to the picture-book stage with a cross-country trip in the company of his aunt and uncle, tackling separation anxiety in the process, then just having a fine old time with the boulder that looks like an elephant and the hole-that-goes-to-China. “He's having so much fun that there's nothing to be anxious about…As in previous Pig Pig stories, McPhail accurately and humanely addresses a universal concern,” we said in our review. Here, author David McPhail talks about bringing Pig Pig back, pigs as muses and road tripping.
Pig Pig’s been around, to readers’ delight, for many years. You mention that after “five books I thought that he was gone forever.” Like Sherlock Holmes, he has made a triumphant return. Why?
Well, thank you, but “triumphant return” are your words, not mine. That is not to say I'm not happy to see the little porker back, because I am delighted. I owe most of the credit to my editor, Yolanda Scott, who pretty much insisted that I resurrect him. Plus, she gave me the title. I think it's absolutely perfect.
I want to say that I never had any intention of doing more than one Pig Pig book. Pig Pig Grows Up was that book. But because it achieved some mild success, my editor asked me to do another, then another, until there were five. It has been 10 years since the last one. There are probably people who will read Pig Pig Returns to their young children who had Pig Pig Grows Up read to them. That makes me smile.
There are many creatures in your menagerie. But pigs—what is it about our porcine comrades that moves you so?
I think that Saturday cartoons, especially Porky Pig, influenced me a lot. Mostly, though, it was reading Charlotte's Web to my children, when I was around 30, that sealed the deal. Those drawings of Wilbur, by Garth Williams, were unforgettable.
Why no father in Pig Pig?
Good question. I mean, I had a father, though he was often at work even before I got up to go to school, and he would still be at work after I'd gone to bed. On his only day off, he slept till noon, which I resented. Then we—I have three siblings—usually took a “family excursion” in the car to someplace I didn't care about.
I think all I wanted was some time alone with my dad, but rarely got it. So, basically, I grew up without a father.
On the other hand, his mother is a wonderfully nurturing creature. Would you say that she is to Pig Pig as Pig Pig is to his readers, a force of encouragement?
What I like about Pig Pig's mother, besides her presence, is that she listens. And she knows him. Not in some take-for-granted way, but in a way that shows she gets such a kick out of him. Yes, she is nurturing, but not smothering and not coddling. He is her precious child, of course, but her treatment of him is not precious.
She feels, strongly, that it would do him good to go on this trip with his aunt and uncle, but she also understands his hesitancy and helps him overcome it. After all, what does he know about the wider world without some experience of it?
In previous books, I have expected her to hear what he says, and also hear what he means. Yes, she is a great mom.
Other than those dreaded “family excursions,” did you ever do summer road trips like Pig Pig? The attractions he visits—the soda-can house, the three-legged chicken—have the ring of familiarity.
I'm a nerd—or, as one of my children insists, a “goober,” which, as far as I can tell, is a combination of nerd, dork, doofus… Anyway, I always did enjoy such things, and still do. For example, in 2004, I bought a little sports car and headed out on a road trip across the country. It was an amazing experience. I stuck mostly to back roads and small towns. And, whenever I was near any such attraction, I was there! I remember…the Corn Museum, built entirely of corncobs. Don't get much better'n that, I tell you.
And will the little beast return again, now that he has returned?
Let me express a word of thanks to Charlesbridge, particularly my editor and art director, who not only were willing to give Pig Pig a new life but went way beyond that and expressed their faith in him by asking me to do another Pig Pig book. Pig Pig Meets the Lion is finished and ready to greet the world next spring.