Nothing makes me feel older than starting a sentence with, “When I was your age…” When those five excruciating words tumble out (often followed up with a wobbly, Granny-fied, “You hear that, Sonny?”), I instinctively hunch over, reach up to pat the curlers on my head, and look for a place to hang my cane. And yet, I find myself saying it all too often. “When I was your age, we only had 5 channels on our TV!” “When I was your age, there was no such thing as texting or touch screens!” “When I was your age, I had to ride my bike to the LIBRARY (in the pouring rain, of course) to look up answers to my questions. The word GOOGLE meant NOTHING! And the librarian probably didn’t know what Taylor Swift’s favorite ice cream flavor was, either. You would have had to live your whole life NEVER KNOWING the answer to that question!!!”
Our kids are certainly going to school in a different world than we did. When my son was in fourth grade, he came home complaining about having to learn cursive. Fine motor skills have never been his forte (this is a kid who couldn’t tie his shoes until the second grade!), so I wasn’t surprised he was struggling. “They should just teach us typing, instead,” he said. Huh. Not a bad point. I tried to think of the last time I sent a handwritten note to someone. A card perhaps, for an occasion, like a birthday or a thank you, but even then I scribbled something down in my own personal Amy Font, some print-script hybrid that is completely legible, but far from proper handwriting. So when Josh asked, “WHY do we have to learn this?” I didn’t have a good answer. So of course I went with, “Well, when I was your age, this is what we did. You hear that, Sonny?”
It’s not just technology that is changing the landscape of our kids’ education. The stories they’re reading are changing, too. Like our kids, they are becoming more sophisticated. And while I sometimes long for the simplicity of The Poky Little Puppy, I cannot deny the appeal of that pesky Pigeon who wants to drive the bus, or the polite bear who can’t seem to find his hat. So today, I bring you a book that has taken a classic story, something we read when we were their age, and given it an irresistible twist.
In Corey Rosen Schwartz’s THE THREE NINJA PIGS, we meet three pig siblings who are done being bullied by the big bad wolf. They decide to take matters into their own hands and train as ninjas so that they can defeat him. Told in amazingly perfect rhyme, this fresh take on an old folktale makes a super fun read-aloud. And while these pigs find their mojo in the dojo, the story carries the same message as the original: hard work and perseverance really do pay off in the end.
THE THREE NINJA PIGS
Written By: Corey Rosen Schwartz
Illustrated By: Dan Santat
Published By: Putnam Juvenile, 2012
Topics/Themes: Ninjas, Martial Arts, Update on a Classic, Perseverance
Once upon a dangerous time,
a wolf loved to huff and to puff.
He’d go around town
and blow houses down
till three little pigs cried,
Synopsis: (from jacketflap) “Why do wolves think they can come to town and blow all the houses down? These three pigs just aren’t going to take it! The first starts aikido lessons – he’ll make mincemeat out of that wolf! His brother learns a little jujitsu – he’ll chop that guy to pieces! But when the wolf actually appears, it turns out these two pigs aren’t quite ready after all. Good thing their sister has been training every day to master some serious karate moves. KIYA!”
How to Use this Book with Your Kids: There are so many directions you could go with this story! First off, it makes a great basic introduction to martial arts. There is a glossary in the back that covers the terms (gi, anyone?) used in the book. I also think it would be really cool to read the original version of the story and then compare it to this one. This page, from the University of Pittsburgh, even has links to the folktale as told in many different cultures. The author has a great resource guide for elementary school ages on her website here. It includes fun activities like rhyming games and making origami ninja stars. And if you wish to go a little deeper with your kids, it has some great discussion questions that address the issue of bullying.
Why I Like this Book: This is actually not a book that my kids would naturally gravitate toward. My youngest 3 are all girls, and tend toward the pink and princessy when it comes to picture books. In an effort to give them a more rounded experience with girls in books, I picked this one up and was delighted by what I found. I love so much that it is the sister who works hard to earn her belts, and in the end (spoiler alert!) is the one able to defeat the wolf. On top of that, the book is just so well-written. There are no stumbling-over-the-awkward-rhyme-moments in this one. It flows seamlessly, and with words like KIYA! to call out along the way, it couldn’t be a more fun read. And Dan Santat’s illustrations depict these kick-butt piggies perfectly. These are certainly not your Granny’s three little pigs, and that is a good thing.
(For more information, hop on your bike and head to the library. Librarians do actually still exist, and they might even know a karate-chopping pig’s favorite ice cream flavor.)
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