THE SHEEP PIG
by DICK KING-SMITH
Reviewed by Miss Walsh
STAR RATING: ⭐⭐⭐
RECOMMENDED YEAR GROUP: 3/4
INTERESTS: pigs! Sheep, sheepdogs, farm animals, farms, competitions
THEMES: self-belief, individuality, family, adoption, growing up, respect
IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU’LL LOVE:
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White,
Junkyard Jack and The Horse That Talked by Adrian Edmondson
MY THOUGHTS: a much-loved classic worthy of the accolade
Somehow I’ve never actually read The Sheep-Pig until now; I had, however, seen the film adaptation, Babe, so had some preconceived ideas. The book is remarkably similar to the film (a rare occurrence I find!) and tells a heart-warming tale of an orphaned piglet finding his identity and following his dream.
Babe is won from the local fair by Farmer Hoggett, a man of few words, and is intended for Christmas dinner in several months time. The pig is taken under the wing of the farm’s sheepdog, Fly, who is also rearing a litter of puppies. The puppies are sold one by one until only Babe is left and so Fly continues to mother him. He soon picks up her teachings and is mimicking her sheepdog ways increasingly accurately. He develops his own distinctive style, though opting to use manners and conversation where Fly uses force and command as she believes all sheep are stupid. Noticing the pig’s talent, Farmer Hoggett puts him to work and soon develops a liking for the piglet which, quite literally, saves Babe’s bacon. Babe continues to prove his worth when the sheep are endangered by sheep wranglers and he prevents a much more serious outcome from occurring. Farmer Hoggett increases Babe’s work and is soon deliberately training him for the upcoming sheepdog trials. Can Babe’s skill and determination compete with the natural born sheep herders he will face?
I enjoyed reading this story and it holds some lovely messages throughout. Babe doesn’t let the fact he is not a sheepdog stop him from pursuing it, showing if you want something enough and work hard for it you can achieve great things. His attitude towards the sheep is a lovely example of ignoring stereotypes and treating all other creatures equally and with respect. Considering how closely it matches the film, it would make a great book for part of a film and playscript unit. You could go really cross-curricular with it and have the children design their own sheepdog trial course in P.E and compete for the fastest time. It could also lead to an interesting lesson on accents and dialects as Farmer and Mrs Hoggett’s speech is written in ‘farmer talk’, a good opportunity for drama and certainly expression and intonation!
Being a ‘proper’ farming story however it does frequently use the correct terminology for a female dog when referring to Fly. This would obviously be something to bear in mind knowing your children and parents.