This blog is a continuation of a class assignment for the TWU course 5603, Literature for Children and Young Adults. Subsequent entries are for TWU course 5653, Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults. The new entries are for TWU course 5663, Poetry for Children and Young Adults.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Three Little Cajun Pigs By Mike Artell Illustrated by Jim Harris

Three Little Cajun Pigs
by Mike Artell

cover image retrieved from

Artell, Mike. 2006. THREE LITTLE CAJUN PIGS. Dial. New York. ISBN-13: 978-0803728158

Plot Summary
Trosclair, Thibodeaux, and Ulysse have a dilemma: Mama says it’s time for them to be out on their own. As the trio of piglets packs up and moves out, they must find suitable housing.  Trosclair discovers straw free for the taking, so he quickly grabs his share and begins a little house. Further down the road, Thibodeaux stumbles upon free sticks. He gladly takes the offer and puts together a neat little stick house. Ulysse, the oldest and presumably wisest, sees the need for a home of sturdier construction. He lucks into some free bricks and sets out to build a solid dwelling. Before long, Ol’ Claude, the gator gets wind of his new neighbors and decides to pay them a visit, hoping to feast on little piggie for supper. With his mighty gator tail he makes short work of the houses of straw and sticks, but fails to capture the piggie he desires. He follows their scent to Ulysse’s house, only to be net by formidable bricks. Ol’ Claude quickly opts for the chimney, though a clumsy gator is not meant for climbing! Fortunately, Ulysse has been making a roux to get his dinner started. The piggies feed the fire as Ol Claude begins his descent. Claude’s tail soon starts to scorch and the gator is stuck. The little piggies take mercy on him, drag him out of the chimney and send him on his way. In the end, all of our characters learn a valuable lesson about planning, preparation, and sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong!

Critical Analysis
This hilarious rendition of the classic Three Little Pigs story is vibrant and alive, with rich Cajun vocabulary. A glossary at the front of the book helps the reader to understand some terms that may not be familiar, such as roux, mon ami, and couchon de lait. Pronunciations are also offered for the vocabulary and the classic Cajun names of our main characters: Trosclair, Thibodeaux, and Ulysse (who bears the endearing nickname “Boo.”) The glossary also includes a guide to the rhyme scheme of the book, which is very helpful as the reader attempts the unfamiliar territory of Cajun-ese.

Reading this book aloud definitely facilitates understanding it. Readers familiar with the traditional tale of the Three Little Pigs will know the basic plot details. All are faithfully kept here, but the infusion of “Cajun-speak” makes it a bit more challenging. Once the reader gets the basic rhythm of the text down, the story unfolds with delightful alterations from the classic tale. Cajun flavor is rich in this text, with a glimpse into life in bayou for the reader. The author’s dedication reads, “For dem folds south of I-10 who know how to pass a good time.” A good time certainly is had by all who journey to “south Loo-siana, where gators grow big.”

Youngsters attempting to read this on their own might be overcome by the vocabulary and slang spellings throughout the story. While this book is designated as a K-3 reader, not many kids in that range that I know of would be able to pull off reading and understanding this on their own. Readers of all ages will be captivated by the clever variations, though, with a little time and effort devoted to reading it. The plot is well-developed, true to the traditional tale, and obvious in its portrayal of good/bad, wise/unwise, and bullish/merciful.

Enhancing the enchanting story are the colorful illustrations of Jim Harris. Harris has illustrated many children’s books, and captures the fun and frivolity of this tale. Harris is known for his inclusion of a spry little mouse inserted onto each picture. The little critter shows up faithfully here, as well, adding humor in tiny doses. Harris uses tiny details to infuse humor into each illustration. As Mama Pig informs the “brudders” they will have to move out, she is standing with curlers in her hair and a “Room for Rent” sign under her arm. Each of the signs the pigs come upon offering free building materials are also quietly humorous. Facial expressions of the characters are priceless. Readers will want to spend time pouring over the art to capture the details that extend this entertaining story. Harris skillfully uses lines, angles, and color palette to contribute to the action of each scene.  He knows his trade well, and connects with readers to add true value to the book.

Review Excerpts

From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3–A hilarious version of the familiar tale. The pigs are named Trosclair, Thibodeaux, and Ulysse (also know as Boo), and their antagonist is Ol' Claude, the alligator of Petite Rouge infamy (Dial, 2001.) … Harris's amusing watercolor-and-pencil illustrations mirror the text with élan; they are full of funny details that beg to be looked at again and again (the little mouse is also back). Although Cajun variations on folktales are becoming plentiful, this one should not be missed.–Judith Constantinides, formerly at East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA
Review retrieved from

Hilarious rhymes lend to read-aloud and zany drawings by Jim Harris bring to life a vivid remake of a classic.  Midwest Book Review Feb. 2007 

*     This story provides great opportunities to practice using context clues to figure out the meaning of unknown words. When reading aloud to a class or a small group of kids, extend the page-by-page discussion by highlighting or pointing out unfamiliar words, such as the many Cajun words that give the story flavor. Encourage students to use other words on the page, the illustrations, and prior knowledge of the Three Little Pigs classic version to determine probable meaning of the unfamiliar words.
*     Share several variations of the classic Three Little Pigs story. After identifying basic story elements, ask children to create their own version using the stem The Three Little ________ and the Big Bad ___________.
*     Compare variations of this classic tale. Have students create a Venn Diagram or Double Bubble Thinking Map to compare and contrast two or three versions.
*     This story would make a wonderful Reader’s Theater. Students can works in small groups to plan the script, costumes, and props to present this story to other members of the class or another class.
*     Other books written by Mike Artell:
The Wackiest Ecology Riddles on Earth (with Beverly Armstrong)
Fun with Expressions
Big Long Animal Song
The Wackiest Nature Riddles on Earth
How to Create Picture Books
Who Said Moo?
‘Twas the Night before Christmas
The Earth and Me
Hidden Pictures
Weather Whys
Writing Start-Ups
Write Fast-Write Funny
Legs: A Who’s under the Flap Book
 Parties Kids Love
Rainy Day Recess
Classroom Cartooning for the Artistically Challenged
Starry Skies
Awesome Alphabets
Little Giant Book of Tongue Twisters
Backyard Bloodsuckers
Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood
I See Some Squares
Where Are the Triangles?
My Pet
I See Circles
When I Say …
Cartooning for Kids
Oodles of Doodles
Three Little Cajun Pigs
Giggle Fit
Really Weird Trilogy
Who Said “Moo?”
Write Fast, Write Funny
*     Other books illustrated by Jim Harris:
Dinosaur’s Night Before Christmas
Ten Little Dinosaurs
Ten Little Puppies
Three Little Dinosaurs
The Treasure Hunter
Towns Down Underground
The Tortoise and the Jackrabbit
The Three Little Javelinas
Three Little Cajun Pigs
Petite Rouge
Goose and the Mountain Lion
Jack and the Giant
Bible ABC
Mystery in Bigtown
Slim and Miss Prim
The Trouble with Cauliflower
Jacques and the Beanstalk 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jill...just ran across your review of my book, THREE LITTLE CAJUN PIGS. Thanks for the kind words.

    Mike Artell