________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 14. . . .March 6, 2009


Fred and the Pig Race. (First Novels; #61).

Marie-Danielle Croteau. Illustrated by Bruno St.-Aubin. Translated by Sarah Cummins.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2007.
64 pp., pbk. & hc., $5.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-88780-731-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-88780-733-6 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Swine-Juvenile fiction.
Racing-Juvenile fiction.
Agriculture-Competitions-Juvenile fiction.
Truth-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Tristin Burrows.

** /4



Homer galloped at a breakneck pace. We squeezed between the other pigs and then we were ahead of them, at the front of the pack. The commentator was yelling into the microphone, "What a sprint ladies and gentlemen!"


Fred and the Pig Race is a beginner chapter book about a young boy who embarks on a wild pig-riding adventure. Fred is anxious over the all-too-familiar chocolate selling school fundraiser. After Fred succumbs to peer pressure and takes more chocolates than he could possibly sell, the story begins with Fred in a panic. The one silver lining for Fred is that the Whippy Corners Agricultural Fair is around the corner, and Fred's visiting his friend William at his family farm will be a welcome change of scenery for Fred. Fred's mother advises him to sell his chocolates at the agricultural fair. Problem solved. Or so Fred thinks.

internal art     When Fred arrives at the farm, he realizes that the stakes at this year's fair are quite high for William and his family. If William can jockey the family's prized pig, Homer, through the finish line, the Marshall family will win a much needed new tractor. Unfortunately William eats too much at the local fair and winds up with a stomach ache and is unable to ride Homer. Inexperienced Fred rises to the occasion, but he uses some questionable strategies in ensuring his big win.

      Fred and the Pig Race is an adequate introduction to the genre of beginner chapter books. The language is clearly written, and chapters are concise. Although the book has humorous moments that may appeal to young readers, (mud baths and pig racing to name a couple), the plot and characters are lacklustre. Also, the story, itself, seems disconnected from the proposed honesty theme of the book.

      The 'always tell the truth' motto seems to be thrown in as an afterthought once Fred admits that he had fed Homer his collection of chocolate bars in order to ensure victory. Fred doesn't seem to struggle with the idea of feeding the pig chocolate or with the decision to tell the truth. The lack of tension surrounding both Fred's moral dilemma and race-winning tactics makes the 'honesty is the best policy' theme see like it's coming out of left field.

      Characters are predictable and fail to jump off the page with any liveliness. Characters lack the development that would have readers rooting for their success. The illustrations that appear every chapter or so infuse the book with charming portrayals of the characters and, of course, the prize-winning pig. Although the clear language, linear story line and length may allow for successful reading progress, the book lacked imagination and likable characters.

Recommended with reservations.

Tristin Burrows, an elementary school teacher with a passion for literature, lives in Winnipeg, MB, with her dog, Bruin.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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