________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 1 . . . . September 3, 1999

cover Once Upon a Breath: The Story of a Wolf, 3 Pigs & Asthma.

Aaron Zevy. Illustrated by Susan Tebbutt.
Downsview, ON: Tumbleweed Press (Dist. by McClelland & Stewart Inc.), 1998.
37 pp., pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 0-9680678-1-6.

Subject Headings:
Asthmatics-Juvenile literature.
Asthma in children-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool - grade 2 / Ages 3 - 7.
Review by Mary Thomas.

** /4

The thing any child remembers of the story of the three little pigs is the exchange:

"Little pig, little pig! Let me come in!"
"Not by the hair of your chinny chin-chin!"
"Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!"
image This version of the story includes the charm the requisite three times, in spite of the fact that B.B. (for Big Bad) Wolf is not attempting to eat the piglets, but merely to educate them about the fact that their polluting life style is contributing to his asthma. The pigs don't care - they vroom their car with the broken exhaust pipe past B.B. in the street, smuggle their pet cats into the night club where he plays a cool jazz saxophone, and blow ragweed pollen at him as he is about to shoot the winning basket in his ball game. B.B.'s crusading spirit makes him hunt them down in their "pad" where the three of them are "just jamming, strumming their guitars and banging their bongo," and, when they not only won't let him in, but jeer at his threat to blow their house down because they know he has asthma, he just has to show them. Afterwards, however, he magnanimously hires them to be part of his night club act and lets them live in his spare room while everyone cooperates in the rebuilding of their house.
     All of which goes to show that you can't keep an asthmatic wolf from doing what he really wants to do, provided he takes sensible precautions against the things which can trigger his attacks and takes his medicines as required. If this sounds a bit like a tract put out by a drug company, well, it is not too surprising, since that is exactly what it is. Glaxco Wellcome and Shoppers Drug Mart have sponsored the writing of this picture book, and it shows. If, however, I had a young child with asthma constantly saying, "Mummy, why can't I do...?," I would welcome this story which might enable me to lighten up on some of the inevitable refusals with a few huffings and puffings. Whether it would appeal to a wider audience I rather doubt. The illustrations are interesting, very colourful and fun, though the same adjectives can be applied, rather less favourably, to the text, where the variegated calligraphic styles and randomly coloured letters occasionally make the words difficult to read.
     All in all it is a picture book which is useful, rather than wonderful, but certainly well worth having if your child or your child's friend or school mate has a difficulty such as asthma, or, by extension, some other limiting handicap. "If B.B. can cope, so can you!"

Recommended with reservations.

Mary Thomas is presently on leave from her job in various elementary school libraries in Winnipeg, MB, but is looking forward to returning for the next school year.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364