Date: Tuesday, 11th of June 2013
The Sheep-pig is one of Dick King-Smith’s most famous tales. It shot to further fame when the film adaptation – Babe – was released in 1995.
‘Why can’t I learn to be a Sheep-Pig?’
When Babe, the little orphaned piglet, is won at a fair by Farmer Hogget, he is adopted by Fly, the kind-hearted sheep-dog. Babe is determined to learn everything he can from Fly. He knows he can’t be a sheep-dog. But maybe, just maybe, he might be a sheep-pig.
Dick King-Smith served in the Grenadier Guards during the Second World War, and afterwards spent twenty years as a farmer in Gloucestershire, the country of his birth. Many of his stories are inspired by his farming experiences. He wrote a great number of children’s books, including The Sheep-Pig (winner of the Guardian Award and filmed as Babe), Harry’s Mad, Noah’s Brother, The Queen’s Nose, Martin’s Mice, Ace, The Cuckoo Child and Harriet’s Hare (winner of the Children’s Book Award in 1995). In 2009 he was made an OBE for services to children’s literature. Dick King-Smith died in 2011 at the age of eighty-eight.
Babe is a sensitive soul, deeply loyal to those who are kind to him. So when he is taken in by Farmer Hogget’s sheepdog, Fly, it’s only natural that he would want to follow in his foster mum’s paw-steps.
Even with Babe’s considerable handicaps as a sheepdog – namely, that he’s a pig – he manages to overcome all with his earnestly polite and soft-spoken ways, proving once again that might doesn’t always make right. After saving the sheep from rustlers and wild dogs, Babe convinces Hogget that his idea of becoming a sheep-pig “b’aint so stupid” as it might look. But neither Hogget nor Babe, nor anyone else, could have predicted what follows.
As utterly charming as Charlotte’s Web, this book is bound to pluck even the tightest heartstrings. Masterful characterization brings every personality to vibrant life, while Mary Rayner’s lively line illustrations only elucidate images Dick King-Smith has already planted in the reader’s mind. Herd the whole farmyard together: readers of all ages, ambitions, and antecedents will love this one.
I can’t believe this story is 30 years old!!!
The story begins in the house of Mrs Hogget and Farmer Hogget hearing the sounds of the fair deep from the Valley. It is There that Farmer Hogget first encounters Babe.
After dropping off some produce he hears a squealing noise and discovers it is coming from Babe. A small creature making so much noise all for a competition to guess its weight. The Vicar persuades Farmer Hoggart to have a go and guess his weight and the moment he picks Babe up there is a connection, He goes quiet. Later in the day Farmer Hoggart is told he has ‘won’ Babe. He returns and places him in the barn not sure what to do with him other than his wife thinking he’ll make a great meal for Christmas.
This is where the story begins. Alone and afraid, Babe’s first encounter with another animal is with Fly and her pups. The pups are told ‘pigs are stupid because people only eat stupid animals like, sheep and pigs’. This is because Fly has never encountered a pig and didn’t want to appear ignorant to her children. Our first lesson of judging a book by its cover.
It is not until she speaks to Babe and realises he scared and lonely from being separated from his Mum and takes him under her wing that she builds a relationship and following the loss of her pups to other farms, that she discovers how intelligent the little pig is and what he can achieve.
The same goes with the encounter with the sheep. When Fly is showing Babe how to bring them back, she believes they are stupid when in fact they just get a bit confused at the orders being shouted and would much prefer it they were all as polite as babe and treat them ‘ a bit decent’, then they would do as they were asked. A bit of common courtesy goes a long way.
In this story Babe has to show courage, strength and loyalty to his foster mum, the farmer and bravery against all odds. It’s about how one little animal/person can have such an immense impact on everyone’s lives. He changed the animal’s/people’s views about others and proved to everyone that anything is possible no matter who you are or what you look like.
This was the second choice for LBCPuffins, a well known story, made famous by the film Babe released in 1995. To be honest I didn’t know the film was based on a book until it was pointed out at the last meeting. I have always loved the film especially when the mice pop up and did think that they would in the book, but of course they don’t.
With all children’s books; they take out all the unnecessary fillers and just create a beautiful story that can be told again and again. This one exceeded that with masterful characterization which brought every personality to life in such a way you forgot they were animals.
Dick King-Smith wrote this story after becoming inspired by his farming experience and what an amazing idea to portray a lovely message. The group believed that he was trying to say that the story was about not being prejudice about other people because of their appearances, as in the sheep dog accepting Babe as one of her own, and to always be polite to others. It also was a very positive story and that when people believe in you like the farmer did in ‘pig’ aka Babe, it shows how confidence can grow, when believing in yourself.
Again, as mentioned in other reviews, we went back to the subject of film adaptations from books, and couldn’t quite decide which was better. There were slight differences, which I’ll leave for you to spot, but the lovely thing about this book is the illustrations. Illustrations can be a huge positive for a book sometimes and can break the story up. These were created by Ann Kronheimer and one of my favourites was the diagram of the sheep dog trials or ‘pig’ chasing the animals and barking.
Once again I love the idea of this book club – adult reading kids books. I think reading is an amazing gift and once in a while we need to take a break from our busy lives and read children’s books as sometimes the stories can still have an impact – though not necessarily be as intense as an adult’s book, This such a heart warming story that can make you look at the world in a different way.
I highly recommend it to everyone; I think it’s one that will stay with me for a while.
To find other members of the club, search on twitter for #LBCPuffins
And don’t hesitate to contact Outlaws on @whiteswanleeds
Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at email@example.com