________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 3 . . . . September 29, 2006


Pigboy. (Orca Currents).

Vicki Grant.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
101 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55143-643-4 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55143-666-3 (cl.).

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Saache Heinrich.

***½ /4

Reviewed from prepublication copy.


“I'm going out,” I said.

I loved the way that sounded. It was just like what the heroes say in war movies right before they hurl themselves out of the plane. I felt like I should wink and say something like, “See you around, guys” and be really cool about it – but who was I kidding? I wasn't cool. I'd just sound like an idiot.

Instead I said, “I'll try and do something. Like stop him or something. If you keep working at the hole, maybe you guys can get out too.”

Shane said, “Yeah. Thanks. We'll try.” He didn't look too confident. He must have known it would take at least an hour to make a hole big enough for him to get through.

I pushed out through the roof. It was a tight squeeze even for me – and I was the scrawniest kid in my class, by a mile. I got my head and shoulders out, but the rough edges of the hole scraped my belly and got caught on my pants. I pulled and squirmed, but it didn't do any good. I was stuck. Time was ticking away. I did what I had to do.

I used my feet to rub my shoes off. I unzipped my pants.

Of course this was not the day that I chose to wear the boxers that my half sister gave me for Christmas. Like I said, I'm not a lucky person. This was the day I was wearing the tighty-whities that my mother always gets me. The pair I had on was about five years old and practically see-through.

Pigboy is an engaging story of a bullied boy whose class takes a day trip to a remote heritage farm. The class arrives at the farm expecting to meet Mr. van Wart, a Dutch farmer, but when he finally makes an appearance, it isn't an older man in farmer hat and overalls. Instead, it's a tattoo-knuckled, head-shaven, less-than-friendly Mr. van Wart who is seemingly caught off-guard by their arrival. The reader may soon realize that something is amiss when Mr. van Wart takes the class on a tour of the farm and becomes confrontational to the teacher. When the two leave the room to have a ‘chat' outside, Ms Creaser doesn't return. Before too long, Dan's unfortunate allergies kick in, and after an explosive sneeze, he is excused to find Kleenex. Knowing the Kleenex to only be a band-aid on his growing allergy problem, Dan sneaks over to the bus to get his allergy pills. There, he not only finds the bus driver unconscious at the wheel, but Ms Creaser lying in a pool of blood.

     The action really picks up at this point! Dan realizes that he is his classmates' only hope from harm's way, and he finds a way to get help and rescue his class while gaining their respect and earning the title of hero.

     Pigboy is an “Orca Currents” hi-lo book that is perfect for reluctant readers, and Vicki Grant has written a very enjoyable read. “Orca Currents” books aim to have high appeal for hard-to-reach male readers, and this book definitely fits that mold. The novel has enough action to keep the reader enticed to read more, and the events leading up to the climax are well-written and descriptive with some great pieces thrown in for humour. Grant hits the nail on the head when she brings both mucous and underwear into the story line, qualities which will undoubtedly have instant appeal for male readers.

     In Grant's making Dan an anti-hero, he actually becomes more believable as a character. Unfortunately, children know all about bullying, and here we have a protagonist with whom the reader can sympathize. Dan Hogg is a bit unfortunate with his family surname, his bad hair, buck teeth, scrawniness, glasses and a penchant for allergies. He is constantly picked on by the class bully, Shane Coolen, and goes out of his way to avoid any confrontations. Grant writes a compelling story with lots of suspense, but it's the journey to Dan's personal redemption that is most enjoyable to read.

Highly Recommended.

Saache Heinrich is a children's services librarian for the Saskatoon Public Library in Saskatoon, SK.

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

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