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Benjamin’s Books: Old Pig by Margaret Wild
The loss of a loved one can be a difficult matter to reconcile with a young child. Whatever you say, however you explain, even at such a distraught time whatever you do will remain in your child’s conscience forevermore. Everyone remembers their first loss, at no matter what age, and they shall remember it as adults just as keenly. There are available a number of exquisite picture books that serve to aid in such a discussion. These are books with a rare power, books to help tell what you may not summon so easily into your own words. Old Pig is such a book, and it is among the very best of its kind.
The incomparable Margaret Wild with characteristic assuredness tells the story of an elderly pig bidding farewell to the world, and to her beloved granddaughter, with the prescient acceptance that she shall soon pass away. She settles her affairs and together they take a long walk, to feast one last time on the wonders of the natural world.
Illustrator Ron Brooks brings Wild’s sparse and thoughtful prose to vivid life, and it is clear that this is an illustrator who puts a great deal of consideration into every brush stroke and who shall not settle for anything less than magnificent. And magnificent it truly is; Brooks shifts seasons from Summer to Autumn as quickly as time truly seems to pass when we are comfortable and content. The series of double-pages towards the end of the book detailing Old Pig’s life-affirming walk (Look!) is a visual recognition and celebration of how truly awe-inspiring life can be. These illustrations are awash with the most luxuriant and vibrant colours of nature, bathed in sunlight or sprinkled with the summer rain. Brooks’ affirming images are quite simply breathtaking, standing out from the previous interior scenes, with their humbler palette, and showing in some way that even with death, life cannot be stopped.
It is impossible for this book not to have an effect on you. Expect tears. At the least you’ll be lost for words, because of the subject matter and because of your own stories that become a part of it. Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks have accomplished what every publisher of a children’s book hopes to achieve, they have combined their efforts to create something greater than the sum of its parts, something flawless and wonderful. Old Pig is an important book, sensitive, wise and heartbreakingly beautiful.