The Peppermint Pig

pigPoll is the youngest of the four Greengrass children, living in London in the 19th century. Their father, James, works for a carriagemaker, and their family is reasonably prosperous, having fun on weekends at parks and zoos and telling endless family stories: how Granny Greengrass had her finger chopped off by a butcher because she couldn’t make her mind up about the joint; how Bride’s Pit is haunted to this day by a bride and groom in their coach-and-four…

But it’s real troubles, not ghostly ones, that come to disturb Poll and her family when James is falsely accused of stealing from his employer. In a jumbled couple of weeks, they must sell all their furniture, move to Norfolk to live with family, and say goodbye to their father, who has decided to go off and make his fortune in America. The rest of the family must make the best of staying behind.

And so they do, adopting Johnnie, the peppermint pig (a runt, like Poll’s brother Theo) along the way, adapting to their circumstances as a year passes. Nina Bawden isn’t as popular here in the United States as she is in Britain, but I can’t understand why not: as a child, I read Carrie’s War over and over again, and The Peppermint Pig , winner of the Guardian Award for children’s fiction, is just as good. The book is entirely unsentimental: this is a past where children die of scarlet fever, where workhouses exist, where bullying and poverty are common, and where pigs are dinner, not pets. But that makes the quirky fun, the family closeness, and the home-grown stories that much more believable and enjoyable. If you’re looking for an overlooked children’s book, try Nina Bawden. This was so much worth the reading that I’ll be looking out for more of her work, for myself as well as for young friends.

This entry was posted in Children's / YA Lit, Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Peppermint Pig

  1. Catherine says:

    Carrie’s War always went down well when I taught it. Nina Bawden is a lovely writer.

  2. Jenny says:

    Catherine — She’s quite prolific, isn’t she? Do you have any recommendations apart from Carrie’s War, which I’ve read?

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