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Summary: Louie (a pig) keeps getting in to trouble because he wants to draw. His family sends him to live with his Aunt and Uncle. Miss May, a neighbor, likes his work and asks him to draw a book for little pigs. Louie is in an accident and goes to the hospital. While there, he sees a mischievous young girl in another room jumping on the bed. That reminds him of the stories his mother used to tell him about her days in a convent school in Paris. He decides to draw pictures and write about that little girl. This is a fictionalized version of the life of Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the Madeline books.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, anytime reading, family reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 4 to 8; read yourself: 8 to 10
Interest Level: 4 to 8
Reading Level: 3.7
Age of Child: Read with a 5-year-old girl.
Young Reader Reaction: My daughter picked this book because of the funny cover. She liked that a pig was drawing. She didn' like that the people around the pig didn't seem to understand or like him. Most likely, she didn't want to read it again because she thought that the way other pigs treated Louie was mean spirited. Why wouldn't they let Louie draw? Why did his parents send him away? It upset her that the parents did that just because he wasn't doing well in school and only wanted to draw.
Adult Reader Reaction: I thought this book was a little confusing. Why wouldn't they let Louie draw? Once you read the note at the end of the book you realize the story is "lightly" based on the life of the author of the Madeline books. I wish this had been put at the beginning. When I went back and read it again and it was easier to understand knowing where the story was leading. I was surprised she got so upset when people were not nice to the pig. I was also surprised how happy she got when his story and drawing was accepted and he was a success. She really related to the book.
Pros: This is an easy-to-read story that can introduce children to the biography genre. It also gives them the story-behind-the-story of books and characters they already know and love.
Cons: Go to the end first to get the book's backstory. It will help you set up the book when you read it with your child and it will make more sense for you, too.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. School and public libraries should have a copy of this book because of its being based on the life of an author.
Educational Themes: In addition to learning about Ludwig Bemelmens, you can explore the writing process. The book presents a clear picture about an author's life in general (i.e., how they work through hard times, success doesn't come overnight, etc.). You can also contrast how people view school and conformity in the "old days" and now, and use that to open discussion about how we treat people who are different than us.
Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, biography, art