Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Three Meta Pigs

This past weekend the little girl had her annual wellness check-up, which was really one of the more pleasant child-doctor interactions I’ve been involved with lo these past few years. The division of labor for that particular Saturday mandated that my wife would stay home with the newborn, while I took the little guy and the little girl to the pediatrician’s office for her appointment, to be followed by a shopping trip to Costco to get supplies for the birthday party the following day. The check-up itself, as I indicated, the little girl just sailed right through. No shots required this time (woot) and everything looked/sounded/felt good. She’s growing like a weed (as her mother and I were already well aware) and may actually end up taller than her parents and/or her big brother (though thankfully dealing with that particular twist in their sibling rivalry is a long ways off). All good news, once the doctor finally had a chance to deliver it. But, due to extenuating circumstances, the doctor was detained after the nurse had brought the three of us back to the exam room, so we had a lot of time to kill.

The kids had each brought some of their toys with them but eventually those got understandably boring. Fortunately there were a few books in the exam room, all new to us, so I leaned against the exam table with a child sitting on either side of me and read them a couple of Eric Carle tales and then The Three Pigs by David Wiesner. I was of course expecting a retelling of the familiar fairy tale, possibly with high-end illustrations to justify the dust-jacketed hardcover edition. But Wiesner had a bit more in mind than just that.

The story starts out with the usual beats, but when the Big Bad Wolf blows down the first pig’s house of straw, he blows the pig right out of the story. Soon all three porcine protagonists have escaped the confines of their original narrative, leaving behind a very confused wolf, and proceed to wander at will through other books. They befriend the fiddle-playing cat from “Hey Diddle-diddle” as well as a dragon from a medieval romance, and the whole group ends up back at the sober little pig’s brick house, with the dragon proving more than adequate at encouraging the Wolf to seek alternative sources of fresh pork.

It’s very cute stuff, and it’s executed quite well, particularly in the mix of art styles which has the main story look slightly old fashioned, the pigs inhabiting the blank space between stories in a semi-realistic style, the cow jumping over the moon in gentle cartoony strokes, and the knight and dragon in block black and white woodcut. It’s that kind of attention to detail that really tickles me in genre mash-ups. The little girl was sufficiently entertained by the pictures in the book, but the little guy was really fascinated by the mechanics of it, and asked a lot of questions about what, exactly, the pigs were doing. Questions I was only too happy to answer because, COME ON. Do not get me started about the unbounded nature of a fictional constructed reality unless you’re not planning on going anywhere for a while (which, as it happened, we weren’t, beholden as we were to the pediatrician’s schedule).

Obviously I kept it a bit lighter on the pomo jargon for the little guy, but I made no effort to hide my enthusiasm for the concept, and I believe he caught on to some of that. By the time we got home he was actually very excited about writing his own book which would be a kind-of sequel in which the three little pigs would leave their book and go visit ... the characters from Cars, naturally enough. So some things never change, but they can have their horizons broadened a bit.

Speaking of changes, he segued smoothly, and also speaking of three little fill-in-the-descriptors, I am still mulling over the best approach for referring to my children in these posts. Clearly I’m still using “little guy” and “little girl” and some variation on “baby/newborn” but that last one is not going to be viable for long. For a while I was considering giving them matching handles along the lines of “Professor Dwarfstar” (given the little guy’s abiding love for astronomy, and for pedantic explanations) and “Princess Daredevil” (given her affinity for pink and ploka dots and ruffles but also for going down slides headfirst and other such derring-do) and “Peewee Dynamite” (given that the baby is the smallest of the bunch) but ... I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I was mocking anyone (whom I may or may not be related to) who actually earns a living with a professorial career, and the whole girls-are-princesses thing is beyond cliche, and at last weigh-in our four-week-old was already a solid ten pounds, which means Peewee might end up being archly ironic. (Plus as apt as any of those monikers might be, the initials of this blog are PA, not PD, so that just feels like a wasted opportunity.) So I’m not announcing any immediate changes in nomenclature after all; consider me still hunched over the drawing board until further notice.

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