Frustrated by the tyranny of a huffing and puffing wolf, three young sibling pigs decide to become ninjas and liberate their homeland. The first pig, aptly named “Pig One,” begins to learn aikido, but the practice didn’t engage him intellectually, so he dropped out. Pig Two begins to learn jujitsu, but after learning a few moves, he determines that his education is sufficient and also quits. Pig Three begins to study karate, and she devotes herself to its mastery, practicing early every morning, not quitting until she masters the discipline. It is, of course, Pig Three who is able to vanquish the wolf by demonstrating her abilities. Her brothers’ failures prompt them to continue their studies, and the story ends with the three siblings’ decision to open their own dojo.
In this fractured fairy tale, each of the pigs exemplifies certain character traits: laziness, pride, and diligence. The characters are not complex, but they do change over the course of the story. The three characters have one simple goal, and every action is directed toward that goal. There is certainly a quest element to the story, and the resolution is definitive and satisfying, despite the fact that Pig Three and the wolf never engage in actual fighting. Good triumphs over evil without ever resorting to violence in this story, which is a vastly underused, underappreciated theme in children’s literature.
The rhyme scheme throughout the story is ABCCB, and the meter is anapestic trimeter and dimeter, which means that there are two different lengths of line within each stanza of five, three of which have three stressed syllables, two of which have two stressed syllables (RhymeWeaver 2015). The text also incorporates common Japanese vocabulary, such as “sensie” and “sayonara.”
The illustrations are not as awe-inspiring as Santat’s later work in The Adventures of Beekle, but they are action-packed, imaginative, and owe more than a little to the illustrations found in manga and to traditional Japanese paintings, which is appropriate, considering that the story is set in Japan. The Japanese landscape is the best part of the story. Mount Fuji dominates the background on several pages, along with traditional Japanese architecture, cherry blossoms, torii gates, and statues of the Buddha (represented irreverently as a pig). The illustrations turned out to be authentic in more than one way. They are “done with Sumi brush work on rice paper and completed in Adobe Photoshop” (Junior Library Guild 2012).
In Schwartz’s THREE NINJA PIGS, the “irreverent verse never falters” (Publisher’s Weekly 2012). The rhymes and “dynamic illustrations are a delight, and the glossary of Japanese words invites culture study tie-ins” (Willey 2013).
Awards for THE THREE NINJA PIGS include Junior Library Guild Fall Selection, Amazon Editor’s Pick of the Month, Chicago Public Library “Best of the Best 2012,” LA Public Library “Best of 2012 Children’s Books,” Texas Library Association 2×2 Reading List, Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award Winner, Bank Street College “Best Children’s Books of the Year,” IRA/CBC Children’s Choices 2013 (Schwartz 2015).
THE BOY WHO CRIED NINJA by Alex Latimer
NIGHTTIME NINJA by Barbara DaCosta
NINJA! by Arree Chung
Try this felt ninja turtle mask craft (Dotson 2015) at your next ninja story time!
Dotson, Chazley. “Craft Ideas for Children’s Librarians.” Accessed September 4, 2015. http://padlet.com/chazley_dotson/fjsx02duziuf/wish/68724371
Publisher’s Weekly. 2012. http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-399-25514-4
RhymeWeaver. 2015. “The Three Ninja Pigs.” http://www.writingrhymeandmeter.com/?p=4243
Schwartz, Corey Rosen, and Dan Santat. 2012. The Three Ninja Pigs. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN 9780399255144
Schwartz, Corey Rosen. “The Three Ninja Pigs.” Accessed Sept 4, 2015. http://www.coreyrosenschwartz.com/Three_Ninja_Pigs.html
Willey, Paula. 2013. “Humor That Is Seriously Funny.” School Library Journal. http://www.slj.com/2013/05/collection-development/focus-on-collection-development/humor-that-is-seriousl-funny-focus-on/#_