Basic Plot Summary: Three little pigs are sent out into the world to seek their fortune and each builds a house to protect himself. The first and second pigs build their houses of straw and sticks, respectively, and a wolf blows them each down and eats the pig. The third pig builds his house of bricks, which the wolf cannot blow down. The wolf tries several other ways to get the pig, but the pig outsmarts him every time.
Printed versions of this story appear as early as 1840, with the most well-known version being the English Fairy Tale version from 1890, although the basic story has been around for considerably longer than this. There are lots of variations on the basic plot. In some versions, the smartest of the three pigs actually cooks and eats the wolf. In others, the first and second pig simply run to their brother’s house and manage to survive the wolf attack this way. All the major cartoon studios released animated versions of the story. The Merrie Melodies version (Pigs in a Polka) sets the story to Brahms’ classic Hungarian Dance and is a longtime family favorite.
The Three Little Pigs – There are so many variations on this book that not only was hard to narrow the list down to five, but I had trouble finding a version that told just the original story. This one came the closest. Author/illustrator Barry Moser dedicates the book to a friend of his, citing him as the only man he knew “who could grasp the gravity and true literary importance of this tale,” which made me curious and encouraged me to go back and re-read it with a more scrutinizing eye. This is one of those versions where the wolf eats the first two pigs and then is eaten by the last pig (which gets weird if you think about it too long). The watercolor illustrations make the third pig look more than a little frightening and maniacal in several spots, making me wonder whose side Mr. Moser was on. (Little, Brown and Company, 2001)
The Three Little Pigs and the Fox – In an note at the beginning of the book, author William H. Hooks discusses the art of storytelling in Appalachia, explaining how classic stories are seasons with local flavor. Mr. Hooks grew up in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains and this version of the story was what he heard in his childhood. In this story, the youngest pig is a girl named Hamlet who outsmarts the fox and saves her brothers. The watercolor artwork from S. D. Schindler sets the story in the back woods with a real folksy charm. I really enjoyed it. (Macmillan Publishing, 1989)
The Three Ninja Pigs – Corey Rosen Schwartz adds a lot of clever changes to this story, sending the three pigs to different martial arts lessons for self-defense against the wolf. Set in an enjoyable modified limerick rhyme scheme, the story promotes standing up for yourself and putting in real effort to achieve a goal. It includes a glossary with more detail about different martial arts terms and endorses girl power by making the hard working third pig a female. Dan Santat’s wonderfully expressive illustrations were done in Sumi brush on rice paper and then completed digitally. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012)
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs – This was Jon Scieszka’s first picture book, launching a partnership with illustrator Lane Smith that has produced some fantastic books over the last 25 years. The story is told from the wolf’s point of view and is a great way to introduce kids to the concepts of parody, dark humor or the unreliable narrator. Lane Smith illustrates this story with an added layer of depth, showing us a lot more than face value with his depictions of the characters. This one’s a lot of fun and was picked by teachers for the Top 100 Classroom Books list in 2007. (Viking, 1989)
The Three Pigs – Author/illustrator David Wiesner always has something up his sleeve so I don’t know what I was thinking when I opened this book expecting to read a classic version of this story. The surprises begin on the third page when the wolf huff and puffs and blows the first little pig right out of the illustration. Free from the confines of the story, he collects his brothers and they fly away on a paper airplane made from a story page. They visit other stories, picking up new friends including a dragon who helps ensure the wolf leaves them strictly alone after that. Mr. Wiesner won his second Caldecott Medal for this book and astute observers will notice that they pass a page from Tuesday, which was his first book to win the Medal. This version is clever and very fun. (Clarion Books, 2001)
And what did we learn? What I take away from The Three Little Pigs is that the time to play is after you have done the work to prepare for your own safety.