Pigs and picnics, tales and tails

posted in: Anca Sandu, Eva Katzler, Jess Mikhail | 9

Today’s Picture Book Month theme is PIGS and I have two books I think you’ll enjoy 🙂

Florentine and Pig Have a very Lovely Picnic by Eva Katzler, illustrated by Jess Mikhail with recipes and crafts by Laura and Jess Tilli is one half story book, one half recipe book. It’s about two best friends (one of whom happens to be a pig) having fun in the kitchen, preparing for a summery picnic, but there’s a problem when they realise they don’t have one of the ingredients they need. A dash of porcine derring-do saves the day and after an afternoon of baking, caking, whisking, wiggling, cooking and crunching Florentine and Pig settle down for a feast.

This gentle story about the delights of spending time together, doing simple things like baking, is charming. It’s a great text for reading aloud, with lots of onomatopeoic words to relish and giggle over; the author of this book is also a singer-songwriter and her sensitivity to rhythm and cadence really shines through.

The colourful, flowery illustrations are bright and cheerful. I particularly like the frames used by Jess Mikhail; many images are edged with blanket stitch, further adding to the cosy handmade, homemade ambience of the story.

The story is followed by six illustrated recipes for all the picnic food featured in the story, plus a tutorial for making picnic bunting. Given that we’re rather fond of picture book picnics, of course we road tested all the recipes in Florentine and Pig Have a very Lovely Picnic to create our own (indoor) picnic.

The recipes are really very good! They are easy for the kids to follow, using simple ingredients to create slightly unusual picnic fare; the savoury flapjacks and the mini quiche using bread instead of pastry were especially fun for little hands to make. I’ve investigated a lot of recipe books for kids over the last few years, and few have done as good a job as Laura and Jess Tilli have done here in creating fun and yet healthy food, a delicious feast that can be made almost entirely by kids.

Fans of Sarah Garland’s Eddie’s Kitchen or Jacqueline Wilson’s The Four Children and It (which features lots and lots of amazing picnics) might particularly enjoy this book.

Whilst preparing our picnic we listened to:

  • An old favourite, Big Pet Pig by Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke
  • Teddy Bears Picnic played here by The Clyde Valley Stompers
  • Florentine March by Julius FuÄŤĂ­k. Here’s an excerpt from the film Brassed Off:

  • Other activities which would go well alongside reading this book include:

  • Making florentines! I’m sure these would be welcome at any picnic. Here’s a recipe from Delia.
  • Creating your own Pig – a friend or a piggy bank – using this tutorial and recyclced objects from LooleDo
  • Helping the kids revamp some of their clothes by sewing on fun buttons. Florentine’s dress is decorated with buttons, and with a little help, even quite young children could enjoy choosing and decorating a jumper or dress with some buttons. Sewing together, like cooking together, can be lots of fun!

  • My second dose of piggy goodness today comes in the form of Churchill’s Tale of Tails by Anca Sandu. This book isn’t published until just after Christmas, but I couldn’t resist including it today because it’s not only about a pig, it’s also enormous fun, and by a debut author/illustrator I hope we’ll be seeing lots more of in the future.

    One day Churchill the pig loses his curly tail. He sets off to find a replacement, and with help of his friends he tries on everything from a zebra’s tail to a crocodile’s tail, enjoying how each tail makes him feel different. Caught up in dressing up, Churchill soon forgets his friends. But without them, how will he solve the mystery of his mislaid tail?

    A book full of pastel pinks and blues embracing issues around identity, hubris and humility might sound rather baffling, but Sandu has created a gorgeously funny fable which also explores kindness, empathy and the great feeling that comes from generosity. A lightness of touch and a good deal of old fashioned silliness ensures Churchill’s Tale of Tails never overextends into worthiness.

    Sandu’s illustrations are a great deal of fun, with some very clever compositions (look out for the mirror, and the elephant), and a spread which has the same WOW factor as that one by Nadia Shireen last year (but this time with a peacock rather than a wolf). The pig’s expressions, with just tiny adjustments to his ears and eyes, are superb – even in his most narcissistic moment you can’t help feeling rather fond of Churchill.

    Churchill’s Tale of Tails is going to be the next book I put in our dressing up box, and I shall also be reading this book at one of my story+craft school sessions in the new year.

    Photo: Dileepan

    I haven’t quite worked out all the details yet, but I’m hoping to get the children making their own tails to wear once we’ve read the story. Although some of these ideas will need adapting to work in class with 30 5 and 6 year olds, here are some of the ideas I’m mulling over:

  • I’m wondering if we might make paper/card versions of these gorgeous mermaid tails from etsy seller missprettypretty
  • Or paper/card peacock tails using this halloween costume as inspiration
  • Not sure that we’ll manage sewing in 45 minutes, but I like this Tiger Tail tutorial by One Charming Party
  • Of course somehow we’ll fit in making Pig tails out of pipecleaners!
  • I might try adapting this idea from Oriental Trading to create tails which the kids can paint using fabric paints. It would require a fair bit of preparation, but I think the activity would be very popular.
  • Maybe a few of the older kids could try making non droopy animal tails with coat hangers as inspired by Made by K. This might require more supervision than is on offer for the session, but perhaps I can make myself one to wear whilst I read!
  • Using old tights and stuffing – the kids could scrunch up newspaper for the stuffing and then we could use string to attach the tights to tummies… (here’s a tutorial from Animal Welfare League, Queensland.)

  • Have you any more ideas for making tails? And what are your favourite pig picture books?

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of each of the books I’ve reviewed today from their respective publishers. I was under no obligation to review the books and I received no money for this post.

    9 Responses

    1. Rachel

      Awesome treats for your picnic feast. We love Piglet and Mama by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Stephen Michael King. I received this book when I was pregnant with my first daughter and it’s such a sweet book.

    2. choxbox

      Brill idea!
      Love the girls’ aprons too 🙂

      Our fav pig picture book is Dick King Smith’s All Pigs are Beautiful. In fact pigs seem to feature in most of DKS’ books!

    3. Zoe

      Thank you choxbox, Melissa and Rachel for your Pig suggestions – I’ve not read any of them so I feel I have a treat in store!

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