The Pig War: How a Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Share

$18.99

This true story tells how America and England almost went to war in 1859 over a pig. On the small island of San Juan in the Pacific Northwest, the British and the Americans are on fairly good terms until one fateful morning when an innocent British hog eats some American potatoes. Tensions flare, armies gather, cannons are rolled out . . . all because of a pig! With humorous text and folksy illustrations the story models peaceful conflict resolution.

“Two wars have been fought with England on American soil, and now in 1859, on the Northwest Coast island of San Juan, war number three is about to erupt [over a pig]. Smith deftly captures the retrospective absurdity of this historical incident with deadpan narration that will have young audiences slapping their foreheads in mock dismay over the childish behavior of hotheaded adults. Jay adds absurdity of her own in her visual parody of nineteenth-century art—portly, self-important men straining at their buttons, rendered in the dusty hues and crackled surfaces of naïve folk art and portraiture.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review

★ “Jay’s crackled, primitivist illustrations of cannons and distant figures in antique dress and uniforms add a proper sense of period to Smith’s brisk account of the historical episode, which the author presents as a timely case study in how countries with differences can find peaceable alternatives to armed conflict.”  —Booklist, starred review 

“This is a true tale about two mighty nations, an ill-fated pig, and a most unusual war. It is also a story about sharing.’ That opening, in black, sans-serif lettering, is followed by…a jaunty, lighthearted tone that proceeds throughout the text. Colorful, stylized art against apparently distressed surfaces is an impeccable complement. Weirdly fascinating.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Smith’s narrative dives into a strange and humorous slice of history that nearly started another war between the two countries. This porcine altercation is detailed with lofty humor that makes for an intriguing and endearing read. Jay’s distinctive illustrations, rendered in alkyd paint with crackle glaze varnish, lend an old-timey feel and playful whimsy that matches the tone of the text. The book’s humor and whimsy provide an interesting narrative nonfiction read for elementary classrooms.” —School Library Journal

Additional information

Author Name(s)

Emma Bland Smith

Reading Age

7 – 10 years

Grade Level

2 – 5

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