On Tuesday, Harry Potter author JK Rowling releases his new children’s book The Christmas Pig, a beautifully illustrated hardcover book about Jack, a boy who loses his precious toy, a pig.
Our reviewer Janet Ellis, TV presenter, author and mother of three herself, says she tackles some tricky issues with a touch of enchanting sensitivity.
What safe hands we are with this wonderful new story from a writer who truly understands what it’s like to be a child.
But who also, crucially, knows what it feels like to be an adult responsible for that child’s happiness.
JK Rowling’s genius lies in his ability to appeal to adults who also read his children’s books. Because, dear reader, this is how stories become part of the fabric of a family forever.
The Christmas Pig is the story of a little boy named Jack who has a very special comfort toy – a pig – which he one day loses.
JK Rowling (pictured) releases his new children’s book The Christmas Pig on Tuesday. His genius lies in his ability to seduce adults who also read his children’s books.
An identical replacement appears, named Christmas Pig, who takes him on an adventure in the Land of the Lost.
The dedication at the beginning of the book is “To David” and in the acknowledgments on the back JK Rowling thanks his family one last time and hints that the story may have been inspired by a family moment “sitting on a sandy beach. “.
She ends the dedication with this tantalizing clue about the family link with history.
“All that remains to be said is that any resemblance between the Things on these pages and the Things our family may have lost or found is, of course, entirely international.”
Affection for this story is guaranteed, and on so many levels.
Partly because we all know what it is like when a child we love gets married to that special thing.
The Christmas Pig is the story of a little boy named Jack who has a very special comfort toy – a pig – that one day he loses
An identical replacement appears, named Christmas Pig, who takes him on an adventure in the Land of the Lost
For some, it’s a favorite teddy bear or doll; for others it may be a piece of Lego or even a piece of hardware. The more that object of their affection becomes bruised or tattered, the more they seem to like it.
When he was little, my son Jackson, now 34, devoted himself to the “little sheet” – a cut corner of his favorite bed sheet that went with him everywhere, picking up dirt from everywhere too.
Inevitably, he needed to be washed; it has also often disappeared. But he was never really lost. Because, as JK Rowling imagines in this story, I had a backup: a bunch of identical squares cut from the same sheet so I could always invent a replacement with Jack, nothing wiser.
If I hadn’t had one, I would have lived in constant fear of losing this square of matter forever.
It became so synonymous with my little boy that his inevitable distress would have made it seem like a part of him had followed him as well.
Meanwhile, the fact that this story has Christmas as a backdrop adds to its great appeal. After all, what other time of year does a child – or adult – enjoy the most?
But it is also much more than a charming festive story. In The Christmas Pig, the author becomes a kid on the page again as only she can – and she uses this great gift to talk to her young readers about life’s hardships in a way that doesn’t demean them or the truth. .
The book tackles sensitive issues, including divorce, bullying, and the emotional complexities of living in stepfamilies. It also tackles issues of the larger world, with places called things like Disposable and characters with names like Ambition and Power.
In the acknowledgments, Harry Potter author (pictured) JK Rowling thanks his family and hints that the story may have been inspired by a family moment.
Echoes of The Pilgrim’s Progress and equally powerful. Its most popular readers will, I think, be very similar to Blue Peter’s child audience – so around eight to twelve years old, whose world consciousness is being awakened.
The younger ones will need someone to read to them, so that they can also enjoy it. I’m sure parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles will be lining up to do just that.
Skillfully, JK Rowling makes the personal general again – every child who reads it will feel involved in this story; I’m sure it will help a lot of people to feel less lonely as well. It’s also cinematographic.
As I read I could almost see the story come to life in my head like an animated classic.
Ultimately, however, it provides resilience in the face of a universal truth: that things go missing in life, but somehow we find ways to keep going.
And, what is most poignant for us adults, it serves as a salutary reminder that perhaps the greatest thing we have ever lost is childhood itself.
Janet’s new Twice Upon A Time podcast, in which she asks celebrities which childhood book made the biggest impression, is available for download later this month.