The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling
‘Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes.’ (The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling)
J.K. Rowlings’ The Christmas Pig, illustrated by Jim Field, published by Little Brown and Hachette Children’s Group, is a magical way to embrace the Christmas season. The outer jacket illustration in festive red, green and gold, shows a small boy with a large pink pig. It opens to reveal patterned decorations and pine trees that signal the quality and elegance of this impressive hardback gift book.
Set on Christmas Eve, it is an original retelling of the lost toy story. Even though seven-year-old Jack’s parents have separated, he still has the comfort of his stuffed toy confidant, DP (Dur Pig). Popular gymnast Holly helps him settle into his new school but she is not so kind when her father and Jack’s mother marry, and is the catalyst for the loss of DP.
Holly tries to make amends by buying Jack a replacement pig, Christmas Pig, but Jack feels that Christmas without DP is a betrayal and plans to find him. Before he can venture outside, he falls asleep but wakes to the sound of his toys and other objects speaking.
They tell Jack that Christmas Eve is the only time they can talk in the Land of the Living and that it is also the only time a living child can go to the Land of the Lost, the place where DP is to be found. The old Matchbox car explains, ‘The Land of the Lost is where Things go when you lose them … It’s a strange and terrible place, governed by its own peculiar laws. I’ve been there many times, because you and your dad lost me so often.’ Fortunately, Jack and his father always found their toy car before the Loser, who rules that land, caught and ate it.
The Christmas Pig offers to take Jack to the Land of the Lost and he agrees, even though he doesn’t like this replacement pig at all.
This story is full of unexpected surprises, foreshadowing and suspense. Like the author’s other works, it explores dark as well as light, particularly through the terrifying Loser character, the threat of capture and imprisonment, settings such as The Wastes of the Unlamented and the pain of being discarded. This is alleviated through moments of humour and a cameo appearance by Santa himself.
What sets this children’s Christmas novel – that is also a perfect family read-aloud – apart is, firstly, its atmospheric Christmas setting, warmth, comfort and rich storytelling. More importantly, readers will appreciate the perspective of others and celebrate its values of friendship and love. Ultimately, its message of hope, of meeting hostility with kindness, and sacrifice for those you love emulate the core message of Christmas.
“And then something extraordinary happened – something simply magnificent. It could only have happened on the night for miracles and lost causes, and only then because Jack had refused to give up hope …” (The Christmas Pig)