The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling
jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG Tuesday 13th October 2021
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Christmas is seriously on its way as Christmas books are being released by the truckload. Lets consider one of the best of the crop, published yesterday 12th October 2021.
The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling (Author), Jim Field (Illustrator)
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (12 Oct. 2021)
Hardcover : 320 pages
ISBN-10 : 1444964917
ISBN-13 : 978-1444964912
Reading age : 8 – 12 years
One boy and his toy are about to change everything…
Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig. DP has always been there for him, through good and bad. Until one Christmas Eve, something terrible happens – DP is lost. But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life… even toys. And Jack’s newest toy – the Christmas Pig (DP’s annoying replacement) – has a daring plan: Together they’ll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost, and to save the best friend Jack has ever known…
A heartwarming, page-turning adventure about one child’s love for his most treasured thing, and how far he will go to find it. A tale for the whole family to fall in love with, from one of the world’s greatest storytellers.
A gorgeously gifty hardback, with full-colour jacket and featuring 9 black and white spreads and decorative inside art from renowned illustrator, Jim Field.
1) The Christmas Pig by JK Rowling review: her best book since Azkaban
The Harry Potter author gives us her Christmas Carol, and it’s a triumph, writes Amanda Craig
Stories about toys that come to life are as old as the Nutcracker, and can be as smart as Toy Story. Just over two hundred years after Hoffman’s iconic Christmas tale comes JK Rowling’s book about a boy who must venture into a magical world on Christmas Eve to save his lost toy pig DP. Smelly, tatty and ugly, DP is Jack’s silent, sympathetic friend.
The child of a single mother in a blended family, Jack has plenty of problems. Not least of these is Holly, his angry new teenaged step-sister. When Holly throws DP out of the family car onto the motorway, Jack is devastated. Yet on Christmas Eve, toys come to life, and so our hero can follow his unwanted replacement toy, the Christmas Pig, into the sinister Land of the Lost to try and rescue DP before the Loser destroys him forever.
“He hates the living and he hates their Things, which he tortures and eats”, Jack is told. Once again, a small boy is pitted against absolute evil in “a strange and terrible place, governed by its own peculiar laws.” Only, we’re not in Hogwarts and Jack has no magic powers.
Both Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen discovered the imaginative possibilities of animating the inanimate. Rowling’s take on this is, as you might expect, both traditional and unique. Many great children’s books from AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh to Lissa Evans’s Wed Wabbit and Kate Saunders’s The Land of Neverendings have used living toys to convey the passionate imagination of childhood. Just as she did in the Harry Potter novels, Rowling pushes a traditional concept much further. The Christmas Pig is about both a shy little boy’s complicated feelings towards his bullying step-sister, and the horrors currently experienced by millions, living under dictatorship and slaving in factories to make cheap tat.
Hunted by some, helped by others, one boy and his rejected toy grow closer and closer in an adventure that is Rowling’s best book since The Prisoner of Azkaban. Each chapter, being two or three pages long, is easy for a reader of 6 +, but once the magic starts in Chapter 13, the story becomes more sophisticated and compelling.
As frightening as it is funny, The Christmas Pig is set in a surreal allegorical landscape that is more reminiscent of The Pilgrim’s Progress than Toy Story. Her heroes’ relationship deepens, and the weather changes from bleak winter to tropical summer – then fiery terror. The broken, chipped and despondent lost Things turn out to be brave or cowardly, but the snobbish diamond earrings are (predictably) less marvellous than Jack’s own homemade Christmas Angel, made from a toilet roll. Most of all, the rejected Christmas Pig is a joy. The pig is definitely a toy (“just my beans settling” he reminds us, periodically) but also a resourceful and stalwart, if grumpy, friend and guide who is willing to sacrifice himself to give Jack his heart’s desire.
Rowling’s imagination has always tended towards the Dickensian, not just in the sense of an energetically imagined universe peopled with eccentrics, but in its emotional intelligence. Here, she has given us her Christmas Carol, and the result is a triumph. Her style is unremarkable compared to that of Philip Pullman, Alan Garner, Terry Pratchett and Dickens himself, yet the clarity, warmth, sympathy and propulsion of her stories are exactly what a child enjoys. Above all, she is a mistress of suspense. When the climax came, in a scene where Jack must choose between hope and despair, I burst into tears.
Many young adults who once idolised the Harry Potter books have decided they hate Rowling for her controversial views on trans activism. This is an enormous pity. Whether you agree with her or not, she is a superb storyteller who has always championed individual moral conscience at a time when this is increasingly under threat. It is not a pretty thing, but, just like Jack’s pig, there is nothing more important in the whole world.
Amanda Craig is a children’s books critic and an adult novelist. Her latest novel, The Golden Rule, was long-listed for the 2021 Women’s Prize.
The Christmas Pig by JK Rowling (Hachette, £20)
2) How my son’s toy piggy inspired me: from the Daily Mail.
Just in time for Christmas, there’s a new heartwarming page-turner from one of the world’s greatest storytellers.
The Christmas Pig by J. K. Rowling tells the story of Jack, a boy who has lost his most treasured toy, Dur Pig (DP for short), a small toy pig made of the same material as a soft towel, with shiny black plastic eyes; the toy pig Jack has loved since he was very young.
But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life — even toys. So, it’s when Jack is given a replacement pig — Christmas Pig, or CP for short — that the adventure really begins.
The Christmas Pig takes Jack on a journey through the magical Land of the Lost, as we reveal in this exclusive extract alongside some of the dazzling illustrations from the book, drawn by the hugely popular artist Jim Field.
The Christmas Pig was published 12th October 2021. Author J. K. Rowling reveals how this festive tale was inspired by the day her own son David, then three, found, by accident, a replacement to his favourite pig toy while he was ‘poking around’ in a cupboard. . .
A very personal tale: An exclusive author Q&A with J.K. Rowling
Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the story? What inspired you to write The Christmas Pig?
Although the story is invented, the initial inspiration came from a real toy, or rather, pair of toys.
My son David’s favourite, can’t-go-to-bed-without-him toy when he was little was a pig just like the one in the story, made of soft towelling material and filled with belly beans (although the real life toy isn’t called Dur Pig. That’s my invention).
David was prone to hiding this pig in all kinds of places, so bedtime was sometimes put off while we tried to track the pig down. At one point I got so worried that David was going to lose his pig for good that I bought a duplicate just in case.
The Christmas Pig will be published tomorrow in time for Christmas and here J.K. Rowling details how the tale was inspired by son. Pictured: Rowling reads extracts from her new book +4
The Christmas Pig will be published tomorrow in time for Christmas and here J.K. Rowling details how the tale was inspired by son. Pictured: Rowling reads extracts from her new book
One day, while poking around in a cupboard, three-year-old David found the replacement pig by accident, declared him to be his original pig’s brother and kept him, too, so they’re both still with us.
The story was inspired by my dread of David losing his beloved pig for good, and gradually I became interested in what it would mean to be a replacement toy, knowing that you couldn’t ever be quite what the original was, with all its many associations and memories. Slowly, the Land of the Lost started to take shape.
Did you have a treasured toy growing up?
My equivalent of Dur Pig was a large, blue-eyed, pink and white teddy bear, which was bought for me by my grandparents. I ended up calling him Henry, after one of the trains on Thomas The Tank Engine. He’s still with me, bald in places due to my habit of picking at his fur when I was very small.
Where did you write the story?
In my writing room in the garden, but I remember mapping out the Land of the Lost while our family was on holiday. My children were playing on the beach and I was huddled beneath a sunshade, drawing maps and thinking through the logistics of the world.
How different was it plotting out the Harry Potter series? Is there any magic in The Christmas Pig?
I’m a great planner and I knew exactly what was going to happen, and where, and how, before I started writing The Christmas Pig.
The Christmas Pig is a magical story, but in a very different way to Harry Potter. You’re entering a world that runs according to its own peculiar magical laws, and there is magic around Christmas Eve, but there are no wands and wizards.
If you had to describe the character Jack in three words, what would those three words be? And what three words would they be for the Christmas Pig?
Jack is brave, loving and a little lost, though he finds himself through his adventure with the Christmas Pig, and I’d describe CP in exactly the same way.
Do you lose things? What’s the worst thing you have ever lost?
I lose things constantly. It’s one of the things that irritates me most about myself. The worst thing I ever lost was my mother’s engagement ring; it still makes me sad to think about it.
Why do you think beloved toys and items are so important for children (and adults)?
Psychologists call these treasured toys ‘transitional objects’, which can soothe children and act as a comforting stand-in for a parent when needed.
That’s quite a clinical way of looking at it, though.
I see them as invested with a certain kind of magic. They may come to us formed, but we remake them in our own image, investing them with characteristics of our own and idealised personalities.
We look after them and they look after us. That special bond is what I set out to explore in the Christmas Pig.
TOP TWENTY OF THE DAY
Top TWENTY Best Cover Songs: 20 Definitive Cover Versions You Need To Hear
There are many great cover songs, but only a few stand out as landmarks, earning themselves a distinction among the best cover versions of all time.
20: Donna Summer: MacArthur Park (Richard Harris)
Jimmy Webb is one of America’s finest living songwriters and composers, and “MacArthur Park” ranks among his most enduring compositions, for its campiness as much as its complexity. Donna Summer and producer Giorgio Moroder took the song to the top of the charts with their disco-ready version, but it was actor Richard Harris who first made “MacArthur Park” a hit a decade earlier, with Webb’s lush orchestration only heightening the tune’s sense of melodrama.
19: Joan Jett And The Blackhearts: I Love Rock And Roll (The Arrows)
A great taste in cover songs has always been a trademark for Joan Jett, who has recorded everything from Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” to Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and The Rolling Stones’ “Let It Bleed”. Here she took a minor UK hit by The Arrows that most of her fans hadn’t heard, and turned it into her lifelong manifesto.
18: George Harrison: Got My Mind Set On You (James Ray)
George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set on You” was the last song by a Beatle to top the Billboard Hot 100, but the song itself wasn’t actually written by a Beatle. It was written by Rudy Clark in 1962, and it was James Ray’s jazzy version that Harrison encountered during a (pre-Beatlemania) visit to the US in 1963. More than two decades later, an off-the-cuff remark from “Dream Weaver” singer Gary Wright about “Got My Mind Set on You” recalled the older song to Harrison, who recorded a cover version of it for his comeback album Cloud Nine.
17: Elvis Costello: (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding (Nick Lowe)
Adding a few shots of righteous anger to this song (originally a country-rock tune by Nick Lowe with Brinsley Schwarz) proved the perfect tonic. In Elvis Costello’s hands (and Lowe’s again, since he produced it) it became a song for the ages.
16: Eric Clapton: I Shot The Sheriff (Bob Marley and the Wailers)
Eric Clapton wasn’t much of a fan of reggae, but his backing guitarist George Terry was, and Terry convinced Clapton that he would have a hit on his hands if he covered Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “I Shot the Sheriff.” (Sure enough, it became Clapton’s first – and only – American chart-topper.) Still, Marley’s is the genuine article, with its skanky groove looser and spikier.
15: Cyndi Lauper: Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Robert Hazard)
You can quickly tell why Cyndi Lauper found such success with “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” when listening to the Robert Hazard original. The elements are all there, even if they’re a little bit more raw. After receiving an 80s pop sheen, the song became Lauper’s mega-hit introduction to the world, and transformed the original into a female empowerment anthem.
14: Janis Joplin: Me and Bobby McGee (Roger Miller)
Kris Kristofferson wrote “Me and Bobby McGee” in 1969, but he was neither the first singer to record the song – Roger Miller, Kenny Rogers, Gordon Lightfoot, and Charley Pride all preceded him – nor was his version the most famous. It was Janis Joplin’s cover, which she finished just three days before her death, that turned it into a standard. Her take on “Me and Bobby McGee” is spirited and upbeat, whereas Kristofferson and his fellow countrymen tended to sing it in a simpler, more somber (but no less affecting) manner.
13: Run-DMC: Walk This Way (Aerosmith)
“Walk This Way” is one of the most groundbreaking party records ever. With the first major rap cover of an arena-rock standard (with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler making a cameo, and the unforgettable use Joe Perry’s iconic guitar riff, Run-DMC brought those two camps together, just as radio and MTV were trying to get segregated.
12: Jeff Buckley: Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
Jeff Buckley’s searing rendition ‘Hallelujah’ rendered 25 years of further covers of the same song unnecessary. Buckley’s great performance has all the dark beauty and sensuality that composer Leonard Cohen intended (and it followed a great, if less accessible version by John Cale). As one of the most ubiquitous cover songs of all time, most people mistake Buckley’s version for the original.
11: Joe Cocker: With A Little Help From My Friends (The Beatles)
The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” is a jaunty, little tune with its sadness clearly embedded in the lyrics. Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” is a searing epic that takes that melancholy and turns it into absolute despair. What’s perhaps forgotten, though, when listening to Cocker’s incredible vocal performance is just how much the arrangement is transformed as well. The songs sound almost completely different when you play them back-to-back.
10: Gladys Knight And The Pips, Marvin Gaye: I Heard It Through The Grapevine (Smokey Robinson)
Hard to say which was the original and which the cover of ”I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, since Gladys Knight’s barnstorming version topped the charts a year before Marvin Gaye’s slow-groove take, yet the latter was actually recorded first. And both versions were technically cover songs, since the first recording was an overlooked Miracles album track.
09: The Beatles: Twist and Shout (The Top Notes)
As John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and the rest of the Beatles got their start, they did plenty of covers, not least this Top Notes tune made famous by The Isley Brothers in 1962. The Isley Brothers’ version has an almost ramshackle live feel in places, while The Beatles tightened things up for their cover. Both would prove to be hits.
08: Harry Nilsson: Everybody’s Talkin’ (Fred Neil)
Harry Nilsson won a Grammy Award for his cover version of “Everybody’s Talkin’,” which was used as the theme song in the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy. Nilsson’s version no doubt helped the song become a standard, but Fred Neil’s original still feels like the definitive version – not least because, like the song’s narrator, Neil would eventually leave behind the hustle and bustle of celebrity in favor of a quiet life in Florida.
07: Jimi Hendrix Experience: All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
Bob Dylan was so impressed by Jimi Hendrix’s reimagining of “All Along the Watchtower” that whenever he performed the song thereafter, he did so in an arrangement more similar to Hendrix’s than his own. Dylan’s late-60s material exists in the shadow of his incredible trilogy of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde, and it would be easy to imagine newcomers to Dylan’s catalog glossing over an album like John Wesley Harding if not for Hendrix’s cover version of “All Along the Watchtower.” Which would’ve been a shame – “All Along the Watchtower” stands as one of Dylan’s most unsettling tunes.
06: Ike & Tina Turner: Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
“We never, ever do nothing nice and easy. We always do it nice and rough,” Tina Turner purrs at the beginning of her first cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” which she recorded with her then-husband Ike. You’re much more likely to associate “Proud Mary” with Tina Turner than John Fogerty – it’s become one of her signature songs, and was a staple of her live performances until her retirement.
05: Johnny Cash – Hurt (Nine Inch Nails)
It seems like an unlikely fit on paper, but once you hear the first few notes of Johnny Cash’s cover version of “Hurt,” it all makes sense. The utterly bleak Nine Inch Nails song was written when Trent Reznor hadn’t even turned 30 years old. Cash’s take, sung near the end of his life, took on new meaning, filled with personal history and a calm defiance. It’s one of the greatest cover songs recorded in the 21st century.
04: Soft Cell: Tainted Love (Gloria Jones)
“Tainted Love” was originally a minor UK hit for T.Rex member and Marc Bolan’s girlfriend Gloria Jones, but in Soft Cell’s cover, the minimal synth backing and Marc Almond’s obsessive vocal makes it both more disturbing and far sexier.
03: Aretha Franklin: Respect (Otis Redding)
Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” is so definitive that it might make you think Otis Redding wrote the song specifically for her. (It was Franklin’s decision to add the climactic “R-E-S-P-E-C-T/ Find out what it means to me” lines, and it’s hard to imagine the song without them.) Redding’s original version was sung by a man to his romantic partner, pleading for respect in exchange for his hard work. In changing the song’s perspective, Franklin transformed the song into a feminist anthem.
02: Sinead O’Connor: Nothing Compares 2 U (The Family)
“Nothing Compares 2 U” was one of several songs that Prince, for one reason or another, chose not to keep for himself. (His studio recording wasn’t released until 2018, though he included a live version on a 1993 greatest hits compilation.) It was recorded by the Family, one of the bands Prince assembled on his Paisley Park record label, but the group folded shortly after the release of their lone album, and “Nothing Compares 2 U” was quickly forgotten by all but the most faithful Prince fans. You’re almost certainly familiar with Sinead O’Connor’s cover, an unexpected smash hit that, all too briefly, turned her into the most magnetic singer in the world.
01: Whitney Houston: I Will Always Love You (Dolly Parton)
Whitney Houston’s cover of “I Will Always Love You” isn’t just one of the best covers of all time – it’s a purging kind of heartbreak, the kind of song that makes you want to throw open your windows and risk breaking your heart all over again for the chance of finding a lasting love. It’s a show-stopping performance, and a radical departure from Dolly Parton’s original, which is affecting in its plaintive intimacy. If Houston was singing it for the whole world, Parton seems to be singing it just for you, and yet both versions are equally perfect.
REMEMBER: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
– Nicolas Chamfort
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FOR THE DAY
I’m always doing things I can’t do. That’s how I get to do them. Pablo Picasso Click to tweet
Happiness is…a new J K Rowling book.
GRANDAD’S ONE LINER JOKE OF THE DAY
(1) Meanwhile, in a parallel universe: “Oh for God’s sake! Where are all these extra single socks coming from?!”
(2) “Um.” —First horse that got ridden.
Love is…a couple of old rockers
A time for Harry Potter…A time for Christmas Pig.
1399 Henry IV (the first King of the House of Lancaster) was crowned king of England.
1940 Princess Elizabeth, aged 14, (now Queen Elizabeth II), made her first radio broadcast to child evacuees.
1963 The term Beatlemania was coined after The Beatles appeared at the Palladium. They made their debut as the top of the bill on ITV’s ‘Sunday Night at The London Palladium.’
2016 Queen Elizabeth II became the world’s longest-reigning monarch following the death of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
©2021 Phil M Robinson