Monday, October 29, 2012

4. Pigmares

Pictures and poems by Doug Cushman
$12.95, ages 7-12, 44 pages

Pigs with fangs and stitched-up snouts groan poetic in Cushman's hilarious homage to monster movies.

This clever collection of poems begins with a pig in bed gasping at the TV screen as he realizes he should never have watched horror films before going to sleep.

Creepy images from the movies seep into his head (from "a thousand-foot pig breathing nuclear fire" to "gurgling gasps from a swamp's murky mire").

Then as sleep overtakes him, he has a series of pigmares described over the next 16 poems, in which famous monsters are re-imagined as pigs.

Pigzilla is a green-snouted Godzilla who wakes up with a radioactive roar and Werehog is a furry pig who shakes windowsills with his mournful tune.

By why so mournful, Cushman asks? Is Werehog out stalking piglets like a big bad wolf or could something else be wrong? "Is his pig swill at an end? / Did he stub his toe upon a rock / or lose his best pig friend?"

Like monsters on the big screen, Cushman's monsters are pitiable in an endearing way -- and often silly. Take the Mummy Pig, a dead pharaoh who awakes from his tomb in a coiled up cloth as dung beetles crawl from his snout. "I rise from inside my sarcophagus tomb / to breathe in the life-giving plants, / then wander the world to put curse on those / who put sand in my underpants."

Many pig monsters feel misunderstood or under appreciated. Pig Kong is treated like a barbarian when in truth he's a vegetarian, while pig horseman from Sleepy Wallow isn't trying to scare anyone, he's just out looking for his head.

Other monsters only want a friend. Frankenswine, a green monster stitched from other pigs, is banished away to an ice floe by a mob with torches and dogs, and the Invisible Swine can't seem to be memorable enough.

Though once "I loved to play all kinds of tricks, / like scaring friends with floating bricks, / or wearing pants or underwear / to make it seem they walked on air," but "now no one wants to come and play. / They've packed their bags and gone away. / So I sit here in this empty place. / I have no friends… / and miss my face." Aw, just too cute.

Then in the final poem of the book, the pig wakes up from his nightmares. Afraid to go back to sleep, he goes downstairs with his stuffed toy Frankenswine to have a bowl of cereal -- only to imagine zombie pigs creeping up behind him.

"They stumble on decaying limbs; / flesh hangs like half-pulled toffee. / They look just like my Ma and Pa -- / before their morning coffee!"

Young readers many not recognize many of these films, but they're sure to giggle at Cushman's turns of phrase and funny twists at the end.

They may also find themselves unexpectedly wishing they could help a few of these monster pigs out. ...Locate a limb, perhaps? Find a face?

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