Ted Dewan's Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All
Children's books review by P.J. Rooks
Kids ages three to eight would probably enjoy this book.
The sort of socially inept kid whose parents buy their own piece of mind by loading him up with toys and arcade cash and sending him packing, Crispin is a spoiled rotten, only child, rich kid pig who has (rather undeservedly) just been thrown a bitter bone by a mean and self-righteous Santa.
"Master Crispin," reads the note on the grand Christmas box. "In this box you will find the only thing you do not have. It's the very best thing in the whole wide world. -- S."
But for all its shiny and promising overture, the box is empty. Review continues.
And of course, poor little Crispin sits on the floor and cries. Pushed away by his disinterested parents then abandoned by Santa, Crispin wraps up his sad holiday by tossing the offending box into front yard and heading off to sulk.
He watches from his room as a rabbit and a raccoon stroll into his yard -- a rabbit and a raccoon who haven't forgotten that the true fun of Christmas is in playing with the box -- and they do love Crispin's box. Hmmm… it seems our spoiled pig needs to defend his property, worthless as it is. No matter, the rabbit and raccoon are back the next day and when Crispin orders them off his lawn, he is boldly accused of being an alien scum and blasted by an imaginary laser beam and the good-for-nothing box becomes a cosmic outpost in a game of Space Base that rolls on until sunset.
The following Saturday morning finds Crispin with little hands, nose and hopeful eyes pressed up against the glass of his front door, waiting for his new friends. Hooray -- they do come! The box is good for playing store, pirates, castle and of course, Space Base! And when the box gets ruined in the rain, his friends find tons of ways to re-imagine the broken and forgotten toys in Crispin's room.
Doom rolls in on dolly wheels, though, when an insensitive housekeeper sends all of Crispin's junk away with the handyman who just installed the new refrigerator. Devastated, Crispin sheds more tears, convinced that his friends won't want to play with him anymore, then strolls sadly out to the garden to have a look at the empty refrigerator box that somehow got left behind. An empty box? Think again! Is anyone up for another round of Space Base?
There are two things going on here, and I'm not sure which one is the greater gift -- that Crispin makes some new friends in the neighborhood or that he learns how to engage in imaginative play.
Talking about kids who play with the box at Christmas, Stuart Brown, author of the book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul writes,
"As they grow, kids are often taught out of this imaginative approach to play, at first by parents, who might impart pressure and guilt that they really should be playing with this great toy, or by persuasive media marketing. Later, kids get toys that come straight out of hit movies or TV shows, toys that come with a preset collection of ideas about who the characters are and how children should play with the toys."
Well, that's the grown-up version of it. For kids, Crispin, The Pig Who Had It All is resplendent in its wiggly and futuristic illustrations with a swirling, dazzling Christmas tree that looks a bit like old-fashioned Christmas candy and a game of Space Base that's pop-off-the-page fun. It's the story of unsinkable friendship, good, clean, kid-frolic and a reminder to parents everywhere in our fast-paced, Mom's-taxi culture to slow it down a bit and let the box be.
Webmaster's note: If your child struggles to entertain him or herself, consider my downloadable ebook, How Boberto Learned to Like Being by Himself Sometimes.
Read more of P.J.'s reviews.
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