Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review: The Pigman, by Paul Zindel (HarperTeen, 2005 edition)

Recommended for ages 12-16

High school sophomores John and Lorraine make prank telephone calls to amuse themselves and their friends. One day, they call Angelo Pignati pretending to be a charity looking for donations; Mr. Pignati, a lonely man, starts a conversation that leads to an unlikely friendship. Mr. Pignati - called the Pigman both for his last name and his collection of pig figurines - is a widower grieving the loss of his wife, and spends his days going to the zoo to feed a baboon named Bobo and spending time (and money) on his new friends.

John is too eager to let the Pigman spend money on him, but Lorraine has a slightly greater moral center and expresses some guilt and hesitation over the Pigman's gifts. They both find themselves developing affectionate feelings for the Pigman, but when he is hospitalized after a heart attack, they make themselves too comfortable in his home, eating his food and ultimately throwing a party that ends up with the destruction of the Pigman's property. The Pigman arrives home from the hospital and witnesses the destruction just as the police arrive. The events of the party lead to an aftermath that leads John and Lorraine to write their story in the hopes of easing their own consciences.

Published in 1968, The Pigman remains relevant, with characters who act and speak like believable teens. Told in a first-person narrative John and Lorraine alternate chapters, giving readers insight into who they are: John is sarcastic and witty; Lorraine is John's guilt-ridden foil. The Pigman, a lonely old man in search of human contact, generates sympathy in the reader. The difficult relationships each of the teens have wiith their parents will resonate with readers.

The Pigman has been designated as an American Library Association (ALA) Notable Children's Book, ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults, a Horn Book Fanfare Honor List (1969), New York Times Outstanding Children's Books of 1968, and Book World's Best Children's Books of 1968.

Author Paul Zindel's website offers information about the author, all of his books, and information for teachers, including links to several study guides.

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