Sunday, April 1, 2018

Beryl goes wild by Jane Simmons

Beryl sat in her sty. It was the only place she had ever known; she had lived in it all her life. It was the sty where her mother had lost her life when Beryl was born. It was the sty where she'd seen them take her father away.

Beryl goes Wild or Beryl: A pigs tale as it is called in America is sadly long out of print but you should check your nearest library because this is a little book young readers will enjoy.

Beryl is living on a farm.  Her mother has died and her aptly named Aunt Misery and cousin make sure every day is a misery for little Beryl. When the farmer comes to select pigs to be taken away Aunt Misery makes sure Beryl is marked with his large sticker. She is placed into a truck with a crowd of other pigs. When the lorry crashes, Beryl is the only pig with enough curiosity, gumption, sense to seize freedom. Living as a 'pink' she has been told lots of cautionary tales about wild pigs. She is terrified of being eaten by them and so she is very suspicious when she meets a young wild pig called Amber. Beryl does not realise that very soon Amber will become more than a friend.

There are a group pigs living in the settlement called The Sisterhood of the Mystic Boar. They use stones to foretell the future. Moonshine, mother of Dew,  is one member of the Sisterhood and she explains Beryl is The Chosen One! This might be true but if Beryl stays with this group of wild pigs she will be breaking Rule Number One: "no other type of animals allowed into the settlement."  The council banish Beryl, Amber and her family along with the Sisterhood and a few other supporters. Uncle Bert explains why they must now leave:

"This isn't about the safety of the settlement! It's about prejudice! We need to work out a better way for the rules to protect us all. and I for one, won't stay where the rules are not for the protection of all pigs!"

There are so many interesting topics covered in this book. The idea of factory farms raising pigs for the abattoir, the prejudices and preconceived ideas about others which can be dispelled by a simple friendly conversation and the politics of control.

The Book Bag has more plot details and here is a very detailed review which might give you ideas for discussion questions with older students or among adults.  Your older students might follow Beryl goes Wild with another book series by Stephen Measday which begins with A pig called Francis Bacon. Sadly these books are also out of print but you might be lucky and find them in a school library.  You should also look for all the wonderful picture books by Jane Simmons including Ebb and Flow (try to find the DVD) and Daisy.

This is a tender adventure story about fears, finding yourself, being a leader and risking change to make your world a better place. A Book and a Hug

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