Saturday, 15 February 2014

A Pig Called Heather by Harry Oulton

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When the pig called Heather woke up after lunch, the first thing she thought was that she had absolutely nothing to do. That was good, doing nothing was one of her best things, and also one of the things she did best.
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Published by Piccadilly Press December 2013
192 pages
Heather's best friend is a girl called Isla, who lives with her dad on a farm in Scotland. Their idyllic life together is shattered when a thunderstorm destroys the farm and forces Isla's dad to sell up and move to London - leaving Isla and Heather miles apart and utterly miserable. Then fate intervenes, turning Heather from an everyday pig into a national celebrity, and catapulting her to fame, fortune and most excitingly of all ...London. Armed only with her own pig-headedness, Heather embarks on a quest to track down her best friend. After all, how many girls with freckles can there be in London?
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Reviewed by Caroline Hodges
Reading A Pig Called Heather took me back to my childhood days spent happily reading the likes of Dick King-Smith, completely immersed in the animal worlds the author created.  Harry Oulton pulls off this same total absorption but with a modern flair.  Heather is, well, as pig-like as you’d imagine; easily distracted by food, laid back and easy going. She takes things very much as they come without dwelling on the negative. Even when her best human friend has to sell up the farm they live on together and move to London, Heather doesn’t get melancholy, she just plans how she’ll get to London with her!
The best part of the book is the personification of the different animals Heather encounters – from her life long friends on the farm to the dogs she encounters on her trip to London – they’re all full of character and somehow completely believable considering the animal they are. Rhona the goat for instance, will quite happily spout wisdom whilst she eats a newspaper.  
The book as a whole can illicit giggles from all ages, but there are certain parts where the humour is subtle, maybe more for the adult reading to their child (Isla carefully removing a slice of ‘pink stuff’ with an ‘oops’ from her sandwich before giving it to Heather).  There are also some grown-up topics which are explained very well for a young audience – we’re not talking icky stuff here, just grown up stuff, like when Rhona the goat explains the concept of insurance to Heather when the farmer’s crops are ruined by fire. 
I think the only thing I found unbelievable (and a little sad) was that once she travels to London, Heather doesn’t seem to spare a thought for the farmyard friends she’s left behind.  She didn’t even say good bye!  Yet the beginning of the book suggests that whilst Isla is a very close friend, she has other friends just as important, like Rhona the goat and Alexander the sheepdog.  Perhaps it’s just my personal nostalgia from similar books I read as a kid, but I kind of hope Isla and Heather don’t stay in London.  I want them back on their farm where they belong!

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