Woody Guthrie once said: “let me be known as the man who told you somethin’ you already know.” That jumped into my mind almost at once when I read Dr. Smith’s wonderfully whimsical morality fable in verse, The Tale of Piggy Packfat. It is a delightful little story that tells us things we’ve always known through the actions of persons we have already encountered, especially ones like Piggy Packfat herself. Dr. Smith enhances this by giving us a refresher course in folklore, reminding us of things we should already know, but about which we all could probably use a reminder.
This lesson is not pedantic; neither is the poem itself. We are reminded of the virtues of helping our fellows and the wickedness of unrestrained self-indulgence. The unsparing portrayal of the dreadful Piggy is tough enough for grown folks, yet not too harsh for kids. Our faith in decent concern for others is reaffirmed, as is our belief that, harsh as it is, Piggy’s comeuppance, when it comes, is righteous and proper.
The clever illustrations in this book are every bit as delicious as the text and most conducive to aiding the young reader’s comprehension. The sharp contrast between the other animals, presented as the proper souls they are, and the over-rouged Ms. Packfat in her supremely tacky red dress, are spot-on. Now, like the author, I’ll share with you something else you already know: I like this book! I’m certain you and your children will, too. It should be considered a “must read” for young readers ages four and older.
Zeke Johnson is a retired schoolteacher with the Memphis City Schools and an active musician and songwriter.