Tag Archives: Packfat

A Review of Dr. Smith’s The Tale of Piggy Packfat

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.

illustration of dr. smith

Dr. Smith

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
Memphis, Tennessee

Zeke Johnson is a retired schoolteacher with the Memphis City Schools and an active musician and songwriter.

Welcome to the Tale of Piggy Packfat

This book is intended as a vocabulary-building tool for young readers.  Written in rhyming verse, it begins in simple words children can easily understand, but as it progresses adds bigger words that expand the readers’ language skills.  The author skillfully introduces the reader to new words such as “larder” for “pantry,” “swine” for “pig,” commercial terms “borrowing” and “repay,” “township” for the community, “omen” for “sign,” “distress” for “trouble,” and “carnivores” for wolves.  As the plot progresses, references are also made to other classics of children’s literature involving “good wolves,” such as in Kipling’s The Jungle Book and the ancient Roman myth of Romulus and Remus, which will hopefully direct the young readers to such other intellectually stimulating reads.

fb_coverThis morality tale in verse teaches children about the importance of thrift, cleanliness, honesty, and respect for one’s self, family members, neighbors, and others.

The book is set in a distant, magic land where the differences between animals and people are blurred, and animals can dwell as equals with humans.  It focuses on the Packfat Family, where Daddy goes to work each day, while Mother keeps house and attends to the children.  Families are supposed to work together for the common good.  But in this book selfish Piggy Packfat is only out for herself.  Thrift is encouraged and the family work together to save.  But their daughter Piggy only cares about herself.  She “borrows” from the family savings until there are none left, which causes the others to leave her in disgust.  She allows the once-handsome family cottage to go to ruin and annoys the neighbors with her wailings, until nobody has any sympathy for her. She stuffs herself with fattening foods and lets her body go to pot like she did her home. This makes her only attractive to the Wolf, who eventually comes to eat her.  Piggy Packfat sets a negative example of what children should not be, much like the little boy who cried “wolf.”

large_pigWhat sets this book apart from others is the impeccable verse and vivid, colorful illustrations which work together to stimulate the young readers’ imagination while telling an entertaining story.  Its moral message is quite clear:  work, save, plan, take care of yourself and your business, respect your loved ones and others, and live a rewarding life—or else you may open yourself up to folly, like Piggy does.