I think it's time for the husband's favourite book to make an appearance; Arnold Lobel's 'Small Pig'.
In some ways, this should have featured during my learning to read diversions of last week as it comes from the classic 'I CAN READ' (I like the urgent capitalisation) series of US origin that seems so superior to the many similar series here. The fact that the 'Frances' books are published under the same imprint gives an idea of the quality of story telling on offer.
I'm split as to whether it's a good thing that they are 'leveled' and marketed as 'readers' or whether that again turns them into work to be joylessly ticked off and progressed through for the reader. In truth I suppose, it depends on the child. Still; hurray for the quality of 'em.
This is the only book from his childhood library that still accompanies the husband- and from his account it certainly wasn't something he read and reread as 'work' even if it originally went on the bookshelf for his Improvement. It's also one of the few pieces of fiction he references from childhood before he turned (in the manner of many boys) to reading the encyclopaedia instead. He's really useful on country walks in explaining the geological formation of landscape or the differences between Aztecs and Incas but he knows nowt about Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Small pig lives on a farm, beloved by both farmer and farmer's wife. He leads a peaceful life where his greatest pleasure is to 'sit down and sink down in good, soft, mud.' Then, one fateful day, the urge to clean and tidy comes upon the farmer's wife and she washes the pig and hoovers all his good mud away (never a good idea to clean see?). Small pig becomes angry (there's a great picture); 'This place is too neat and shiny for me'. He runs away.
But the quest to find a satisfactory new puddle of mud proves harder than he expects; until he arrives in the city and finds a lovely pool of fresh cement. Small pig becomes stuck in the pavement and a crowd gathers.
'The farmer and his wife drive by in their car. "Look at that big crowd of people," says the farmer. "Let's stop and see what is happening."
"All right," says the farmer's wife, "but hurry. We must keep looking for our lost pig."
The farmer stops the car. "What is happening here?" he asks a man.
"Oh nothing much," says the man.
"There is just a pig stuck in the pavement."'
With the help of the fire brigade the family are reunited and the farmer's wife promises never to clean the mud away again.
Funnily enough, the future of a small male pig on a farm is not elucidated.
Lobel's illustrations animate pig's pleasures and furies beyond the simplicity of his 'easy reading' words. It's just plain delightful in combination. The husband has great taste. Of course he does.