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Discovering Pig MagicReview - Discovering Pig Magic
by Julie Crabtree
Blackstone Audio, 2009
Review by Christian Perring
Dec 29th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 53)

Crabtree's young adult novel features on 3 thirteen year old girls, each with her own troubles.  The narrator, Mattie, lives with her agoraphobic mother.  Her mother spends all her time at home playing computer games.  Ariel has got herself into trouble in entering a cooking competition using a recipe she copied from somewhere else, and Nicki has a young disabled brother whose medical condition is getting worse.  All 3 girls want a magic solution to their problems since they cannot see any realistic solutions, and they find a book filled with spells.  They do the magic, but things just get worse, so the girls imagine that they must have done the spell wrong, and they should do it again, but that's not so easy because real life keeps on getting in the way.  Mattie is especially frustrated because her family thinks that she loves pigs and have given her pig-related gifts (jewelry, cups, clothes) since she was 4 years old, and she cannot bring herself to tell them the truth.  Now that she has just turned 13, she really doesn't want to have a room filled with porcine-paraphernalia.  Especially since there's a boy at school who she likes, and so she wants a new more mature image.  Unfortunately, it seems that other girls are having more luck at getting the boy's attention. 

So Discovering Pig Magic deals with a combination of traditional teen girl worries along with some more serious issues of mental illness and disability.  Of course, the girls go through trials and tribulations in their families and especially in their relationships with each other, and there are several misunderstandings, but they work things out eventually.  The girls' friendship is validated with hugging and crying.  The depiction of Mattie's mother's reliance on computer games and her inability to leave her house does well at conveying Mattie's impatience and frustration.  Mattie also feels that if her mother can spend her whole time sitting at home playing games and lying about doing real work, then she should not have to work so hard at school herself. The story provides a realistic picture of the sorts of resentments that can arise when there is mental illness in the family, and also a positive portrayal of the resolution of those feelings.  It does not all happen in one flash of compassionate understanding, but takes a while for Mattie to come to term with her mother's problems and to accept her mother's attempts to heal the wounds caused by her self-preoccupied behavior. 

The performance of the unabridged audiobook by Tavia Gilbert on 3 CDs is excellent: it is always trick for an adult to give a convincing yet non-annoying reading of a teen narrator, and Gilbert does a fine job. 

 

© 2009 Christian Perring         

          

Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.


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