January 8, 2013
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Ages 9 and Up
Flora the pig was born for adventure: "If it's unexplored and needs to get dug up, call me. I'm your pig," she says. The day Flora spots a team of sled dogs is the day she sets her heart on becoming a sled pig. Before she knows it, she's on board a ship to Antarctica for the most exhilarating—and dangerous—adventure of her life. This poignant novel of a purposeful pig is sure to become a favorite with any young readers who have ever dreamed of exploring the great beyond.
"We are farm pigs, and farm pigs are not in control of their lives. Our food is brought to us each day, and if we ask for more than that, it will just make us unhappy and ill-tempered." So says Flora's mother, trying to stem her daughter's wanderlust. Flora hates her cage, even when her cautious mother insists on calling it a pigpen. Unlike her siblings, Flora has itchy hooves, ready to bust out of the cage and experience real adventure. Soon Flora is on a boat with a sled-dog team headed to the South Pole, where she knows she will find adventure. Never mind that Amos the sailor keeps referring to her as his "little ham bone"; she's convinced that she's along to help pull the dog sled. Her hooves will be just the thing for grabbing the snow, won't they? And no one loves being part of a team as much as Flora. Like all good animal adventure stories, this one has a richly drawn team of helpers. Cat Sophia, who speaks in the third person, is filled with ego and pride but needs Flora's knowledge to conquer the ship's rats. Dedicated sled dog Oscar will move readers to tears. The only (very small) misstep here are the jolly line drawings: the cartoon style is not as serious as the story demands (the rat-killing gets a bit gory; the crew is shipwrecked). Thirty-eight fast-paced chapters make this a perfect book for reading aloud and also assure that newly independent readers will feel successful. Loyalty, courage, and optimism are important ideas, and newcomer Kurtz brings us a rollicking story filled with all three. - Robin Smith
Even as a piglet, plucky Flora knows that her destiny lies outside the pen. After watching sled dogs training, she dreams of joining a sled team. In this satisfying chapter book, one wildly improbable (but somehow convincing) event leads to another. Taken aboard a ship for some mysterious purpose, Flora befriends Oscar the sled dog and Aleric the cabin boy. She and Sophia the cat team up to kill off their common enemy: rats. Shipwrecked off Antarctica, Flora saves the captain's life (and her own bacon), but starvation looms and the crew's survival depends on an unlikely sled team: Flora, Oscar, Aleric, and Sophia. Reinhardt's spirited drawings, shaded with cross-hatching, add considerably to the book's charm. Described as a teacher and a storyteller, Kurtz shows a good sense of pacing in his first novel. There's humor as well as heart, grit as well as tenderness in the telling of this Antarctic adventure tale. Recommended for reading aloud. — Carolyn Phelan
Gutsy and curious, Flora the pig feels hemmed in by her pen at the farm and longs to see the world. Opportunity arises when a man comes to take one of the piglets away; Flora allows herself to be captured, imagining she's at the start of a wonderful adventure. Flora's innocence in this and other matters is a key part of Kurtz's (The Pup Who Cried Wolf) story. The pig is loaded onto a ship headed to the South Pole, where a team plans to cross Antarctica via a dogsled team; Flora assumes she will be part of the pack pulling the sled, not—as readers will have figured out—an entrée. The knowledge of Flora's precarious fate hangs over what's otherwise an upbeat and lively story, as Flora works hard to prove her worth to the crew and forge friendships with Sophia, a fiercely independent cat, and Oscar, the lead sled dog. Like Wilbur before her, Flora's spirit and determination might have the effect, intended or otherwise, of causing a new generation of readers to reconsider their consumption of meat. Ages 9–12. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/12/2012
As a piglet on a farm that raises sled dogs, Flora, who's always been more curious than her brothers (much to her mother's chagrin), wants nothing more than to take her place in the line of dogs pulling a sled. Her best friend, Luna the cat, tells Flora that the adventures she seeks are nothing but trouble; and trouble will find her whether she looks for it or not. Trouble lands Flora in the hold of a ship, where she's mystifyingly called "ham bone" and "sausage" by Amos the cook. Thanks to rat-catching lessons from Luna, Flora can assist new cat-friend Sophia. She likes being useful this way, but why is Flora on a ship headed for the South Pole if not to help the sled dogs? When tragedy strikes, the whole crew counts itself lucky to have such a courageous pig along for the expedition. Kurtz's plucky piggy tale may stretch believability on occasion, but it will greatly satisfy fans of Dick King-Smith and E.B. White looking for something similar. Reinhardt's black-and-white, pen-and-ink illustrations are perhaps a bit too cartoon-sweet for a title featuring realistic rat slaughter and an existential desire not to be food, but every spot illustration will elicit a smile.
Engaging fantasy adventure for preteen pig pals. (Adventure. 8-12)