The Christmas Pig
J. K. Rowling
Little, Brown 2021
312pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99
Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig. DP has always been there for him, through good and bad – starting school, the break-up of his parents’ marriage, moving house, starting a new school, his mother’s remarriage, a new step-sister who is mean… Whenever there is change to be faced, DP is there for him and it doesn’t matter that he’s getting a bit grey and worn and has had surgery on his eyes because he has his own special smell and always knows exactly what is troubling Jack without even having to be told.
Until one Christmas Eve, something terrible happens – DP is lost. Fed up with step-sister Holly’s nastiness (but too young to understand she is fighting her own demons too), he responds by calling her a loser. To a gymnastics champ who has just lost an important competition, that is a red rag to a bull and Holly throws his precious DP out the car window onto the motorway. Jack is devastated – even though Grandpa searches, DP is not found and all Jack can imagine is DP lost and alone in the dark, cold and wet. He trashes his room in anger, and doesn’t want anything to do with the replacement Christmas Pig that Holly buys, throwing it into the corner.
But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life… even toys. And when strange voices waken Jack he discovers that despite his treatment of it, the Christmas Pig has a daring plan: together they’ll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost, and to save the best friend Jack has ever known…
J. K. Rowling’s name will forever be associated with the world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter, and this story has all the charm and originality of those but for a younger audience. It is a much simpler narrative style and many young readers will relate to the upheavals in Jack’s short life and his attachment to DP, the one constant in a turmoil of change. I could hear myself reading it as either a bedtime story or as a class read-aloud, and that, to me, is the hallmark of something quite special. Of the thousands of books I’ve read to children over the 50+ years I’ve been doing that, only a handful reach those heights. So, definitely one to put in your teacher toolbox or on the parent’s shelf to become part of your Christmas Countdown.