To help celebrate #TellaFairyTaleDay, I chose a retelling of the Three Little Pigs, with a Southwest African twist.
Title: The 3 Little Dassies
Written & Illustrated By: Jan Brett
Publisher/date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2010
Suitable for Ages: 3-5
Themes/Topics: Fairy tales, Namibia, Dassies, Agama Lizard
Opening: “Hot, hot, hot! The little dassies were almost grown up and it was time for them to find their own place. Mimbi, Pimbi, and Timbi waved good-bye to Mommy, Daddy, aunties, uncles, and all their cousins and set out for the distant mountain.”
Brief Synopsis: Like the three little pigs, the 3 little dassies build three different houses to shelter from the elements and from a foe that views them as dinner.
Links to Resources: Visit Jan Brett’s author page for cards and character masks, and even videos in which Jan shows viewers how to draw a dassie. Slightly older children may enjoy finding out more about the Namib desert setting, the dassies, the agama lizard, and the eagle.
Why I Like this Book: The 3 Little Dassies is a wonderful retelling of the classic Three Little Pigs on so many levels: set in Namibia, a part of Africa about which I am relatively unfamiliar, featuring animals that are also relatively unknown (dassies, or rock hyraxes, are most closely related to elephants – who knew?), dressed in the native dress of the Herero women. And note that the generally masculine pigs have evolved to become female dassies, another plus, as we see the trio build their homes. Unlike the wolf who huffs and puffs, the eagle “flaps and claps”, an activity repeated throughout the story and sure to be repeated by young listeners, too. Even the Dassies’ names are clever: Pimbi means dassie in Swahili.
As in author-illustrator Jan Brett’s other picture books, The 3 Little Dassies includes side illustrations that tell part of the story and the illustrations are framed – in this case with swatches of Herero fabric. Finally, the resolution of the Dassies’ problem encompasses an origin myth: “…if you travel to Namibia today, you will see dassies living in stone houses…” After reading this Perfect Picture Book, my suitcases are packed!
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!