Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reading: The Three Little Javelinas [A Southwestern Fairy Tale]

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A few summers ago, I spent five weeks in the Southwestern United States, a region that was vastly different than any other part of the country I had previously visited.  The expansive deserts seemed endless until I neared El Paso, when I suddenly became enveloped in a world of yellow sand, tall gray mountains, and lonely cacti.  Everything was new to me, but I found the region to be quite wonderful and rustic.  The fairy tale The Three Little Javelinas was created to honor the Southwestern United States by retelling The Three Little Pigs with a southwestern creature - the javelina.

For readers who have never heard the word "javelinas," author Susan Lowell provides a helpful description as she begins the story of the three javelinas that live way out in the desert and depart from one another to seek their fortunes.  The first little javelina gets swept up in a tumbleweed and decides to build his house from them.  The second little javelina constructs his home from saguaro ribs, sticks from a cactus-like plant, and the third little javelina creates her home from bricks. Suddenly, these juicy creatures come to the attention of hungry Coyote, who obliterates the tumbleweed and saguaro homes and frighten the first two javelinas to their sister's house.  When the coyote tries to sneak into the brick home via chimney, the javelinas light the stove and scare the sneaky coyote away! 

I enjoy this version of The Three Little Pigs for several reasons, primarily because I admire the southwestern region in which it is set.  The illustrations are true to the region itself and remind me of the deserts that I visited and some of the creatures that I saw there. Author Susan Lowell presents an authentic view of the Southwest and is a credible source for doing so; after all, she was born in Mexico and has written a myriad of fairy tale books that take place in the Southwest, including Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella and The Tortoise and the Jackrabbit, among others.  She also includes a note detailing her process for writing about the Southwest and telling about what guided her to make her decisions for writing the book.  On the other hand, illustrator Jim Harris is not from the southwest; he grew up in North Carolina. However, I feel that he illustrated the book to align with the author's descriptions and brought the Southwest to live with justice! 

Further, I appreciate The Three Little Javelinas because it can be incorporated across the curriculum.  This book would align greatly with the study of ecosystems (particularly the desert), animal adaptations, and even economics, as students can analyze what resources were used to create the homes of the javelinas.  And of course, being that it is a fairy tale, it has solid story elements and would be an excellent book for summarizing and sequencing.  The Three Little Javelinas could also be incorporated into a fairy tale unit and compared and contrasted with other Little Pig books. Interestingly, this is the first Little Pig book that I have read in which of the pigs is a girl!  

After reading The Three Little Javelinas, I felt like I had been transported back to the deserts of New Mexico and Texas!  While those places are a long way from Virginia, I am grateful for this book for bringing a piece of the Southwest into my library.  If you would like more information about Susan Lowell or Jim Harris, you can click their names and view their websites!     

1 comment:

  1. I love this version! I remember my cooperating teacher reading this to her first graders two years ago (in a fairy tale unit comparison study). It worked out really well, even though she had to explain a lot of the vocabulary to students who were completely unfamiliar with the Southwest. So glad you enjoyed it!