Monday, August 10, 2009


I have no connection with this book and haven't even discussed it with my friend who published it, Linsay Knight at Random House. So this is simply a fan letter. RA Spratt's Nanny Piggins is one of the funniest novels I have read for a long time.
I was doing some work for Scholastic Australia's Core Library project, where we choose forty books, for in this case middle primary readers, and provide suggestions that will help both teachers and students extend their appreciation.
And we were all surprised to find how much there was in this new Australian title.
Mr Green isn't like Mr Sheffield! He doesn't particularly care about his children and he goes for Nanny Piggins because she is cheap, available and he doesn't have to advertise. Only slight problem is that she is literally a pig.
Where the literary stereotype is about running away from home to join the circus, Nanny Piggins has run away from the circus and finds herself employed by the Greens.
That turns out to be great as far as the kids are concerned, because she recommends the eating of chocolate at every possible opportunity and couldn't care less about homework.
The opening page is a very funny parody of the opening page of Seven Little Australians, where the author tells us that we need to abandon all our preconceptions about what we might be going to read, because Australian books always break the rules.
The great thing about children's specialist booksellers is that they actually read the books they sell. They see it as part of their job. (This applies to independent sellers of adult books too!) So when I dropped in to the always busy Lindfield Bookshop across the road from Scholastic and asked them about this book, they said it had divided the market. I can always depend on them to know their customers and their stock.
Some readers thought it was terrific; others thought it was meaningless fluff. When adults tell me that a book for young readers is silly, it is usually a good sign that the writing is on target. Comedy generally does divide the audience.
I'm intrigued by the names: RA Spratt is the author; Gypsy Taylor is the illustrator. Their websites tell me they are real and well known (I need to get out more!), but they would probably enjoy the fact that the layers of joking in this book made all of us suspicious.
Anyway, give Nanny Piggins to any readers over 8. Teens will enjoy subtleties in the text that won't bother their younger brothers and sisters. I've given a copy to my 95-year-old mum and she is loving it. Give it a go yourself. I can't wait for Nanny's next adventures - but I hope there won't be too many books in the series. Even Fran Drescher didn't know when we'd had enough of a good thing.

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