Friday 6 February 2015

Jonathan Emmett on the tale of a perfectly pristine pig

This month we publish A Spot of Bother, the new picture book from Jonathan Emmett (illustrated by Vanessa Cabban). Today we welcome Jonathan to the Picture Book Party for this exclusive guest post:

Pigs have an undeserved reputation as dirty creatures. In reality pigs are one of the cleanest farm animals; they will use one area for sleeping and another for going to the toilet, providing they are given enough space. The pig in my new picture book, A Spot of Bother, is fastidiously clean. The book is a follow-up to The Pigs Knickers and both books are illustrated by my longtime collaborator Vanessa Cabban.

In this second story Pigs behaviour is as over-the-top as ever. When a squashed cherry leaves a small stain on his backside, Pig declares it to be a monstrous misfortune. Things go from really-not-that-bad to genuinely awful as Goat, Cow and Sheep try to help Pig rid himself of the spot. But the more they try to clean it, the bigger it gets!

When I was writing the story, I decided it would be funniest if the spot ended up covering Pigs entire body, from head to trotter. I also decided that, to give the story a satisfying ending, Pig would have to get completely clean again. The question was how to achieve this. One solution I considered was to have Pig caught in a thunderstorm and showered clean in the downpour. This would certainly be dramatic, but then I came up with another solution that allowed me to get Pig even dirtier before he was cleaned up. I realise that not every parent may thank me for revealing that mud can be good for your skin, but by dunking Pig in a mud bath I was able to make his transformation back to spotlessness even more sudden and dramatic.

Vanessas illustrations deftly capture Pigs emotions as he goes from satisfaction to despair and back again. My favourite spread shows Sheep trying to wash off Pigs spot with shampoo, but accidentally using a bottle of dye instead. I dont know if its intentional, but Pigs resigned pose as Sheep squirts the dye over him reminds me of one of the iconic cherubs from Raphaels Sistine Madonna.

And his sense of dejection is beautifully conveyed by his slumped posture in this panel.

 A Spot of Bother is the seventh book that Vanessa and I did together and I'm extremely sad to say that it will be our last as Vanessa passed away shortly before Christmas. She was a good friend and an inspiring illustrator to work with and I will miss her greatly.

Thanks Jonathan, for stopping by Picture Book Party! Jonathan has also created this fantastic Pig mask so you can bring Pig's stories to life yourself. You can download the mask on our Activities page, and if you visit Jonathan's website Scribble Street, he has written this guide on how to create the mask.

Don't forget to check out the trailer for A Spot of Bother.