By Elizabeth Wroten
Reading Into Pigsticks and Harold
On 27, Aug 2015 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
I had a lot of thoughts about this one. I get that it’s an early chapter book and I don’t think this was the author’s intent writing the book. But you can’t help but wonder if the book itself and the positive reviews it seems to be getting on GoodReads reveal some deep seated, hidden biases we have.
I really think Pigsticks and Harold encapsulated the colonial system (and our current system that favors white people). Pigsticks is a very pale pig who doesn’t have a job, lives very comfortably, has a rather illustrious family line and decides to go on an expedition. He hires Harold, a very dark brown hamster who doesn’t actually apply for the job of sherpa, but gets it anyway. Harold is a bit bumbling but a gentle soul, much like depictions of native people in colonial literature.
Picksticks often seems to include him by calling them both explorers. However, Harold is always the one to take on the danger, get hurt and still get stuck carrying all of Pigsticks’ useless luggage. Harold hardly has a voice, he doesn’t get any say in what they do despite the fact that it affects him more, and is plain put upon. Pigsticks treats him like a servant is, quite frankly, a prick. He motivates him with the promise of cake that he doesn’t actually have or appear to intend to give him.
On the surface, it’s funny, but if you look at what it really seems to be depicting it isn’t. It might have even have been fine if the book was a parody of the colonial system and the cultural system that oppresses minorities, except the book isn’t making fun of it or putting it up as something bad. It’s just using it for humor at the expense of the Harold, the minority. And the problem is, the younger kids are exposed to this stuff, and in such a subtle way, the more they internalize the messages and biases.
I won’t be buying or recommending this.