by Chris Kurtz
Genre: Adventure, Children’s Books
Age Range: 10-12 years old
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Flora’s a die-hard dreamer. She’s never left the farm, but she knows she was born for adventure. She’s determined to become a sled pig!
A harrowing voyage to Anartica, a bacon-loving cook, and a shipwreck in deadly conditions stand between Flora and her dream. What will happen to Flora, whose companions see her as more of a meal than an adventurer?
“Mama, why do we live in a cage?”
My daughter’s elementary school picks a book each year that the entire school reads together. Every student’s assignment is to read a chapter each night and then discuss it in class the next day. This year, the chosen book is Chris Kurtz’s The Adventures of a South Pole Pig.
Upon seeing the cover, I thought it was super cute and looked forward to reading it with my daughter. The main character is an ambitious, but ridiculously naive pig named Flora. She lives the typical boring life of a pig on a farm with her mother and siblings and yearns to get out and explore the world.
Flora escapes the pig pen one day and comes across a group of sled dogs in training. It is then that she gets it into her head that she can become a sled pig. The day comes when she is separated from her family and put on board a ship heading to Antartica for an expedition. Flora thinks that this means she will be able to pull a sled with the dogs, completely unaware that the humans actually intend to eat her.
After spending days in the ship’s rat-infested belly, the ship crashes into an iceberg and sinks, leaving Flora and the others shipwrecked in Antartica, freezing and hungry.
Ultimately, it’s a wonderful story about the power of friendship, teamwork, thinking outside of the box, beating the odds, and believing in yourself. The story does a beautiful job at bringing out all of those elements.
The animal characters have their own distinct personalities and are fun to follow along. As in books like Charlotte’s Web, The animals can understand each other, but cannot interact with the humans in the same language. Flora’s friends who accompany on her adventure include Sophia, a fiercely independent cat who sometimes speaks in the third person, Oscar, the leader of the sled dog team who thinks sled pulling is life, and Aleric, a cabin boy who is brave enough to face the cold wilderness of Antartica with only his animal friends as his companions.
While the human characters aren’t very well developed, this isn’t the kind of book that requires them to be. The spotlight shines on the animals, which is what keeps a child’s attention. I do think that the adventure was a little slow to start. It isn’t until chapter 23 that the South Pole even becomes the setting.
A lot of time is spent on Flora’s time spent in the belly of the ship battling rats— perhaps a little too much time. This is where my daughter started to get bored with the story, and once she loses interest, it’s hard to get it back, no matter how great the rest of the book might be.
Despite the slow start, however, the book is worth the read and a great teaching tool for young readers who are transitioning to chapter books. And though the book is long, I must recommend it as a great read-aloud book for even younger kids!
“You just keep up your spirit. Trouble comes to us all. Adventure comes to those who choose it but turns into trouble quick if you don’t know how to land on your feet.”
“You never know where brains and talent will come from.”