The Three Swingin’ PigsThe Story Behind the Story

My father played drums in a band in college called the Campus Owls, at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in the 1940s. He took to see lots of great jazz concerts. I’ve seen Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Cheatham, Lester Bowie, Max Roach, and many more legendary performers. I wanted to pay tribute to these jazz greats. One day the phrase “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow the house down!” kept going through my head until it became this story.


Kirkus Reviews (starred review):

Though as big and baaaaad as ever–“I’m a classic
fairy-tale villain,” he proudly proclaims–the wolf has no better luck chowing down on jazz-combo piggies Satch, Mo and Ella than he did with their uncles in that other tale. Rendered in the high-energy art as a duded-up, super-skinny figure with a long ski nose and breath so stunningly bad that it comes out in a noxious green cloud, the determined wolf scores a ticket to the pigs’ latest gig, elbows his way to the front of the packed Smokehouse– and then gets invited up on stage by scat-singing Ella to show his chops (so to speak). A crowd-pleasing howl and some huffing and puffing on the sax later, he’s given up his predatory purpose to become the band’s newest member. Montijo’s red-hot pictures and Rubin’s skit-scat-skedoodle words make this take-off a hand-clapping, foot-stomping romp.

Publishers Weekly:

Attempting to reverse the fortune of the three not-so-lucky little pigs of the classic fairytale, Rubin (Ralphie and the Swamp Baby) offers up an easygoing porcine trio, cast as cool jazz musicians with an enthusiastic following. The text is as smooth as the main characters, the token wolf dubbed the “baddest cat” and the pigs referred to as Satch, Mo and Ella (a nod to the great Armstrong and Fitzgerald). Unlike the wolf in the original tale, this one must go to great lengths to get hold of these starlets-his initial plan to devour them onstage is foiled when he can’t get a ticket to their show. Montijo’s (Cloud Boy) lively neon acrylics keep pace with action; some of the best feature fairytale cameos, as the wolf is shown offending Little Red Riding Hood with his “stinky breath” (a running gag throughout) or running off with a half-eaten Gingerbread Man. “What did you expect?” the wolf quips, “I’m a classic fairy-tale villain.” Once the wolf finally gets his intended victims within reach, the self-assured piggies do the unthinkable by inviting him onstage-killing him with kindness, instead of a bubbling cauldron. The story ends on an upbeat note, as the newly formed quartet belts out a
happy tune. Kids should get a kick out of this hip riff on an old standard. Ages 5-9. (May)

School Library Journal:

Gr 1-4- Toe-tapping, claw-snapping, and bebopping replace the usual huffing and puffing in this jazzed-up version of the traditional folktale. Porcine siblings Ella, Satch, and Mo have formed a trio that is all the rage with their animal audiences. Their successful musical future is in jeopardy, however, when Wolfie, a self-described “classic fairy-tale
villain,” decides to exact retribution for his failure to capture their uncles in earlier days. Will the three swingin’ pigs win over Wolfie with their sweet
music? Fortunately for them, he’s a bit of a ham and loves performing. Full of porker-inspired puns and clever repartee, this fast-paced tale has definite appeal. The colorful, cartoonlike acrylic illustrations are a perfect match for the zany, slightly over-the-top story line. Whether used as part of a unit on fractured fairy tales or read independently just for fun, this version will have its audience howling.
-Maura Bresnahan, High Plain Elementary School, Andover, MA

Amazon reviews:

Large, colorful drawings by Rhode Montijo enhance a colorful tale., June 10, 2007 By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)

Satch, Mo and Ella are cool pigs, so when Wolfie shows up for the Big pig Gig ready to eat meat, they can smell him coming – and they have a plan. The wolf is the ‘baddest cat to walk the land’ and also has the baddest breath and no friends: can the swinging pigs teach him something? Large, colorful drawings by Rhode Montijo enhance a colorful tale.

My five-year-old cousin and I love this book.,
August 11, 2007 By N. Schaefer (California) – See all my reviews

It’s a gripping yet heartwarming story with memorable characters. The pictures are wonderfully wild, colorful, and expressive. The book captures the delight of making music.

Ella Fitzgerald once said, ‘It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.’ This story has got it!