I’m so glad that I’m a stickler for the ‘book before movie’ rule otherwise I might never have encountered this lovely book. I absolutely adore the movie (and there are so few really high quality films for children), but I really wanted to read the novel with Izzy before I showed her the film.
Although I'm a huge animal lover, I’m iffy about stories that personify animals and I know it takes a deft hand and subtle touch to really pull it off successfully. Dick King-Smith is clearly the man for the job. Also, because of its pig protagonist and similar themes, one can’t help but compare this Charlotte’s Web. Of course there are similarities, but really it is its own story and a beautiful one at that. Where Charlotte’s Web is a charming fantasy, it’s quite fun to believe that the (admittedly really far-fetched) events in Babe actually could happen!
Although this was originally published in 1983 it has the feel of a true classic – something written much longer ago. The language is absolutely beautiful. The story is both funny and touching, but is never overly sentimental. And the plotting is just superb – there were some moments that *literally* had us on the edge of our seats.
I still love the movie, but (big surprise) the book really is better. One really striking difference between the two is that the male dog, Rex, doesn’t exist at all in the book version. His character drives much of the film’s tension so I kept expecting him to appear, but he never did and, quite frankly, didn’t miss him one bit!
Finally, this is such a great book for a vegetarian family. While the book doesn’t explicitly advocate vegetarianism (I’m pretty sure Farmer Hogget and his wife continue to eat meat even as their feelings for Babe evolve), it does challenge conventional ideas about farm animals by showing that the ‘higher order’ animals (humans and dogs) don’t quite have it all figured out when it comes to the ‘lower orders’ (pigs, sheep, etc.).