Saucy

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Saucy Book Poster Image
Characters sparkle with humor in tale about animal rights.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Stands out for positive messages.

Educational Value

Being a pig owner teaches Becca a lot about animal care. She learns all about feeding, caring for, training, and predicting the intelligent responses of pigs. She also learns about factory farming and systemized management of livestock.

Positive Messages

Having a special interest or skill can bring you joy and help you find your place in life. Being a good person is important. Family is where you find strength and support. It will make you feel good about yourself if you figure out what you are supposed to do with your life. If you are a bad person, learn how to become a good person before you grow up. Just keep being you. Sometimes if people understand you, they will treat you better. Being a pet owner can make you into a responsible person. If something doesn't kill you, it can make you stronger. Being open and transparent is important. Sending good, healing thoughts to people or animals can help them feel better. Kids can make a difference in their world. Speaking up and acting on your beliefs can help make positive changes.

Positive Role Models

Becca's parents are very involved in the quadruplets' lives. They schedule, support, care for, and engage with their kids. The family takes walks together nightly and are very connected. When Becca needs support, her parents make monetary, emotional, and physical efforts to help (e.g. sleeping on the floor with her). Becca's brother, Bailey, has Cerebral Palsy, but shows how he can overcome many of his challenges. Becca's grandmother lives with them, and is supportive at times, but also behaves unpredictably now that she's at an advanced age. Becca's mom is part Japanese. The other characters are presumably White.

Violence

Becca gets angry feelings, thinking she would "destroy" anyone who might even consider hurting her dad. She threatens to poke her brother with a stick. The siblings witness animal cruelty on a very large scale. Animals are wounded, sick, and dying in large numbers.

Sex
Language

"Crap."

Consumerism

The Walking Dead, The Matrix, The Bible, The New York Times, XBox, Born Free, You Tube, Google Maps.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cynthia Kadohata's Saucy is a funny book that takes a critical look at factory farming and animal cruelty. Becca and her brothers are quadruplets, being raised in suburban Ohio by her two parents and their grandmother, who lives with them. Becca feels like she is a "bad" person because she dumped her best friend MacKenzie, who became a "non person" at school after her mom got arrested (we never find out why she was arrested, only that she had been given a second chance after the family relocated). Becca finds a pig on the side of the road one night on a family walk, and after taking it to the hospital to have it treated for mange and malnutrition, keeps it. But because Saucy is a Yorkshire pig, and will grow to be 600 pounds, the family has to make a tough decision about her future.    

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What's the story?

In SAUCY, by Newbery and National Book Award-winning author Cynthia Kadohata, a family with a set of quadruplets finds a suffering pig on the side of the road. Little do they know that tiny pig is about to have a huge effect on their lives. Becca, age 11, has been looking for something that will be her "thing." She's got a brother who's into ice hockey, one who writes music from his wheelchair, and one who swears that an ancient alien life form created a simulation that we're experiencing now. Becca thinks meditating will be it, but when Saucy the pig trots into her life she becomes someone who fiercely loves a pig, and being a pig owner becomes her thing. Though she's convinced that she has bad and cowardly parts of herself, her desire to rescue, nurture, and care for Saucy challenges her to become a better person. When she and her brothers discover Saucy's origins, they decide that they need to take action about something that's been going on way too long in their town.

Is it any good?

This is a masterful, funny story about a girl and her newfound best friend, a memorable pig with a lot of character. Saucy is a symphony of many parts working together. There's a quirky protagonist with an upbeat -- but maybe flawed? -- nature. There's a family where everyone is walking to his or her own tune, but all band together when required. There's a mysterious, dark undertone. And there's a diva named Saucy. And Saucy has needs-- no, she has demands! She demands to be fed in large quantities whenever she wants to-- she'll chew through Becca's mom's vegetable garden just for show. She'll tip chairs to make a point, and she'll plow through screen doors if she hears a potato chip bag opening. Saucy, in short, is more than "one smart pig." She's one smart pig with a magnificent personality. 

Kids will relate to Becca's desire to take risks for Saucy because, "owning a pig obviously involved all kinds of quick executive decisions." Owning a pig is a chance for Becca to show the world that she's responsible enough and good enough to own a pig. Even school bullies don't matter as much when you've got a pig like Saucy in your life. She's Becca's purpose, her thing. But Saucy's past carries an overwhelming secret, which kids will also appreciate -- the adult world is complicated and sometimes scary. In this story, though, love and commitment triumph over pain, and it shows that when all of the different parts work together, harmony can be achieved.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about activism and how it resonates with kids in Saucy. How do Becca and her siblings and friends feel when they stand up for what they think is right? How do you speak out for what you believe in?

  • Becca and her brothers take their phones to bed with them. What are the media habits in your family? Are there rules about screen time?

  • Becca and her friend watch The Walking Dead, knowing that it's too scary for them, but Becca's brother isn't phased by it. How do you know if scary shows are OK for you? What is too much?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love funny stories and animal tales

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