A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The high school students in The Pigman will give younger readers a little information about high school curriculum and culture. The book was written in the late '60s and reveals differences between modes of communication and entertainment then vs. now.
Throughout most of the novel, the main characters, John and Lorraine, blame their troubles on their flawed parents, but the teens come to understand the importance of owning up. The Pigman shows that freedom and responsibility go hand in hand.
Positive Role Models
John and Lorraine's parents are so strict that the teens can't see any merit in their guidance, but Mr. Pignati offers them freedom, trust, and friendship. He shows them how it feels to be respected, and how to be better friends. When they realize they've failed Mr. Pignati, the teens learn how to accept responsibility for their behavior.
Violence & Scariness
A man with a medical problem falls down a flight of stairs. A mother slaps her daughter across the face in anger; the daughter is afraid of her mother and tells others that the mom will beat her.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A teen boy and girl kiss on a bed after playfully chasing each other around the house. A mom is very worried about her daughter's safety and talks a good deal about dressing more conservatively and about how boys/men are only after one thing. The mom works as a nighttime nurse/caregiver for sick and elderly people, and she often mentions that her male clients, or a female client's spouse, has made suggestive remarks or moves on her.
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Early in the novel, John -- who narrates alternate chapters -- explains that his co-narrator, Lorraine, feels he curses too much so he has decided to use type symbols to represent curse words. He types @#$% to represent mild cursing and 3@#$% in place of more rude cursing. It takes little imagination to read the words into the text, but the only actual curse word used in the book occurs when John tells his dad he wants to pursue a career as an actor, and his dad tells him, "Don't be a jackass."
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Products & Purchases
Marlboro cigarettes, Pepsi Cola and Beekman's Department Store.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens smoke cigarettes and consume beer and wine. John was encouraged to try beer at age 10, when he would drink what was left in beer glasses after his parents' parties. John's father is a reformed alcoholic who stopped drinking when he developed cirrhosis of the liver; John knows this but continues to drink -- daily it seems. John also smokes cigarettes, and his friend Lorraine gives him a hard time about it, asking him if he "wants to die." Mr. Pignati serves John and Lorraine homemade wine. At a party, John drinks passes out from excessive drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Pigman is a searing, emotional young adult novel in which two teen siblings learn the impact they can have as kind -- or hurtful -- friends. Written by Paul Zindel, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, this book depicts the unusual friendship between two troubled high school teens and a kind older gentleman named Mr. Pignati. It's narrated by the teens, Lorraine and John, who alternate chapters in which they reveal details about their problems at home as well as about their friendships. Teens and adults in the book drink and smoke. John does both. There's also "cursing," though it's mostly masked, as John uses symbols (@#$%) instead of actual strong language. Violent and scary situations include a mother losing her temper and slapping her daughter, and an ill man collapsing and falling down.
Is It Any Good?
This is a hugely entertaining story that adolescent readers will appreciate for being meaningful without being moralistic and having complex characters that are not black-and-white. The bad guys are also good, and the good guys are also bad. John and Lorraine are sympathetic but always very real-seeming teens who lie to their parents, make big mistakes, and have a lot to learn about the impact of their behavior. Their parents are quite flawed, but they're whole people who show the effects of their own challenging lives. And the Pigman is a loving gift of a character.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.