It's been a little while since we've been able to participate, but we're back! We read Babe: The Gallant Pig back in November, actually. We were reading it so that Bookworm1 (age 5) would be able to watch the movie with his Nana when we went down to visit her in Texas. (That was the big treat for finishing this particular chapter book: getting to watch the movie with Nana! Hurray!)
This is the second book we've read by King-Smith (the first being A Mouse Named Wolf.) I thought A Mouse Called Wolf was particularly child friendly, being an easy read-aloud for my then four year old. Babe was more of a reading challenge for us. I would say that is due in part to the vocabulary words in the book. As I read aloud I had to re-word sentences in my head so that Bookworm1 would be able to read the story. Some of the difficulty lay in the terms King-Smith used to tell his story.
Some examples include words like: vicar, pence, Land Rover, ewe, worrying (as opposed to "attacking"), and trials.
These words were either unfamiliar to us or not frequently used so I would sometimes switch them out for other words (e.g., "truck" instead of "Land Rover") and sometimes I would explain the meaning.
This book is about Babe the pig who discovers himself to be quite good at sheep herding. Adopted by the farm's collie, he learns to herd the sheep in a kind and polite manner as opposed to the traditional way that dogs have of barking directions at the sheep. The sheep respond well to Babe's polite manner and follow his directions quite well, to the point where the Farmer Hogget takes note of Babe's easy way with the sheep. Farmer Hogget decides to enter Babe into a sheep herding competition! So happy are the sheep to have someone speaking to them politely, they will do anything for the pig and so, as you might guess, Babe wins the contest and presumably goes on to live a long and happy life on the farm.
I would say that Babe is a very visual book in that the reader has to be ready to work their imagination to see the story play out. Because of the subject matter of the book, you have to be able to visualize the farmer calling out herding directions to Babe and the dog. You have to visualize the sheep's response to being herded about. This was very confusing, initially, to Bookworm1.
Bookworm1: Mommy, WHY are they hurting the sheep?!
Mommy: Oh. No. Not hurting. HERDING.
I then gathered up some items to visually demonstrate to him what herding looked like.
This book may have been a stretch for us, but it worked out alright in the end. I might suggest waiting to read this one with a six year old but if you are willing to do a little explaining, I think it works.
Given King-Smith's fascination with animals, Bookworm1 happily proceeded on with a different of his titles, which we'll share about very soon!