Wolves and pigs have always been excellent fodder for suspenseful children's stories, and Swine Lake proves it once again, this time in the masterful hands of the late James Marshall and Maurice Sendak. Marshall wrote the book fully intending to illustrate it himself, but when he died in 1992, his good friend Sendak was charged with the challenging task of bringing this delightful work to life. And come to life it does! The rollicking tale opens with a mangy, hungry wolf on the prowl in an unfamiliar part of town. Soon the wolf's nose twitches uncontrollably. He smells pigs! Just across the street is a theater marquee bearing the words Swine Lake. Boarshoi Ballet. The wolf can scarcely conceal his delight, and "soon the aroma of pig, thinly disguised by French perfume, was making him swoon."
Snatching matinee tickets from a swanky ticket-scalping sow who arrives in a limousine, he enters the theater. "Had the ticket taker been more observant, he would have noticed the long claws and much that follows could have been avoided," Marshall adds parenthetically. The wolf is escorted by a distracted usher to his box seat, just a short pounce from the stage. When the show begins, the wolf ponders which might be the juiciest pig. But as he assesses the probable quality of the pork, he begins to get lost in the magical story, and decides to put off his attack until act 2... and in fact forgets to make his move altogether. That very night he breaks into his piggy bank and spends his last penny on a ticket for the evening performance of Swine Lake.
Anyone who is familiar with Swan Lake will be positively giddy to behold Marshall and Sendak's porcine take on this well-known ballet, but certainly no cultural context is necessary to appreciate the simple plot. With a winning story about the power of the theater to soothe the hungriest, toothiest of beasts, this fabulous team has made an absolutely historic contribution to children's literature. Fans will see a lighter, funnier side to Sendak than they've seen before, as Marshall's comic spirit gently guides his paintbrush and pens. (Click to see a sample spread. Text copyright 1999 by James Marshall. Illustrations copyright 1999 by Maurice Sendak. Reproduced with permission of HarperCollins Juvenile Books.) (Ages 4 and older) --Karin Snelson