Wednesday, March 12
by Arthur Geisert
Walter Lorraine / Houghton Mifflin 2008
The children in Pig Village trek up the hill to wallow in the official mud hole. After their frolic they move on to the paint yard where colored liquid is dispensed onto the ground for a more vibrant wallow. As their playtime comes to an end the parents of Pig Village meet them to help supervise their collective bathing in a large agitation tub, followed by being hung out to dry on long clothes lines, and then it's all back to Pig Village, one and all.
Yes, it's wash day in hog land, or Hogwash, as the play-on-words title suggests. And as a synonym for nonsense there's probably no better title for the goings on here. Geisert's wordless picture books (not a graphic novel, mind you) traffic in these silent movies concerning the goings on of anthropomorphic pigs. He produces color etchings for illustrations, a process that renders lines a little rougher than most drawings, here giving the artwork a fussy sort of distance from being too clean.
I have to admit, there's a certain quality to Geisert's books that leave me cold, and it might be the lack of warmth in his art that counteracts the whimsy. I wasn't as impressed with his previous book Oops! because it attempted to slow down a situation -- a house falling apart -- into a book-length set of stills that made a dynamic situation stagnant. At least with Hogwash there is more of a linear narrative, and on the whole I enjoyed it.
This time around I did find one illustration that caused me to wonder about the scale of the pigs in this land. At the point where the piglets are being sent to line dry there is a wind-driven motor made with two magnets that looks like a child's science project. It's the most basic motor that can be made, and it's hooked to a power coil that appears to be copper wire wound around a wooden thread spool. Backing up, looking at the communal bath, their water is heated in what looks like a giant tea pot -- or is it a normal sized teapot?
Are these miniature pigs? Toys? If they are to this scale, these pigs would be about a quarter of an inch tall. I thought that could be an interesting reveal to first give you a world of unusual pigs and then to show you that they're smaller than insects, a world within a world as it were.
It's fun, I liked it, I just wasn't as wowed as some people get over Geisert's books.