We see Mr Piggot, looking his best, larger than large, with his two sons, imitating his pose. They are in front of their house. It is only upon reading the words that our attention is drawn to what's missing from the illustration:. "Mr Piggott lived with his two sons, Simon and Patrick, in a nice house with a nice garden, and a nice car in a nice garage. Inside the house was his wife." The careful positioning of the unnamed wife, at the end of the decsription after the mention of the car, says it all.
Browne illustrates Mr Piggott and his boys looking out at the reader and in full colour, they appear initially very confident, in charge and in control. Mrs Piggott however is depicted in sepia, we can't see her facial features and she looks small, haunched and timid.
The early pages of this picturebook set the scene, Mr Piggott and the boys larger than life, demanding food and attention, their mouths are always open, as though calling for something and Mrs Piggott is always in another picture, cooking, cleaning and looking after her family, never physically with them in an illustration. Gradually, as we turn the pages, we begin to notice references to pigs emerging from the illustrations, Mr Piggott's shadow is pig-like; he's eating fat pork sausages, a close up of his mouth and chest as he takes the sausage to his mouth. This illustration has no words, it doesn't need any. The climax comes the next day, when they get home to an empty house, "... there was no-one to greet them." The boys are shown walking into the living room, and if you look carefully they have pig emblems on their school blazers and Mr Piggott has a pig like rose in his lapel - there are other pig references too.
We turn to an illustration of the living room fireplace. The wall paper is now definitely pigs not tulips, the tiles have blue pigs on them, the grating has pig-like decorations, the poker has a pig handle, there's a pig vase, a pig card, a pig pencil top and the imitation of Gainsborough's 'Mr & Mrs Andrews' shows a man with a pig's head standing next to what was his wife, but it has been cut out and removed.
The facing page has the following text: "She was nowhere to be found. On the mantlepiece was an envelope. Mr Piggott opened it. Inside was a piece of paper." Under is the illustration of a pigs' trotter holding a letter, with the words "You are pigs."
And of course they are, Mr Piggott and his sons are now pigs in clothes and they try to look after themsleves by cooking their own meals, which always tasted horrible. Everything's a mess, dirty dishes in piles, clothes stained and in need of a wash. And there are constant references to the pigs in all these illustrations.
Even the dog has pig-like features, as does the telephone and the lampshade, and can you see the shadow in the window? That's all we need in a story about pigs! A wonderful intertextual reference to a wolf, which we automatically associate with three pigs from our exposure to the traditional story. Many of the students in our classes will be familiar with this story and will make the connection as well.