Half a Pig
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The daunting task of illustrating Ahlberg's text here falls to his daughter Jessica in the author's latest 'rollicking' adventure. Esmeralda Pig is half owned by her beloved Mrs Harbottle and half by Mrs Harbottle's dastardly ex-husband who, now that they are divorced, wishes to claim his half. This ensuing slapstick shen-anigans unfold in Ahlberg's trademark conversational style as the chase gains momentum, Ealing Comedy style, across the pages of the book. The author's stature gives him licence to tamper with the usual rules of text/image relationship and picture book/story book format, and the reader is invited to look out for various words that will be coming up in the text and to share the author's relish in their sounds and meanings. Jessica Ahlberg's promising debut (given the intolerable burden of the footsteps in which she is following) is rather buried under the weight of design and art direction that makes her work seem reliant on that of the excellent Katherine McEwen, who illustrated the previous Ahlberg/Walker collaboration, The Man Who Wore All His Clothes.