By Louis Sachar
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 0 7475 9924 1
Only a very imaginative writer like Louis Sachar could make a sparkling novel out of a paper-thin plot. Pig City is one such book. Sachar is a master at creating entertainingly quirky characters to grip his readers and that is what his new novel is all about.
Pig City wittily captures the dynamics of a Grade Six class in an American school. But you don't have to be in Grade Six or even American to enjoy the interaction and ups and downs in Mr Doyle's class. The setting is really just a springboard for Sachar's most entertaining novel since the marvellous Holes.
It all begins with a baseball cap with 'Pig City' printed on it. Laura Sibbie buys the cap at a garage sale and decides to wear it all the time, both at school and at home. The cap is worth its weight in gold because it gives her the idea of starting a secret club at school.
Laura starts inviting her best friends to become 'pigs' in her new club; each new member has to give an insurance - admit a totally embarrassing piece of information - to the club to ensure that the Pig City's secrecy is never discovered.
Slowly but surely, Laura's club grows and 'pigs' soon rule the classroom. Strange messages about pigs suddenly start appearing on the board every morning. Even Mr Doyle suspects that something is going on.
But suddenly, and much to the horror of Pig City's members, a rival club called Monkey Town springs up out of nowhere. Gabriel, one of the class stars, has his suspicions about what Laura has done and, seeing he can't get into Pig City, he starts his own secret society. After all, if you can't join them, beat them at their own game.
Now there are two secret clubs in Mr Doyle's class and things are looking pretty explosive under the surface. Gabriel really likes Laura, but a note he sends her is intercepted and changed by trouble-maker Sheila. Only one club can have power, and so a mini-war breaks out.
There's a spate of name-calling, pencil breaking, apple-core throwing and other dastardly deeds in Mr Doyle's class. These silly pranks gradually become more serious as each secret society builds up speed to topple the other.
Pig City is a novel built on character, not plot. Sachar has a great ear for dialogue, and the classroom banter when Mr Doyle's back is turned is very funny.
The whole novel is told in short bursts that perfectly match the tone of the plot and the antics of the characters. Readers of all ages will read Pig City with smiles on their faces. This is a good novel to relax with when you are in the mood to be just entertained by a book.
Sachar has a proven record of tapping into young minds and discovering the amusing and the slightly ridiculous. Pig City is a thoroughly entertaining treat.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com