Book of the Week: Granfa’ Grig Had a Pig

February 19, 2013

Text and images By Gabrielle.

Can we talk beloved books from our youngest memories? Pictured here is Granfa’ Grig Had a Pig. I get nostalgic just typing that.

I have been hunting down this book for years! I could remember details of practically every image on it’s pages, but couldn’t remember the title for the life of me. Then, early in December, my brothers and sisters were having a Facebook chat about books in our home (do your families make private Facebook groups too?) and I described some of the illustrations, and Jared (he’s married to the lovely Liz) knew exactly what the book was and what the title was immediately. I was so excited. Even better, he sent me a copy!

Oh. I got so teary eyed when I opened the package! Every single page was a wave of nostalgia. I remembered many of the words, but the images, oh my. They are fantastic. An unorderly mix of humans and human-like animals. Tiny details to discover. Lots of humor. The image of the giant ram with curled horns and a rope ladder coming off it’s back has been part of my brain forever. To see it again in all its glory is such a treat!

Granfa’ Grig is just a fantastic collection. Some of the rhymes are familiar, but most are not the usual suspects you’ll find in a Mother Goose compilation, and they’re delightful. Wallace Tripp compiled the poems and made the illustrations, too. He’s clearly a genius.

I have a very vivid memory of being 5-years-old and home sick from school. I was sitting next to my mom in her bed and she was reading to me from this book. It was a new book in ourhome and we were reading it for the first time. We were going page by page and my mom would read each nursery rhyme while I studied the illustrations. On page 29 she read:

Barley butt,

And then, she couldn’t even say the next line because we started laughing so hard! My eyes went as wide as can be and then I just started cracking up. My mom has a very clean mouth and I had never heard her say a bad word — not even butt! I think it even caught her off guard because she wasn’t expecting to find one of her no-go words in a nursery rhyme book. (I realize butt is not on most people’s bad word lists, not sure how or when it made it on my mom’s. : )

The shock! We about died of laughter. Because we would fall into another fit of giggles every time she said butt, it took another 10 tries to finish the tiny poem, but it goes like this:

Barley butt,
Your bum is so heavy,
you can’t get up.

Friends, that humor is basically solid gold to a kindergartener.

The book is currently out of-print. (The copy my brother sent used to belong to the Schenectady County Public Library. It’s in excellent condition.) But you can find copies from used book stores here.

Receiving this book got our family talking about other nostalgic favorites. Ben Blair says he remembers Andy and the School Bus (also out of print) and The Fire Cat (this one has been re-issued). I’d love to hear: Do you have a particular favorite book from your early childhood? Any out of print titles? Have you tracked them down and made them part of your collection?

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heather February 19, 2013 at 8:22 am

I loved loved loved “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” as a child. I couldn’t remember the title of the book as an adult. I would ask other peers and they had no idea. Finally, while walking around a children’s book section in a book store, I spied it! I was so happy! I bought it immediately. I have it to this day.


2 Amy Hackworth February 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm

I loved Sylvester, too! When I read it as an adult, I feel sooo sad for Sylvester’s parents, and as a kid I was just fascinated by Sylvester’s plight.


3 Kate Frishman February 19, 2013 at 8:39 am

I looked for many years for a book from my early childhood called the Bunny Book. It’s a Golden Book, and I believe it’s based on a Walt Disney cartoon, although I’ve never seen it. It’s the story of Bunnyville and Great Grandpa Bunny-Bunny, who paints Easter eggs. As the town grows (it is populated by bunnies, after all) he puts them to work painting the flowers and leaves and icicles in the winter. The one day he goes away, and the next day everyone comments on how they’ve never seen “a sunset so gorgeously bright.” Such a beautiful sentiment.
One day the kids and I were walking through our lovely little town, and a copy of the Bunny Book was in the window of our used bookstore! I was so excited!
The spine is in bad shape, so I am very careful with it. I keep the book with my photo albums, and it gives me such pleasure to see it there.
Now I’m searching for a book from my tween years called the Horsemasters. It’s about a group of kids at an English riding school, and it’s not nearly as sweet, but I think it was the beginning of my mild Anglophilia, and for some reason I think of it every time I think of the years I lived in England. Hopefully it will magically appear in the bookstore window one day!


4 Design Mom February 20, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I love your bunny book story! Best of luck on your Horsemasters hunt. : )


5 Lucy Mitchell February 19, 2013 at 9:50 am

I only recently found Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman. It’s the first book I remember being read aloud to me. My two year old got it in his stocking just this Christmas. (he is my fourth child, that’s how long I have been searching! Probably because I always thought it was by Dr Seuss.) He LOVES it. Funny you should mention The Fire Cat, he got that one too.


6 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag February 19, 2013 at 10:06 am

Oh this just looks amazing! What a fun fun book. The first time I read my favorite book as a little little girl (Little Richard by Patricia Scarry) to my daughter, there were tears in my eyes, it was such an emotional moment! Also, finding books you thought were lost to time and memory is pretty much the best thing ever.


7 Design Mom February 20, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I agree. Pretty much the best thing ever.


8 Eleanor February 19, 2013 at 11:41 am

“Fire Cat” was my very favorite book as a preschooler, and I still have my copy. My mom recently confessed that she dreaded being asked to read it, because she found it boring! I am very sentimental about books, so I have many favorites. I now spend a lot of time trying to get my children to read my old copies.


9 Shannon { A Mom's Year } February 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I’m so happy you found your old friend! My out-of-print treasure is Alexander and the Magic Mouse. My mother read it to me whenever I was sick in bed, and now I do the same with my children.


10 Design Mom February 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm

It does feel like finding an old friend. Makes me happy.


11 Amy Hackworth February 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm

My mom has most of our childhood books still at her home, so when I look over them with my kids, I’m blown away by the memories that emerge. Some of my childhood favorites have turned out to be total duds, and some still hold their magic after all these years. As a child, I was more absorbed in the illustrations than I am now, and remembering being fascinated by details and emotions in pictures. I hope my kids are having that experience, too!


12 Rebecca Conger February 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm

You must read Whatever Happened to George. It’s a little book, that I memorized as a child because we read it so much. I, too, was thrilled when my sister send me a copy she’d found on EBay. It is truly great – about a good little pig who ate too much.
Love it still!


13 HollowSquirrel February 19, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I love that your brother got you a book from my local library! That makes me beam! I used to love the Francis books (I think she’s a badger?). They’re still in the library, so I read them to my boys!!


14 Design Mom February 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Yay! I’ll imagine you checked it out some time in the past and that we’ve both shared this same book. : )


15 Amelia B February 19, 2013 at 7:18 pm

One of my very favorite childhood books is The Country Bunny and the Golden Shoes. I found a pristine library copy at half price books and felt like I won the lottery! My daughter loves it as much as I did.


16 Shonda February 19, 2013 at 8:15 pm

This post struck such a chord with me! It has surprised me how strongly I’ve reacted to re-reading books for my childhood with my own children. The Country Bunny and the Golden Shoes was also one of my favorites! The Polly books by Astrid Lindgren (especially Of Course Polly Can Do Almost Everything) are absolute treasures!


17 Design Mom February 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I feel the same way, Shonda. Every once in awhile, I’ll pick up a book at a library or someone else’s home, and as I read it, I’ll have this wave of recognition from my childhood. It can just about bowl me over!


18 Jennifer Cox February 19, 2013 at 8:24 pm

I asked my grandmother to help me track down “The Original Warm Fuzzy Tale”
Its a story whose premise I continue to quote as an adult.


19 Christina February 19, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I knew the name Wallace Tripp sounded familiar. I picked up Tripp’s “Sir Toby Jingle’s Beastly Journey” at the thrift store and it quickly became a favorite here. I love that moment when a book becomes a favorite.

From my childhood, I loved, loved, loved “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “The Tawny Scrawny Lion.” I’ve enjoyed reading both to my boys.


20 Design Mom February 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm

So glad you mentioned it, Christina! I’ve been meaning to look up more of his work. I appreciate the recommendation!


21 Christina February 20, 2013 at 6:06 pm

How’s this for wild — I found a well-loved copy of Grandfa’ Grig today! Of course I knew it was a gem thanks to you so I brought it home. Thumbing through the pages, I think it’s the illustrations that make it such a winner. For example, how tired the little old women who lives in a shoe looks : )


22 kassandra February 20, 2013 at 7:00 am

i had a book of fairy tales when i was young. i loved it. it contained stories that are uncommon in the disney era such as the goose girl, rose red and rose white, a version of aladdin, etc. beautiful pictures. i would read the book over and over again. my mother sold it at a garage sale without my knowledge. i’ve been looking for it at yard sales and book stores ever since. i still remind her what she did every once in a while; just to tease her.


23 Caryn February 20, 2013 at 8:41 am

Oh, The Fire Cat was one of my all-time favorites. I still have my childhood copy, although I think it was originally my sister’s, but I’ve claimed it as my own. I’m a bit of a book hoarder so I probably already have all the ones I remember so fondly; but I love finding books that my husband barely remembers and then seeing him reunited with great memories. He hated reading as a kid so finding gems that he did like is extra special.


24 Caryn February 20, 2013 at 8:42 am

p.s. I love hearing your book loves again Gabrielle! Although I truly do love Carter and her finds; I’ve missed hearing from you about books too!


25 Jennifer from Your Toy Portrait February 20, 2013 at 9:54 am

That’s a fabulous book, but can we talk about that bear?? It’s totally calling my name and I might have to go get my brushes and see what I can do with that vintage-y, worn texture… Was it yours when you were little?


26 Design Mom February 20, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Oh. That beloved bear. On June’s first birthday, we were running an errand and she spotted the bear in the check out line of a store called Magasin Vert (it’s a gardening supply store, but also carries some cute toys). Her face just lit up like a light bulb! I’d never seen her react to any toy that way before. Of course, it became her birthday present that very day.


27 Anne February 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I too have always loved Granfa’ Grig had a pig. Such great illustrations and a true favorite. Mine is a tattered paperback. I loved the one poem in it called “Everyone has different ‘pinions
Some like apples, Some like inions. ”
The pig (or some cute animal, I can’t remember) eating the onions smugly always made me happy and feel like laughing. Plus I used it in my head whenever someone would put me down, to kind of get over it. Sort of like my mom telling me, “Oh that’s just what they think!”


28 Alea February 24, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I have never heard of that book but it sounds good! Butt is a bad word in our house too. We go for bottom instead. I don’t know why!
I had a book called Lowly Worm’s Scratch and Sniff or something like that. It’s out of print, and the pages and smells on mine are worn out! We have another scratch and sniff with similar smells and they take me right back to that book! Luckily – my other favorite Richard Scarry books are still in print!


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