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Book Review: ‘Pigs Can’t Look Up’ by Vincent D’Onofrio

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Pigs can’t look up, that’s a fact. But don’t they still deserve to see the stars? In Pigs Can’t Look Up one little girl thinks so. And she does everything she can to help her piggie friend see the awe-inspiring sight. Even as she sweetly tries to help her friend, others aren’t so kind to her. Heartbreakingly, she just wishes that someone would show her the same kindness she shows her pig. Read my thoughts on Pigs Can’t Look Up by Vincent D’Onofrio and illustrated by Shelly Cunningham below.

[Warning: My review of Pigs Can’t Look Up contains some spoilers!]

A powerful message conveyed through pictures

Bullying is out of control in our society. And despite our best efforts it just seems to be getting worse. I’m not sure what the solution is but Pigs Can’t Look Up might be a small piece of the equation. Showing young children how hurtful bullying can be and how easy niceness is, seems like the perfect place to start changing the world. Maybe someday, we can all see the stars for the first time.

I’m not sure how much a 60-word book needs the above spoiler alert, but my mom didn’t catch the bullying theme the first time around so there it is. My mom just thought the book was about helping others (still a beautiful message). But once the children bullying the main character was pointed out to her she couldn’t read the book without crying. Now the reason that my mom missed the little girl being bullied the first time is that most of Pigs Can’t Look Up is told through pictures (only 61 words, I counted) and she was more focused on the little girl than she was on the rest of the people in the picture.

Amazing art tells the real story in Pigs Can’t Look Up

And my mom should have looked more closely at the picture because the artwork in Pigs Can’t Look Up is phenomenal. The pictures are beautiful watercolor paintings that convey all the emotions of the story without the need for words. Each image moves the story forward in a very powerful way.

When I read Pigs Can’t Look Up to my four-year-old, we spent a lot of time talking about what was happening in the pictures and it allowed us to have a really deep conversation. If there were more words we probably wouldn’t have spent so long talking about each page because the author would have done the talking for us. It was nice to have a long back-and-forth about what we saw and the feelings connected to the images. I hope that it helped to plant seeds that will continue to grow in his little head.

Pigs Can't Look Up by Vincent D'Onofrio
An image from Pigs Can’t Look Up by Vincent D’Onofrio and illustrated by Shelly Cunningham.

Actions are stronger than words anyway

While Pigs Can’t Look Up may be lacking in words, it’s packing a big punch with its action. D’Onofrio is donating proceeds from the sale of Pigs Can’t Look Up to the Queens Theatre Theatre for All program. The program works to include artists with disabilities in the Theatre world.

Theatre for All helps and supports all different artists with all types of disabilities to fully participate in the theatre. From performing plays written by disabled playwrights to offering actor training, the program covers everything. The program has been operating for several years and is doing wonderful things in New York.

D’Onofrio includes an author’s note at the end of Pigs Can’t Look Up sharing how much others helped him when he was a young, struggling artist in New York City. He recognizes that he would never have made it to where he is now if he hadn’t had so much help back then. He encourages us to do the same and help everyone be able to see the stars. It’s a very powerful message that I was happy to share with my little guy.

A big hit for Vincent D’Onofrio and Shelly Cunningham

Vincent D’Onofrio isn’t a newcomer to the writing game, he is an Emmy-nominated actor, producer, and director with an adult book already under his belt. But Pigs Can’t Look Up is his first picture book. And writing for children is a whole different ball game. However, D’Onofrio does a great job of conveying some very big and emotional ideas in ways that children can understand. He doesn’t use many words, but the book held my young son’s attention well and he requested to read it no less than 23 times in a row before I had to tap out.

As nice as D’Onofrio’s writing is, Cunningham’s gorgeous illustrations are what really drew me in. Cunningham has been around doing beautiful art for a while but this is her first time illustrating a children’s picture book. The soft colors created a really beautiful world for the little girl and pig to inhabit. And the heart and star doodles that fill the pages give the pictures a fun and whimsical feel that I loved. This may have been the first time these two tackled this kind of project but they did a great job and I’m eager to see if they collaborate again in the future. 

Highly recommended book for children

So Pigs Can’t Look Up isn’t the type of book that we usually review here on the Cosmic Circus. But the message of the book combined with the proceeds helping charity made us want to get the message out about this book. Most of our adult readers won’t be super interested in Pigs Can’t Look Up although they may want to purchase a copy for a young family member or friend, if for no other reason than to support the Theatre for All initiative.

But parents will definitely want to share this beautiful book with their children. The gorgeous pictures and touching words will help to gently convey a message that everyone can get behind “Be kind and help others”. Who wouldn’t want to share that with their children? Maybe if we keep working with young kids and trying to show them that kindness matters we’ll all be able to see the stars together one day.

My Rating: 10/10

Pigs Can’t Look Up by Vincent D’Onofrio and illustrations by Shelly Cunningham is available now! Will you be picking up this book? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of The Sun and The Star!

Book Review: The Sun and The Star: A Nico Di Angelo Adventure

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Luna Gauthier

I've always been a bookworm and fantasy is my favortie genre. I never imagined (okay, I imagined but I didn't think) that I could get those books sent to me for just my opinion. Now I am a very happy bookworm! @Lunagauthier19 on Twitter

Luna Gauthier has 201 posts and counting. See all posts by Luna Gauthier