20+ Delightful twists on the Three Little Pigs

20+ Delightful twists on the Three Little Pigs

When I was a little girl, the story of The Three Little Pigs was about your life’s priorities, about doing one’s best and about the fact that dedication and hard work win the day.  The first two little pigs built their houses in a hurry to have more time to sing and play and ended up dead, the third little pig put a lot of thought and effort into his construction and that helped him succeed in life.  It was a good story with a meaningful life lesson.  When I started coming across new contemporary retellings of The Three Little Pigs, in which all the pigs are ok despite their foolishness and laziness, I got mad.  Why take something so brilliant and turn it into a meaningless little tale?  But after some thinking I came to the conclusion that there is a place for all the variations in a balanced reading life.  The Three Little Pigs does not have to be just about survival.  Sometimes it’s about another side of the story (The True story of Three Little Pigs). Sometimes it’s about equipping yourself with better means of defense than hiding in a house of bricks (The Three Little Ninja Pigs).  Sometimes it’s about reforming the big bad wolf (Wolf Pie) and other times it’s about reforming the pigs (The Three Horrid Little Pigs).  And sometimes it’s not even about pigs, but rigs, boars and wolves (yes, The Three Little Wolves…) and they all have struggles that are important to them. The following are variations of the classical story of The Three Little Pigs, that caught our attention.   

20+ Delightful Twists on The Three Little Pigs and related activities and hands-on fun


We are homeschoolers, so everything we do is usually turned into a lesson in one way or another.  If you are looking to tie reading of The Three Little Pigs to “school work,” we really enjoyed 3 Little Pigs Pack from 3 Dinosaurs.  If you scroll down you can see that the pack is divided into 4 printables, so you can only print the portions that best suited for your needs.  It works for children 2-8 and since my kids are 3, 5 and 7 years old, we enjoyed every bit of the pack.  Some other notable packs: Three Little Pigs Theme Pack from the Relaxed Homeschool and Three Little Pigs hands-on fun from Embark on the Journey.  I have some further activity suggestions next to the particular titles below, but I also want to mention a Design Exploration from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.  It was a fun project and you would be surprised how many building ideas your kids can come up with, if you only let them. 


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Three Little Pigs, written and illustrated by David Wisler

How many pigs does it take to fly a paper airplane?  It takes a no ordinary kind of writer to create such a world in which not only three little pigs fly a paper airplane but it makes perfect sense.  This story begins like any regular three little pigs story, but around page three the story splits into two narratives.  As the regular story progresses “... and he ate the pig up,” the pig is actually blown right out of the story and into a parallel story structure.  When all three pigs break out of the page-shaped frames, they set out to explore this new world on a paper airplane.  What makes this story so unusual is the freedom from any rules.  Characters from different stories mingle and visit each other, fishes from one of the author’s previous books jump right out of the ocean and into the spread, dragons slowly take on shape and color. The little details like the dragon’s speech accent and the fact that as the pigs leave the original story they are transformed into more rounded and detailed characters make the story even more special. The amazing illustrations by the author are an essential part of the story.  


Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas, Helen Oxenbury


This comically inverted version of the classical story of The Three Little Pigs delights my children like no other.  They love the humor, the fact that the wolves win the day and the part where Big Bad Pig used dynamite to blow one of the houses up.  The story starts in a predictable vein as three little wolves go out into the world and build three houses of different materials: brick, concrete and steel.  The Big Bad Pig can not blow down the houses, but he is pretty handy with sledge hammer, pneumatic drill and dynamite.  “Something must be wrong with our building materials [said the three little wolves].  We have to try something different.”  What did they end up trying?  You have to read the book to find out!  I love the beautiful ending and the watercolor illustrations.  The facial expressions and body stance are humorous and detailed.  Print Our Comparison Chart to compare the traditional tale with this new version. Turn the reading of the story into a physics lesson by discussing the pulleys (page 11, where little wolves are pulling the buckets of slurry concrete up).  Make your own pulley at home with just a string, rolling pin and bucket full of favorite books.  Then go for a walk and look for pulleys in your neighborhood.  



Three Little Pigs, retold and illustrated by Barry Moser


I have pork chops eating, wolf loving kids, so as soon as the three little pigs set out in the wide world to seek their fortune, my five-year old voiced hope that the wolf will defeat them.  Alas, it was not to be so and even though the first two little pigs get eaten with Bubba’s No Cook BBQ Sauce decorated with a photo of the author, the third one (who was smart enough to build his house with No Wolf Brick and Wolf Proof Cement) outsmarts the hapless wolf and he ends his days as Mama’s Wolf Stew with Garlic.  The illustrations in this book are hilarious.  The mama pig with a red manicure, dressed in her Valentine’s Day best or the third little pig raising his eyes to the sky with hands in prayer at the start of his journey will make you laugh out loud.  I love little details on each page that spice up the story.  For example, Harley Rhode Hogg’s Wolf Cook in the third little pig’s house or See Rock City advertisement on the top of the first little pig’s house.  This version of the story, with nice clear illustrations of a huffing wolf, offer an easy introduction into the science of blowing and air pressure.  Make a pinwheel with your kids or build a house of toothpicks, huff and puff to your heart’s content, then end the day with a nice lesson on air pressure Barry Moser dedicates this book to “the only man I have ever known who could grasp the gravity and true literary importance of this tale.”  Don’t you wish you could hear more about it?


The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat

This multi-award winning story of The three little pigs won my heart from the start.  I always had a sweet spot for rhyming stories, and this one is wonderfully hilarious, charming and thoughtful.  I love that commitment and hard work wins the day.  In this story the three little pigs are sick of the wolf and decide to “put an end” to his rule by training at a new Ninja School.  The first little pig started with aikido, but got bored after two weeks.  The second little pig learned some jujitsu but lured by a false sense of confidence dropped out too.  But the third little pig turned out to be more persistent.  She earned all the belts and “by the time she was through, she could break boards in two.”  When the wolf decided to pay the three little pigs a visit … things got pretty heated… and the dropout pigs wished that they were more prepared.  I love the introduction to Ninja vocabulary and the idea of the importance of devoting yourself to your training/lessons/goals.  


Where’s the Big Bad Wolf by Eileen Christelow

This one is another one of my favorites. Written in the spirit of Sherlock Holmes, this story of The Three Little Pigs has plenty of suspense, some juicy clues, lots of drama, and a comic style, speech bubbles that will crack you up.  Every time there’s trouble in town the hapless detective Dog suspects The Big Bad Wolf, but finding the evidence is a whole other matter.  When the first little pigs’ house of straw is blown down all the detective can find is a helpful sheep pulling the scared pigs out of straw.  But wait, is that a wolf’s tail peeking from under the sheep’s clothes?  Detective doesn’t notice it, but kids do and it makes them super excited.  As the story progresses the Detective is more and more baffled.  Who is this a helpful Sheep that has a knack to always end up in a center of things?    And is it a fact that a poor Big Bad Wolf with mysterious flu-like symptoms is confined to a bed in a local hospital?  Will this mystery ever be solved?   The illustrations are beautiful, colorful and perfect for this story.  


The Three Little Rigs, written and illustrated by David Gordon

Can you imagine the story of three little pigs with trucks as main characters?  Brilliant, isn’t it?  The first little rig built a garage from wooden planks.  The second little rig built his garage from stone blocks.  And the third little (pig) rig built a garage from welded steel beams.  When the big, bad wrecking ball knocked on the door… Wait!  I shouldn’t give the whole story away. Let me just tell you that it involves the mean magnet, the cruel cutter, the team of cranes and one good plan.  I love the message of friendship and that team-work saved the day.  Illustrations by the author are exciting, colorful and full of expression.  My youngest enjoys the story because of the trucks, my older two get the parody and find it very exciting.  If you have a child who loves vehicles and/or parody this story definitely will work for you.


The Three Little Gators by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Will Terry

The Three Little Gators by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Will Terry

Forget about the rigs, how about gators!  Yep, in this story of “good choices” the three little gators set out into the world to build their houses in an east Texas swamp.  A gator in glasses built his house of rocks, a gator in a baseball hat built his house of sticks and a gator in a straw crown built his house of sand.  Which house is going to withstand a visit from a Big-bottomed boar who is planning to “wiggle [his] rump with a bump, bump, bump”?  In my house this combination of funny illustrations and witty text led to many “read it agains.”  



Wolf Won’t Bite by Emily Gravett

The three little pigs have captured a wild wolf.  The wolf seems to be pretty tame and now they are putting up a circus show.  No matter what they do to him – ride him like a horse or force him to jump through the hoops – they are pretty sure he will not bite them.  I don’t know where this confidence comes from, but pigs are proven wrong at the end.  On the first read, I was sure that this is the kind of book we read once and send it back to the library.  But I forgot that my daughter is crazy about wolves. She reads this book on her own and wants me to read it multiple times each day.  So, I was forced to rethink the book and find a deeper meaning: don’t push people (and other creatures) to their breaking point.  Or perhaps risky behaviors have consequences?  “I’m just glad that the wolf breaks free at the end,” was my daughter’s conclusion.  The illustrations are fun.  It looks like drawings pop from the page because of the white background.  Not much text and repetition make it a great book for beginner readers.  


The Three Little Pigs: an Architectural Tale by Steven Guarnaccia

I came across this version of The Three Little Pigs when I was putting together books for a unit study on Architecture.  The front and back flaps have drawings of 29 famous architectural creations from all over the world.  Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Michele de Lucchi’s first chair, Jorn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House and I.M Pei’s Louvre Pyramid, we had so much fun with them all.  In this story the three little pigs are architects.  It might not be apparent right away but the first little pig is actually Frank Gehry.  He decides to build his house of scraps and after looking at the drawings of Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument for The Third International (it was never build) and Coop Himmelblau UFA Cinema Center, he ends up building Gehry House (google for pics of the real building).  The second little pig, Philip Johnson, decides to build his house of glass and builds … wait for it….  Philip Johnson’s Glass House.  The third little pig (who as we already know always wins) is no other but Frank Lloyd Wright.  He is inspired by stone and concrete and builds Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, a house build over a waterfall.  And when the evil wolf, dressed in Harley Davidson attire finds the three little pigs and starts huffing and puffing… I shouldn’t reveal the whole story, let me just add that further events will involve a tomato greenhouse shaped like the Louvre Pyramids, a visit to a flea market that sells Lucchi’s first chair, and souvenirs of Lampadina Lamp, Juicy Salif Juicer and Dymaxion Car and three cultured pigs who read Domus ( architecture and design magazine) for pleasure.  I can’t think of a better introduction to Architecture for Little pigs kids.  


The Three Little Pigs, retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg

By this point I was pretty sure that there can not exist another take on the three pigs that can possibly be surprising, original and interesting.  I have already heard it all… I was wrong!  Steven Kellogg manages to give the classical tale a new and unexpected twist.  In this little story mama pig does not kick her kids out of the house.  Serafina Sow starts a family waffle business that allows her to enroll her three little pigs in a Hog Hollow Academy and when the graduation day finally comes she turns her profitable business over to kids and retires to The Gulf of Pasta.  The three siblings settle comfortably into their new homes: Percy is in a cozy bungalow, Peter is in a log cabin and Prudence is in a brick cottage.  When a hungry wolf named Tempesto comes to town things get crazy.  I want to tell you all about it, but I think you will enjoy it much more with whimsical illustrations by the author himself.  Every illustration is a masterpiece and we are in love with charming details like a picture by Pablo Pigasso over the mantelpiece in Prudence’s house and “We are studying the Pigrims” sign in a school play.  The waffle menu will water your mouth and after reading this book you will get up and start making waffles.  Don’t go for the obvious choices like belgian waffle, try something exotic like plum waffle or popcorn waffle (we are still searching for suitable bubblegum waffle recipes).  


The Three Little Pigs and Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague

We know Mark Teague best by his illustrations in the Poppleton series by Cynthia Rylant and Dinosaurs series by Jane Yolen, but it didn’t register until very recently that Mark Teague also wrote over 20 books (that he also illustrated) and some of these books we also know and love like Lost and Found.  So, when I came across Mark Teague’s take on The Three Little Pigs we had to read it.  You will like this book, if you prefer the classical tale but without the gruesome deaths and unsavory details like mom turning her kids out into the world.  The illustrations as you can expect are beautiful, colorful, large with intricate and humorous details.  I like the theme of healthy eating and taking care of your body and emphasis on personal choices.  


The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

I have a feeling that I talked about this book somewhere before but a quick search didn’t bring anything up.  I think it’s because I mentioned this book to my friends so many times.  For us this is THE book that started the whole OMG-there-are-alternatives-to-traditional-tales and Let’s-read-them-all movement.  I just love the adaptations of traditional tales.  What about you?  I don’t say they are better.  They are in a completely different category.   The whole role reversal, surprising plot twists, unexpected characters, shocking new points of view, elements from other fairy tales make them so funny.  Scieszka’s version  gives you the story of the three little pigs like it “really” happened… from the point of view of Mister Wolf. It seems that the whole misunderstanding started with one stuffed up nose and a cup of sugar.   The story is humorous and the illustrations are colorful (the critics sometimes call them “dark” and “ominous.”)  Whenever we read this story, I segue into the story regarding the publication of this book.  Read it here (http://publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/64695-the-true-25th-anniversary-story-of-the-three-little-pigs.html).  It’s a great  story about rejection, setbacks, friendship and perseverance.  The kind of the story kids need to hear.  


The Pig who went home on Sunday: An Appalachian Folktale  by Donald Davis, illustrated by Jennifer Mazzucco

In this version of the classical tale the huffing and puffing wolf is not anywhere in sight and the three little pigs are up against the sly Appalachian red fox.  What I like about this version is that it presents a series of life lessons and the pigs are given a choice to heed to reason or else.  Don’t take a stranger’s advice, listen to your mom, sustain situational awareness in public, always do your best, don’t open the door to strangers, … Only one pig is smart enough to survive in the big and scary world and he is the one who went back home on Sunday.  I love the author’s note at the end of the book explaining why he prefers his grandmother’s version of the story.  It’s not my favorite version of The Three Little Pigs, but the watercolor illustrations are beautiful and I think this book is worth reading at least once.


The Three little Pigs: an old Tale by Margot Zemach

The Caldecott Medalist Margot Zemach takes on the traditional story of little pigs.  This version of the story is the same as published in The Nursery Rhymes of England in 1886 and Jacob’s English Fairy Tales in 1890.  The three little pigs built the houses of straw, sticks and bricks.  The wolf blows the first two houses down and eats the pigs.  Since he can’t blow the brick house down he invites the third pig to a turnip field, apple orchard and to a town fair.  The pig outwits the wolf by coming to the meeting places before the appointed time and making it back home without trouble, except for the fair where the pig narrowly escaped in a wooden barrel.  When the enraged wolf finally jumps down the chimney, the pig is ready with a big pot of boiling water and ends up with a wolf soup for supper. The watercolor illustrations are a special treat. When I asked my 7-year old what he thinks about the illustrations, he said, “I like it because you can see the wolf move.”  I have to admit that I’m also impressed with the Zemach’s talent to create such a wonderful sense of movement on a flat piece of paper.  


Puffin Easy-to-Read: The Three Little Pigs by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Laura Rader

This version of The Three Little Pigs is perfect for beginner readers.  It’s designed for ages 5-8 (Grades K-2) and relates a shorter version of the traditional tale.  Three pigs, three houses, one huffing and puffing wolf, two pigs are eaten and one survives.  My two oldest ( 5 and 7) enjoyed this book.  We wrote down the words they had trouble with like smarter, fireplace, happily, knocked, … on index cards and put them next to toothbrushes.  They read them every time they brushed teeth and got a sticker (which they attached to the back of the index card) for reading it correctly.  The illustrations by Laura Rader are adorable and so perfect.  We got the rest of Puffin fairy tales from the library and definitely recommend all of them.  


The Three Horrid little Pigs by Liz Pichon

This is a delightful story about misconceptions and stereotyping that brought on a great many chuckles from my family.  The three little pigs set out into the world.  The first little pig built his house of straw.  He didn’t do a very good job, but “luckily, a big friendly wolf (who just happened to be a builder) was passing by.”  “Don’t listen to the wolf,” warned a friend of my 7-year old son, who was over for a playdate when we read this book for the first time, “we know he just wants to eat the pig.”   But does this wolf want to eat a pig?  This book defies expectations at every corner.  The pigs are horrid, the wolf is nice and the classical line about huffing and puffing is uttered by each of the pigs when they reject  wolf’s offer to help.  It all ends well though with the pigs moving into wolf’s own brick house.  The illustrations are bright and beautiful.  This is the kind of story your kids will definitely enjoy because it’s so much fun when the heroes are horrid and the villain is nice.  Ask the kid(s) to act out the story playing all the roles, especially if you have a playdate and the kids are looking for something fun to do.  The staging of this book leads to loads of laughter because what kid wouldn’t delight in having a permission to act “horrid.”  


The Three Little Pigs by Nosy Crow, illustrated by Ed Bryan

We picked up this copy of the Three Little Pigs at the library because the bright, cartoon-like illustrations caught our eye.  We enjoyed reading this abbreviated version and just looking at the cheery illustrations made us smile.  When we got to the back cover it turned out it was a book version of an award-winning app.  I have never heard of the Three Little Pigs app, but I looked it up for general information.  In this interactive app kids don’t just listen to the story but help to move it along.  Kids can touch, swipe, and tilt the tables to move characters, help pigs build their houses and even help the wolf huff and puff.  British  accented comments in children’s voices pop up in every scene.  It looks like a quality product, but we didn’t try it because I don’t like the idea of my kids spending time staring at a screen for no reason. I did however file it away in the recesses of my memory for our next air travel adventure.  It might come in really handy on an 9-hour flight.  


Wolf Pie by Brenda Seabrooke, illustrated by Liz Callen

This is a chapter book version of the Three Little Pigs.  All four chapters are packed with action and fun to read.  The illustrations are adorable, all the characters are well developed and the eternal question of Can a Wolf and Three Pigs ever be friends is answered in the affirmative.  My kids enjoyed the humor of the story and  asked for it to be read again right away.  I immediately looked up more books by the same author and you might laugh to hear that I opened The Vampire in my Bathroom by the back door just to get a feel for the book and didn’t stop until I finished it.  I ended up thinking it was not suitable for my kids.  Maybe 9 and up would be the ideal audience.  Definitely a great read though so, if you have older kids grab a copy or two on your next trip to a library. 


Wait!  No Paint!  By Bruce Whatley

This is a great introduction to how books are made and illustrated.  What would happen if the illustrator of the Three Little pigs ran out of the color red?  Can we make pink pigs without red paint?  Would it be ok if the three little pigs were green instead?  Or better yet patterned?  In his story the poor little pigs are not only up against a hungry wolf but also hapless illustrator who spills his juice on pages of the book he is illustrating and commits the great offense of running out of red paint.  The absence of red paint is much more serious than you can imagine and not only because you can’t make pink without red, but also because you can not make red hot fire when the wolf comes down the chimney. The narration is interrupted, pigs speak out of context, and realistic looking brushes and paint lay next to drawing-style pigs.  Kids get the humor and that’s all the counts.


The Three Little Pigs by Bernadette Watts

other books.  Her illustrations are captivating and guaranteed to make you smile. 


The Three Little Pigs by Paul Galdone

When Galdone’s family emigrated to America from Budapest, Paul was 14 and didn’t speak a word of English.  To help his family meet ends he worked as a busboy, electrician’s helper and fur-dyer, but his real calling was drawing and painting and after 4-years in the US Army during World War II he built his name as a children’s book illustrator and went on to illustrate almost 300 books!  He often said in interviews that his favorite thing to do was illustrating old European fairy tales.  This is one of these wonderful and inspirational real life tales that I love to share with my kids.  I have not yet been able to put my finger on it but when I look at Paul Galdone’s illustrations of fairy tales I catch myself thinking, “this is exactly how it was supposed to be originally.”  We all know that there is no true “originally” when it comes to fairy tales, but I believe that no child should get through childhood without getting acquainted with Galdone’s charming illustrations.  Or with his biography.  


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3 Responses

  1. […] 20 Delightful Twists on Three Little Pigs […]

  2. As a Literacy Specialist, I love these ideas. These are great ways to get more creative about telling this classic story, especially to younger children.

  3. I had no idea that they’d changed it so that all 3 pigs were okay! The 3 Little Wolves story sounds so cute, hahaha. That’s funny that they have so many variations! :] I’ve read The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs before! 😀

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