The Princess and the Pig

Illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Can a pig really become a princess?
There’s been a dreadful mix-up in the royal nursery! Priscilla the princess has switched places with a farmer’s piglet and everyone suspects fairies. It’s the sort of thing that happens all the while in books.
But this is a fairy tale without fairies
and this is no ordinary book . . .

"This is the #1 most subversive princess book out there."


"Emmett and Bernatene have concocted a pretty much perfect fractured fairy tale, with wry, Thurberesque prose and gorgeously funny digital drawings that both embrace and wink at the genre."


"All the ingredients of a sure-fire winner ... The pictures are beautiful, bold; the story is very funny ... What’s not to like?"

Yvonne Coppard, CAROUSEL


UK Hardcover • ISBN-10: 0230531415 • ISBN-13: 978-0230531413
UK Paperback • ISBN-10: 0330512765 • ISBN-13: 978-0330512763
UK Mini-Paperback • ISBN-10: 1447235339 • ISBN-13: 978-1447235330



US Hardcover • ISBN-10: 0802723357 • ISBN-13: 978-0802723352


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VignetteI’m often asked where I get my ideas from and one answer I give is that I steal them from my kids. I stole this particular story from my daughter Laura when she was four years-old.

Stealing an idea

This picture (taken from one of my school presentations) shows me stealing the idea for The Princess and the Pig from my daughter, Laura, although she was quite a bit younger then than shown in this photo.

Laura and I were walking back from nursery when she spotted a piggy bank in a shop window. The piggy bank had been decorated with jewels and other ornaments, which prompted Laura to exclaim “Princess Pig!”.

This sounded like a funny idea, so as we walked the rest of the way home we talked about how a princess could also be a pig. Perhaps she was a member of a pig royal family? Or perhaps she was a human princess who'd been turned into a pig. By the time we got home, we’d decided that it would be funniest if an ordinary pig had somehow swapped places with a real princess and that I should write a story about it.

Laura was very much into Disney Princesses at the time but, though I admired the original films, I felt some of the messages she was getting from the spin-off books and magazines were a little suspect. They seemed to suggest that royalty were inherently better than ordinary people and that marrying a handsome prince should be every girl’s dream. So I decided to indulge my republican tendencies in my story by showing that a princess is no better or worse than an ordinary person and that you don’t have to marry a prince to live happily ever after!

I’ve described the book as “a fairy tale without fairies” as, while the story is set in a fairy tale like world, there’s no magic spells cast or broken and no fairies - good or bad - to cast them. However the characters in this story are aware of other fairy stories, such as Sleeping Beauty and Thumbelina, and this awareness usually leads them to misinterpret what’s happening around them.

The story was quickly accepted by my UK publisher Macmillan, but it took quite a while to find an illustrator. This wasn’t because I was being picky about who illustrated it (as I sometimes am), but because Macmillan decided it made sense for whoever illustrated The Santa Trap (another of my stories which they were also publishing) to illustrate this story as well.

Throne Room
This illustration of the throne room is one of my favourites.

I had reservations about this decision at the time. The Santa Trap was a difficult book to find an illustrator for. It needed someone who could capture the dark humour of that story and bring a sense of depth and detail to the illustrations. At that point we’d already spent more than a year looking for a Santa Trap illustrator without finding anyone suitable. I also felt that whoever illustrated the dark gothic world of The Santa Trap would not necessarily be best suited to illustrate the lighter fairy tale setting of The Princess and the Pig. Plus a single illustrator would inevitably mean a delayed publication as, even if we found a suitable illustrator immediately, the two books would have to be illustrated one after the other, instead of simultaneously by two seperate illustrators.

My concerns about possible delays turned out to be justified, as it was another eighteen months before we eventually found a suitable illustrator for The Santa Trap. However the illustrator we found, the extraordinarily talented Poly Bernatene, turned out to be an ideal choice for both books and well worth the wait.

Traditional in feel, but with an ironic, contemporary twist, Poly’s digital illustrations match the story perfectly. One of my personal favourites is the illustration of the throne room (shown above). There’s some terrific texture and detail in it and Poly has masterfully captured the quality of light in this huge space. You can imagine how humbled the farmer and his family might feel, presenting themselves before the King and Queen in this grand setting.

who knows the sort
of things that happen
all the while in books.
Illustrations © 2011 Poly Bernatene. Reproduced by permission of Macmillan Children's Books.


Emmett and Bernatene have concocted a pretty much perfect fractured fairy tale, with wry, Thurberesque prose and gorgeously funny digital drawings that both embrace and wink at the genre.
Once upon a time, an infant princess and a piglet inadvertently swap places. The princess grows up in a poor but doting family of farmers, matures into a sweet young woman, and ends up marrying a handsome shepherd and living happily ever after. The piglet grows up amid pretentious, clueless royalty and matures into an untamable pink menace that wreaks well-deserved havoc in the castle and is foisted on an unlucky prince.
And how do the grownups involved process these events? With the refrain, "It's the sort of thing that happens all the time in books"--which proves that relying on Sleeping Beauty, Thumbelina, The Prince and the Pauper, Puss in Boots, and The Frog Prince for answers is not unlike using the Internet as an unimpeachable source. Just ask the stunned prince, who discovers on the final page that "putting lipstick on a pig" has a whole new meaning. Ages 4–8.


It has all the ingredients of a sure-fire winner: cute little piglet, baby, princess and a knowing nod at several established fairy tales along the way. The pictures are beautiful, bold; the story is very funny and everyone ends the story happy (except maybe the rather stupid prince who marries the pig in the naive and untested hope that a kiss will turn her back into a princess). What’s not to like?

Yvonne Coppard, CAROUSEL

The Princess and the Pig is a story that children ages of 4–8 will delight in: both for its familiarity and its twist. Author Emmett stays true to the humorous and unique style that readers come to expect from his books. The illustrations by Poly Bernatene are amazingly detailed, with bright colors and lots of whimsy that will cause children to laugh at the trouble the pig gets into at the castle. Recommended.


A baby being turned into a piglet – and vice versa – is the sort of thing that is always happening in fairy tales, which explains why the respective families in this hugely enjoyable story, being classic folklore characters themselves, decide to make the best of things (as opposed to, say, investigating circumstances more deeply) when exactly this sudden transformation appears to happen to them. Or at least, they do at first… Younger children may not grasp the rather sophisticated literary in-jokes as the narrative unfolds, but Jonathan Emmett’s witty prose and Poly Bernatene’s lively images work on many levels, providing a shared reading experience that is a joy for all ages – adults included – with a subtle, underpinning moral about the value of love compared with that of wealth and status thrown in for good measure.


Mischief and mayhem are afoot in this subversive and witty fairy tale when a piglet and princess get accidentally swapped. Wickedly humorous, it’s especially funny when readers discover the reason for the swap: because the careless queen can’t stand the smell of the royal nappy! So the piglet (Priscilla) and princess (Pigmella) grow up in their vastly different households, creating absurd contrasts in life style, illustrated with hilarious pictures … For anyone who doesn’t fit in or any toddler who’s ever needed taming, this is the book.

Jana Novotny Hunter, BOOK FOR KEEPS

In this colorful, twisted fairy tale, a pig and a princess change places. And unexpectedly, the princess loves her muddy, penniless farm life, and she doesn’t want to switch back. It’s clever, it’s surprising, and it might just teach your kid that there’s something better to aspire to than life in a palace.

Holly Ashworth, BN KIDS BLOG

This is a wonderful story that embraces yet gently mocks the literary devices of fairytales and deserves to be revisited time and again. Children will love the refrain, the parallels with traditional tales and the unexpected twists in this curly tale.


Younger kids will enjoy the silly story and funny pictures, while plenty of references to classic fairy tales will captivate school-age kids. With a strong plot, an unexpected ending and vibrant illustrations, The Princess and the Pig is a delightful read-aloud.

Natalia Ortega-Brown, THE CYBILS

Bound to lure in little princess-lovers, The Princess and the Pig is a bit of sly subversion just perfect for the preschooler set. Fun and funny, beautiful and smart, read the book and fail to be charmed. Go on. I dare you.


How can learning to read be anything but sheer pleasure when there are books of this calibre to learn with? ... A thoroughly enjoyable story which is super for young readers. (Review of the Let's Read edition)


This inspired and funny new offering from the team who brought us the wonderful The Santa Trap has all the ingredients of the best fairy-tales, without actually being one. No fairies, no spells, but rather, a good pinch of slapstick and some rather unfortunate circumstances form the basis of this story ...
Bernatene's artwork is subtle, and beautifully detailed too. It conveys a great sense of space, and also of sunlight. His style is genteel and yet really cheeky and fun. I urge you to discover his work if you have not done so already.
His artwork, teamed with Jonathan Emmett's wonderful storytelling skills come together to create another fantastic story, full of mischief, but also a great ode to fairy tales and books in general (whether you like to read them, or eat them!).

Melanie McGilloway, LIBRARY MICE

I have to admit, I came to this book with a lot of reservations. It’s ANOTHER princess book in a time filled with sparkly pink books. But if you are as sick of the regular princess books as I am, then this is just the book for you! ... The writing is merry and filled with humor. That same humor is carried out to great effect in the illustrations ... Exactly the antidote to children who have read too many princess books, this is a shining example of what a twisted fairy tale book can be. Great fun and very satisfying. Appropriate for ages 4-7.


The Princess and the Pig is a wonderful fairytale. Playing with fairytale stereotypes, it offers and fresh and hilarious twist. Bernatene's illustrations are delightful and funny. It's a great read aloud with plenty of opportunities for kids and students to make text to text connections, and have a blast at the same time.

Natalia Ortega-Brown, A PICTURE BOOK A DAY

So what do you get when you combine parts of several different fairy tales with a case of mistaken identity and the notion that it might be better not to be royalty? If you’re lucky, you get Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene’s new picture book The Princess and the Pig. It’s an extremely well-done homage to traditional fairy tales with a few fresh and very unexpected twists.

Pat Zietlow Miller, READ, WRITE, REPEAT

I never get tired of this book! Priscilla the princess and Pigmella the pig are switched at birth and every page of this story is fantastic.

Allison Ruth, SOME THE WISER

What little girl doesn’t love a princess story, particularly one with a funny, fairytale twist? From the creators of the award-winning The Santa Trap comes a new witty, inventive and colourful story that is bursting with loopy antics and laugh-out-loud quirkiness ... Argentinian Poly Bernatene’s lively and excitingly visual illustrations add an exotic touch which makes them especially appealing to young children while author Jonathan Emmett’s fairytale-themed jokes are pitched perfectly for the youngest members of the family.

Pam Norfolk, IOM TODAY

This lovely little read manages to link to many classic fairy tales while telling a great original story and poking fun at just about everything! A pig and a princess switch places and the happy ending is not what you might predict.


A laugh-a-minute fractured fairy tale. The duo who penned the Christmas comedy The Santa Trap does not disappoint. Kids and parents alike will smile at the references to classic fairy tales, including Sleeping Beauty, The Prince and the Pauper, and The Frog Prince. Poly Bernatene’s lively, cartoonish illustrations fit the bill for this absurd tale of mistaken identity.




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