Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 28, 2021

Book GIVEAWAY: The Pig War: How a Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Share by Emma Smith

Emma Bland Smith has written a new non-fiction picture book, THE PIG WAR: How a Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Share, illustrated by Alison Jay and published by Calkins Creek. Coming out on November 10th. Emma has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Emma and Alison. If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!

Here is a true story of how the great nations of America and England almost went to war in 1859 over a pig–but learned to share instead.

In 1859, the British and Americans coexist on the small island of San Juan, located off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. They are on fairly good terms–until one fateful morning when an innocent hog owned by a British man has the misfortune to eat some potatoes on an American farmer’s land. In a moment of rash anger, Lyman Cutlar shoots Charles Griffin’s pig, inadvertently almost bringing the two nations to war. Tensions flare, armies gather, cannons are rolled out . . . all because of a pig! Emma Bland Smith’s humorous text and Alison Jay’s folksy illustrations combine in this whimsical nonfiction picture book that models the principles of peaceful conflict resolution.


When my agent sold the manuscript for The Pig War: How A Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Share, I felt legitimately like a Real Author, maybe for the first time. Though I loved my previous two books with all of my heart (and indeed, my first book, Journey: Based on the True Story of OR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West is still my most popular one among readers), there was something different about this new story. Although there would be challenges in the writing and editing process (as I will relate), I could tell it was going to be special.

One thing that was new and exciting was that it was my first 100% nonfiction book. Journey was a mix of fiction and nonfiction. To Live on an Island was a fiction narrative with nonfiction boxes on each page. The Pig War was going to be genuine, no-doubt-about-it nonfiction. I was venturing into a new world of kidlit.

I was also very proud of stumbling upon this funny, odd subject and turning it into a book. While researching online for To Live on an Island, set in the San Juan Islands of Washington State, I had read about this curious incident that had taken place in 1859. At the time, both Americans and British lived on small San Juan Island, which had not yet been “claimed” by either country. Tensions were on the rise, though, and when an American farmer shot the poor pig of a British man (the pig was munching potatoes in the American’s garden), events escalated and the two countries came whisper-close to going to full-blown war against each other.

Today the event is remembered as a success story of peaceful negotiation and conflict resolution. I thought that was lovely and important and decided to try to turn this quirky story into a book.

One challenge was that there was no actual main character. I would not be able to follow the standard formula of having a main character try and fail several times before finally succeeding in their quest. The story was, in fact, quite complicated, with many military bodies and terminology. Could I boil it down to something young kids could take in—and appreciate?

From the beginning, I employed a cheeky, wink-wink voice that allowed me to turn a set of dry, serious facts into a very comical story. I had never written like this before—my usual style is more lyrical. But somehow I just knew that a completely different approach would be more fitting here. Sometimes I went too far, and my critique partners or editor gently suggested I tone down the snark. But over all, it worked, and it was SO FUN to write in this absurdist, tongue-in-cheek style.

I must also add that the illustrator, Alison Jay’s iconic style perfectly fits the tone of the book. Alison adds a crackle finish to her paintings, giving them a vintage look. In addition, her people and animals have a rounded, comical, stylized look that, as Kirkus Reviews wrote, is an “impeccable complement” to the text. (I had loved Alison’s work for many years and could not believe my good luck in being paired with her!)

Another issue I dealt with concerned the difficulty in putting my hands on primary sources. The book ended up being acquired by Carolyn Yoder at Calkins Creek. Carolyn told me that one of the most important things about a manuscript, for her, was that it involved first-hand research and that everything was solidly accurate. I wanted to do well by her. So I went up to San Juan Island (via plane, bus, and boat) and spent a week researching. Not only did spending time on the island better inform my feel for the location and affect my ability to describe it in the back matter, but I was able to visit the ranger station of the national historic park and dive into the archives to look at primary sources.

If a quote turned out to be apocryphal, I cut it. I made sure I had back-up for every fact included. Lastly, I had the manuscript read and the illustrations examined (several times) by an author who is the leading expert on the Pig War. His involvement further reassured me that I could stand by everything in the book.

One amusing hiccup came toward the very end of production of the book. Someone on the Calkins Creek team noticed that the American flag, pictured in several illustrations, did not have the right number of stars for the year (1859). Why had we not thought of that before? We scrambled to research and figure out what the flag looked like at that time. I poured over articles and photos. I looked at old flags on eBay. We painstakingly counted the numbers of stars in the illustrated flags, over and over. This is one of those details that, likely, no reader would notice. But to us, it mattered whether we depicted 32 or 33 stars. We reached a decision and Alison Jay and the art and design team were able to fix it.

I am so proud of the book that I, Alison Jay, and the whole incredible team at Calkins Creek created. I hope readers connect with it, too!


Emma Bland Smith is a librarian and author. Her first picture book, Journey: Based on the True Story of OR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West, won Bank Street College’s Cook Prize and Northland College’s SONWA award. She is the author of  four additional picture books (most of them nonfiction) with four more on the way, as well as two chapter book series. Emma loves writing about fascinating people, animals, and places. She lives with her husband, their two kids, one cat, and one dog in San Francisco, California.

Emma Bland Smith is the award-winning author of Journey: Based on the True Story of OR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West, as well as other fiction and nonfiction books for children. Emma is a librarian and author living in San Francisco with her family (which includes a rambunctious dog and cat). Emma finds inspiration in the beautiful world around her, and she believes that one of the best things about being an author is getting to visit wonderful places–and then craft stories about them. Visit her online at and on Twitter at @emmablandsmith.


Alison Jay was born in Hertfordshire, grew up in Derbyshire and studied graphic design in London where she now lives. After graduating she worked in animation for a short while but gradually started to working as an illustrator . She works in Alkyd a quick drying oil paint on paper and sometimes adds a crackle glaze varnish to give the work an aged appearance. She has worked in all areas of illustration including advertising ,packaging, editorial and design. Her commission’s include a 48 sheet poster for B.T, a TV commercial for Kellogg’s corn flakes and packaging on a new baby range for Crabtree and Evelyn.

She has also illustrated lots of children’s books including ‘Picture This’, ‘William and the night train’,’The Race’, ‘I took the moon for a walk’, ‘The Emperors new clothes, If Kisses were colours, ‘ABC Alphabet’.an unabridged fully illustrated version of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’,Listen Listen’ ,Welcome to the Zoo ‘,A Child’s first Counting Book’ ‘Today is the Birthday of the World’ and ‘Nursery Rhyme Rainbow’,Little Red Riding Hood .Her book ‘ Welcome to the Zoo’ which is a wordless visit to a cage less ‘animal hotel’has been selected as one of New York’s Bank Street’s 2009 best books of the year and was selected for the Dolly Parton ‘Imagination Library. ‘She illustrated ‘Cloth From the Clouds’ by Michael Catchpool which won the Santa Monica Green Prize 2013 for best Youth Picture Book . She worked with Aardman Animation on the development of a feature film.Her illustrated version of ‘The Nutcracker’ is part of an exhibition at the Ghibli museum in Tokyo. Her book ‘Out of the Blue’ has been nominated for the Kate Greenaway award. She has a new shop on Etsy ‘The Alison Jay Gallery’ with some prints and art work for sale. Client list: Penguin UK Utah Mama Templar Books Hachette JWT TBWA Barefoot Books Dutton Harcourt Frances Lincoln Whittards Crabtree and Evelyn Marks and Spencer Lion Books Cricket Gullane Dial Books Aardman Animation Studio Ghibli

Emma, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I never hear of this event. I love how you have brought a little known story of how a pig almost brought  the United States and England to war. Sounds like this whimsical nonfiction picture book that models the principles of peaceful conflict resolution, might be a good read for adults in addition to children. Love Alison’s illustrations. Perfect. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I LOVE the cover of this book! It’s perfect! I was surprised to find out the setting is on San Juan Island! Hello…I live in WA state. I should know this…Guess I better read your book to find out the details. Congratulations to both of you!

    I follow by email and I tweeted this fun post.


  2. Fascinating, I didn’t know about this and love how you’ve handled the story, Emma, and the art is gorgeous, Alison. Dear Kathy, I do follow your blog every day (who wouldn’t?) and will be tweeting and pinning.


  3. How intriguing! And stunning illustrations too!


  4. Thank you so much for the kind words, Wendy!


  5. I love this book – the voice! the illustrations! – and have been to American and English camps so many times… would love to share this book with my niece!


  6. This book looks amazing!! I love a good reconciliation story–plus the absurdity of it starting over a pig! So wonderful. Well done, Emma and Alison!


  7. Looks great! I had never heard of this particular conflict before. I’m sure kids are going to find it very interesting and funny too. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve tweeted:, and shared:
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, have a super day everyone!!


  8. What an interesting story! And I love that there is a pig involved. Congratulations!


  9. What a treat it was to find this! Our family moved to San Juan Island in 2018, and it’ll be a great read and re-read with our boys (ages 5 (x2) and 18 months). It’s almost like being famous!

    I also shared on Twitter and Facebook.

    Liked by 1 person

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