It’s hard having three siblings. It’s even harder when they’re all the exact same age as you and all have amazing strengths and personalities. In Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata’s Saucy, 11-year-old Becca doesn’t feel special, living in the shadows cast by her three quadruplet brothers. Jammer is a hockey star. Bailey creates awesome music from his electric wheelchair. K.C. is a math and science genius. But one night, while she and her family are out for their nightly walk around the neighborhood, Becca discovers something that will make her feel really and truly special.
After all, it’s not every day that an 11-year-old stumbles onto a baby pig by the side of the road, especially one covered in dirt and mange. It’s even more unexpected when Becca’s dad wraps the piglet up in his shirt (even though it ruins his shirt), and takes it to an emergency vet (even though it costs a lot of money). It’s a very sick little pig, but with medicine, care and Becca’s daily company, the little pig, dubbed Saucy, gets better.
Then Saucy begins to eat . . . everything. Fruits, vegetables, kitchen cabinets, Becca’s mom’s garden—Saucy eats, and he grows. It’s only a matter of time until Saucy will need to find a new place to live, but in the meantime, Becca is also determined to discover where her dirty, sick little pig came from in the first place.
Saucy is a tender and sweet middle grade novel with a heavy dash of slapstick comedy sure to give it strong appeal for younger middle grade readers. Just imagine one grandmother, two parents, four kids and one very large and hungry pig all living under the same roof, and you can see how humor might be the outcome. However, Kadohata also shines a light on the practice of factory farming and its very real, very unfunny impacts on the animals.
Saucy’s outsized personality and Kadohata’s well-developed cast of characters make for a lighthearted and appealing tale that contains an earnest call to action. Though Becca herself may not always feel special, the love she shows her family, her dedication to Saucy and her willingness to be brave, even when she’s scared, make her pretty special indeed.