When Maya's grandfather comes for a visit, he brings a surprise in a crate--something, he says, to teach her "fun and sharing". Maya hopes it's a horse or a big brother. But instead it's Julius, a big, cool pig. Maya's parents see Julius as a slob, but Maya herself sees another Julius altogether. She sees a playmate, a protector, and sharer in all that's magical and wild. Full color.
In this exuberant celebration of love and sharing, Maya is given an Alaskan pig and learns that friendship is a two-way street. Johnson's humorous, upbeat text rings with its own rhythm as it introduces Julius, a pig with a fondness for old movies, trying on clothes (``anything blue and stretchy'') and eating peanut butter ``from the jar, without getting any on the ceiling.'' As Maya shares Julius's version of fun and games, so the clever porker learns from Maya ``that even though he was a pig he didn't have to act like he lived in a barn.'' Pilkey's ( When Cats Dream ) illustrations are a felicitous departure for this gifted artist. Painted in blocks of fluorescent color, his paintings zing with the joy of living and perfectly capture the book's infectious carnival spirit. A small but enchanting detail is his assortment of patchwork squares, decorated with patterns and posies, which appears as wallpaper and frames several scenes. Jubilant and subtly instructive. Ages 3-6. (Mar.)