Saturday, 15 September 2012

In praise of Guinea Pigs by Keren David


Chester's favourite activity: eating
My family suffered a sad loss this week, when Chester, my daughter's Abyssinian guinea pig died at the age of three. 
Chester was sweet-natured and shy, stylish with his raffish whorls of silky black fur. Even on the day he died, his beauty drew admiring comments from total strangers.
 He was the perfect foil for his hutchmate Freddie, the more social and active of the two.  They never fought (unless there was a particularly tasty bit of celery) and Freddie sometimes used Chester as a pillow to sleep on.
. What a shame we don't live in Switzerland, where it is illegal to keep a lone guinea pig -  they are social animals who need their friends -  but where you can rent a guinea to keep your newly bereaved cavy company until he or she goes to the big pile of hay in the sky. This week the hutch seemed large and lonely with only one inhabitant, and we have already made enquiries about a new companion for Freddie. I can see that I am  caught in a never-ending pig-to-pig chain which will probably last long after my children leave home. In fact it'll probably go on forever. But I don't care because guinea pigs are the most delightful of pets, stoical, undemanding, cuddly, squeaky and greedy, they jump with joy, a move delightfully known as 'popcorning'.
Tug and war with a piece of grass

 
Much-loved and much-missed.
In Chester’s honour, I’ve been making a list of guinea pigs in children’s literature. Here are my five favourites.

 

Olga da Polga – by Michael Bond, creator of Paddington. Guinea pig Olga da Polga is a teller of tall tales. As guinea pigs love to talk, having long conversations in Clanger-whistles and squeaks, this is entirely plausible.

 

My Uncle is a Hunkle by Lauren Child.  Clarice Bean is looking after the class guinea pig, but he’s been stolen by the boy next door. Who better to call than Clarice’s hunkle of an uncle and his firefighting colleagues. A book which combines two essential truths First, looking after someone else's  pet  is a terrifying responsibility, and second, firefighters  are  universally fit and handsome.

 

Sophie in  Cold Tom by Sally Prue. How I feared for Sophie, as she was eyed by the mysterious Tom, who saw her as nothing more than a tender piece of meat. But luckily her owner Anna kept her from danger.

 

    I Love Guinea Pigs by Dick King Smith. A glorious celebration of the loveliness of guinea pigs by an author who knew and loved them well.  He describes their foibles and habits and remembers much-loved pets now sadly departed. The illustrations, by Anita Jearn, show the wonderful diversity of texture and colours, from sleek, satiny guineas to the ones that look like powder puffs.

 

Guinea Pigs Online by Amanda Smith and Jennifer Gray. I must declare an interest here, Amanda and Jennifer are members of a writing group that I belong to and GPO was the result of a brainstorming session that we help. Neither Amanda or Jennifer own guinea pigs, but I do, and so did another group member, so we acted as expert advisers. The books are exciting, hilarious and just a tiny bit scary...in a good way!
The main piggies are Coco (who’s a bit posh) and Fluffy (an expert cook),but there’s also Banoffee, who has multiple children, Terry, a techno genius and Eduardo, the dashing Peruvian freedom fighter. If you're going to have a guinea pig as love interest, then Eduardo's the perfect choice.
 
Can anyone think of any more?

 

 

3 comments:

catdownunder said...

"One guinea pig is not enough" by Kate Duke?
Hugs over the guinea pig though - it is always sad to lose a pet.

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