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Being a quadruplet can make it hard to stand out from the crowd. Becca’s three brothers all have something that makes them...them. Jake has his music, Jammer plays hockey, and K.C. thinks they’re all living in a simulation and doesn’t see the point of doing much of anything. Becca is the only one with nothing to make her special.
But when she finds a tiny, sick piglet on the side of the road, Becca knows this is it. This is her thing. She names the piglet Saucy and between her own pleading and Saucy’s sweet, pink face, Becca convinces her family to take her in. Soon, Saucy is as big a part of the family as anyone else—and getting bigger. With each pound Saucy gains, the more capable she becomes of destroying the house and landing Becca in trouble.
Some tough decisions need to be made about Becca’s pet, and her search for solutions brings to light exactly where Saucy came from. Turns out, there are a lot more scared piglets out there, and saving them may take Becca and her brothers finally doing something together.
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About the Author
Marianna Raskin has always been fond of pigs and especially loves drawing them, so she obviously couldn’t resist Saucy! When she’s not illustrating naughty piglets, Marianna illustrates other books, like Florian’s Secret by Chava Nissimov, and works as an acclaimed animator in Israel. See more of her work at MariannaRaskin.com.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: Summer
Becca sat in the backyard, trying to meditate. She had decided that meditation would be her thing, the thing she was better at than everybody else—if it was even possible to be a “better” meditator. Like wasn’t meditation kind of the same as doing nothing, and how could you get better at that than other people? Regardless, she was going to get very good at it.
It was a little noisy to be meditating, though.
One problem was that every few seconds Jammer whacked one of his one hundred hockey pucks into the goal. Becca didn’t understand how he could be interested in doing the exact same thing, over and over. Like if you did it perfectly one time, why did you need to keep doing it?
Bailey was drumming his fingers on the arm of his wheelchair, mouthing words and nodding to an imaginary song playing in his head. Bailey could turn on music in his mind just like other people could turn on music on their phones. He also wrote songs, and you weren’t allowed to say anything at all to him while he was writing or singing. Like now.
K.C., sitting right next to Becca, was reading a book about physics. Becca supposed that he was a math and science genius. Everybody said so, anyway. Even though to her he just seemed like K.C. She didn’t understand half of what he said. Nobody did. Becca could feel his arm against hers. Even when he was reading something and completely in his own world, he always did this thing of sitting close to somebody else—he didn’t really care who.
Mom had bought Becca a special meditation cushion called a zafu that was soft but not too soft. It was really pretty, with a picture of the moon and stars, but since her butt was on it, she wasn’t sure why it mattered how pretty it was. Still, she closed her eyes and tried to focus. But the only thing she could think about was the little ache in her heart that seemed to be there, like all the time.
Becca and her brothers were quadruplets. She was born first, on December 26, at 12:01 a.m. Then came Jammer. He was supposedly the quietest baby. Even today, he hardly talked to anyone, because they were all so boring. If you didn’t play hockey like he did, then you were boring. He was born at 12:03. Then K.C. at 12:05. That was when Dad passed out, so he didn’t see Bailey get born at 12:06. Becca had heard the story of Dad passing out at least a million times. Who wouldn’t pass out? he liked to say.
But ugh. Becca couldn’t concentrate! She opened her left eye. Bailey was dancing in his wheelchair, a new dance she hadn’t seen before. It must have been a good song he was hearing in his head, because the dance was really cool.
“That dance is dope,” K.C. said, looking up now. “It’s so perfect, it reminds me of a robot.” That was a compliment, because K.C. thought robots were the greatest thing ever, or would be someday. Becca closed her eye again and tried to concentrate but still couldn’t.
She hummed her mantra, which was a word or phrase to help you meditate. Hers was simply “Ommmm.” She’d chosen this one because it was simple and because it supposedly was the vibration of the universe… whatever that meant—she couldn’t quite remember at the moment. But anyway, the definition of “om” was “it is.”
“I can’t concentrate when you’re doing that,” Jammer snapped.
“I can’t concentrate when you’re doing that,” she snapped back.
Then they both returned to what they’d been doing.
Eleven and a half years ago, Becca, Bailey, Jammer, and K.C. had been in the intensive care unit for a month. Either Mom, Dad, Grandma, or Grandpa was at the hospital every second. Dad said it might sound weird, but even though he and Mom weren’t allowed to even pick up their “quads” for the first few days, that was the most magical time of his life. He and Mom hadn’t thought they could have kids at all, and being able to go to the hospital and see those “four tiny, precious creatures” was like “a new lease on life” and “being on cloud nine.” That was the way Dad talked sometimes. He said the reason clichés like “a new lease on life” and “being on cloud nine” existed was because they were so often the exact right words to say. That wasn’t what Becca’s last teacher believed, though. If you used a cliché in your stories, she would slash through it and write CLICHÉ ALERT in the margin. Which was really annoying, to be honest.
And suddenly Becca was thinking about how annoying that was, and she absolutely couldn’t meditate even slightly.
“I can’t focus,” she announced. “K.C., how do I empty my head?” Even though K.C. thought about the world a lot, he could also empty his head whenever he wanted. He said so, anyway.
“Maybe somebody is stopping you from focusing, just for fun,” he explained patiently.
That made no sense, but Becca asked, “Like who?”
He shrugged. “It could be anybody.”
K.C. believed that they might all be living in a simulation, being controlled by someone or something. He had read how some techie recently said that when he worked on artificial intelligence, he felt like he was operating on alien—not human—technology. Even though humans had invented AI. In short, this simulation on earth was possibly being run by an extremely advanced AI program that was invented by a flesh-and-blood alien a billion years ago, and the inventor had already died. According to K.C.
Whatever, K.C. That was what Becca thought when he talked about that kind of stuff. She tried to listen politely, except when it was late and he wouldn’t shut up and let her or Jammer or Bailey sleep. Then she would actually say “shut up” out loud. It was okay to tell K.C. “shut up” because he never got offended and would just say “shut up yourself.” But you could never, ever tell Bailey to shut up, because he would cry. And you didn’t usually have to tell Jammer to shut up, because people didn’t talk to him much, on account of they didn’t want to bore him, and he didn’t talk to them, on account of they were boring. She had to admit he was a really, really good hockey player, though. It was almost as cool as Bailey’s dancing. Actually, maybe just as cool.
Still, she suddenly felt annoyed again. Trying to meditate was annoying. So she called out, “Jammer, would you please mind being quiet for a few minutes so I can meditate?”
“It’s a free world,” he said, whacking a new puck.
“You’re so annoying!” she said. But he didn’t answer. Naturally.
She pulled her pillow out from under her butt. It wasn’t helping her meditate at all. She wondered if Mom could get her money back for it. Then, as soon as she thought that, she felt calm, like maybe she could meditate now. So she sat on her zafu again and tried to empty her head. But she couldn’t.
It was all right, though. In fact, she would never admit it to Jammer, but she kind of liked hearing the pucks whack. She liked hearing Bailey sing. She liked K.C.’s arm bumping hers.
They all spent a lot of time together. She knew other multiples who were like, meh, being a multiple is no big deal. But sometimes, at least when nobody was fighting, Becca felt she and her brothers were as connected now as when they were still in their mom’s stomach. Being a multiple was probably the thing in the world she was secretly most grateful for.
But she had questions. Like why were her brothers all so focused? They were nice enough people, but they were like sharks for what they liked. She was more like a jellyfish. Just floating around here and there.
Trying to meditate.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide for
By Cynthia Kadohata
About the Book
As the oldest in a set of quadruplets, Becca doesn’t feel like she plays any special role in her family. One day, when her family is out for a walk, they find a sick, abandoned piglet by the side of the road. Becca convinces everyone that she can take care of her, and names her piglet Saucy. Soon Saucy has taken over Becca’s family’s hearts and household, but not without destruction and mayhem! As Saucy grows bigger and bigger, Becca must figure out what to do with her pig and how to stop her from destroying any more of the family home. What follows is a journey of discovery for Becca, both in learning more about herself and where Saucy came from. Filled with humor and engaging family dynamics, Saucy is a heartwarming story of the surprising friendship between a young girl and her pig.
1. Become familiar with pigs and their traits using the National Geographic website (https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/pig/).
2. What are sanctuaries? Use the PETA for Kids website (https://www.petakids.com/save-animals/) to learn more about sanctuaries and how they compare to zoos.
3. Look at the pictures and the chapter headings used in Saucy. Can you predict what the story might be about without reading the text?
1. Becca’s dad is famous for using clichés. For example, “being on cloud nine” or “a new lease on life.” Why do you think he does this? In your reading journal, or on the board as a class, keep a list of the clichés Becca’s dad uses and how they fit each moment of the story.
2. Becca is part of a set of quadruplets. Why is this important to the book’s events? How does it affect the way Becca views herself? What does Becca see as special about each of her siblings? What is special about Becca that she doesn’t realize?
3. What does Becca mean when she says she’s a jellyfish and her brothers are sharks?
4. Becca finds an abandoned little pig on a family walk and insists on keeping her as a pet. Why is this so important to her? What motivates her to keep the animal? Why does she name her Saucy?
5. As Saucy becomes a part of Becca’s family, things start to go wrong. In fact, Becca has a list of forty-nine things that Saucy has ruined or done. Find three or four examples of the trouble Saucy has caused; then explain why these situations are problematic, and how Becca might make it up to her family. Brainstorm ways she might do this without using money to pay her parents back.
6. When Becca leaves the veterinarian hospital, she offers to come back to visit the animals and help clean up. She’s told that this is not necessary and that she should continue “just being [herself].” What does this statement mean to you? What do you think it means to Becca? Do you find it easy or challenging to “be yourself”? Does this change in certain situations?
7. Compare and contrast the care and feeding of a pig with a dog, cat, or other common household pet. Create a chart that shows the similarities and differences between food, housing needs, vet visits, and other costs.
8. Why does Becca feel a sense of peace when she is with Saucy? What makes you feel that way? Explain your answers.
9. Everything with Saucy seems to happen for a reason. What is the significance of Saucy biting Mom in the garden? What happens after this?
10. The phrase “between a rock and a hard place” is another cliché. What is Becca’s rock and hard place with Saucy? Can you think of a rock and a hard place for yourself?
11. Becca says, “I’m only Becca, and my pig is gone, and I don’t have a best friend.” She’s afraid to make new friends and thinks she’s a coward for feeling this way. If you were her brother or sister, what advice would you give her? How would you help encourage her? Why can it be challenging to find confidence?
12. Do you think the family makes the right choice by giving Saucy to a sanctuary? Explain your answer. What would you have done if you were in their shoes?
13. Why is the last walk with Saucy so important for the family? What happens during that walk and later on as a result of this time together? Why is this an important moment for Becca?
14. Why do the kids sneak back out after their family walk? What is their plan? Do you agree or disagree with their decisions? Explain your answer. What other suggestions might you have for them about ways they can address their concerns?
15. How does the community react to the discovery of the pig farm and its treatment of pigs? How might you become involved if you heard about a similar situation in your area?
16. Becca is feeling terrible and sad about taking the piglets to the sanctuary. Her brother K.C. finds the Portuguese word saudade, which means “The pleasure I suffer,” to help them reflect and process. How does this word explain Becca’s feelings and those of her brother’s? Why is this an important moment in the story?
17. The author, Cynthia Kadohata, interviewed a number of people who own or have worked with pigs extensively. The emotions Saucy displays reflect actual real-life details from real-life pig owners. Name some of these scenes and reactions in the text. What is Saucy doing during these moments? How do these occasions change or add to your understanding of Saucy or your perception of her situation? How can you tell if the animals in your life are feeling happy, afraid, or upset?
18. What do the illustrations add to the story? What do you learn from them? Think about experiencing a story through different mediums, including how it might feel to listen to the audiobook of Saucy. How might hearing the character’s voices rather than reading the words on a page change the way you feel about the story?
19. Name at least one other story in which a pig or another animal plays an important role. Compare and contrast these stories with Saucy. For example, consider using Charlotte’s Web, The Adventures of Nanny Piggins, or books from the Mercy Watson series.
1. Becca likes taking selfies of herself and her brothers. Take selfies of yourself, your family, your pet(s), or items that are important to you in different settings and at different times. Create a collage that represents all the different moments and moods in your life. How do you feel seeing all these images in one place?
2. Two truths and a lie, pig edition: using index cards, write down two facts and one lie about pigs. You should have one fact or lie on each card. The incorrect statement can be wild and wacky, or it can sound reasonable enough to be true. Then share your three statements in a small group or with a partner. Can your classmates tell which statements are facts, and which is the lie? What do you notice about the way people try to decide? What is the most surprising fact you learn?
3. Write the next chapter in Saucy’s life. Imagine the situation if Becca were to go to the sanctuary six months later to visit Saucy. What would the chapter heading be? What would happen when they see each other again? Would Saucy remember her? Is Saucy happy in her new home? Is Becca still spending time with animals?
4. Select a scene in the book that would make for a good Reader’s Theater or a skit. If you’re focusing on a skit, work in groups of four to write a script with original dialogue, then practice the skit before performing it for the class. For a Reader’s Theater, follow the recommendations found in this Reader’s Theater guide from TeachingBooks.
5. Investigate the characteristics of pigs. Working in a small group, describe a typical day and then a year in the life of a pig for the rest of your classmates. Using information each group shares, work with your group members to write and illustrate a nonfiction children’s book on the wonders of pigs. Ask your teacher if you can display the children’s book in your school or public library.
6. Find out more about the author, Cynthia Kadohata, and other books she has written. Which one seems like it would be most interesting to read next, and why? Use the author’s website, https://cynthiakadohata.com/index.html or a site such as TeachingBooks to find out more about the author, view book trailers, and more.
7. Create a book trailer for Saucy by using a program available for use in your classroom or library such as Animoto, Google slides, iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Shadow puppet EDU (a free app), or WeVideo. Don’t forgot to include these components:
Write a script
Don’t copy the jacket text; think about your favorite parts of the story, and what might entice readers. Make sure text and images align.
Grab people’s attention right away!
Keep it steady
If using a camera or phone, use a tripod or fixed position when filming. Don’t have someone else hold it for you!
Keep it simple
Think of the strongest themes in the book and how to convey them in the most succinct, interesting way.
Don’t just summarize
Hint at the story, and don’t spoil the ending.
Choose music carefully
Watch out for copyright, or compose your own.
8. If Becca and her family were interested in trying to find a forever home for Saucy, how might they do this? Write a “needs a new forever home” ad for Saucy. What would your ad say to convince people to adopt her?
Reading Group Guide created by Sharon Haupt, Former District Librarian - San Luis Coastal Unified School District (retired); current Reference Librarian and Children’s collection Development, Cuesta College.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit simonandschuster.net or simonandschuster.net/thebookpantry.