A Day No Pigs Would Die

A Day No Pigs Would Die

by Robert Newton Peck

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Originally published in hardcover in 1972, A Day No Pigs Would Die was one of the first young adult books, along with titles like The Outsiders and The Chocolate War. In it, author Robert Newton Peck weaves a story of
a Vermont boyhood that is part fiction, part memoir. The result is a moving coming-of-age story that still resonates with teens today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307574510
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 01/13/2010
Series: A Day No Pigs Would Die
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 175,881
Lexile: 690L (what's this?)
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Robert Newton Peck comes from generations of Yankee farmers. Like the Vermont folk he writes about in his novel, he was raised as a boy in the Shaker Way, which endured even after the sect itself had died out. Its view of life is embodied in the character of his young protagonist's father, who believed that a faith is more blessed when put to use than when put to word: "A man's worship counts for naught, unless his dog and cat are the better for it."

Read an Excerpt

I should have been in school that April day.
But instead I was up on the ridge near the old spar mine above our farm, whipping the gray trunk of a rock maple with a dead stick, and hating Edward Thatcher. During recess, he’d pointed at my clothes and made sport of them. Instead of tying into him, I’d turned tail and run off. And when Miss Malcom rang the bell to call us back inside, I was halfway home.
Picking up a stone, I threw it into some bracken ferns, hard as I could. Someday that was how hard I was going to light into Edward Thatcher, and make him bleed like a stuck pig. I’d kick him from one end of Vermont to the other, and sorry him good. I’d teach him not to make fun of Shaker ways. He’d never show his face in the town of Learning, ever again. No, sir.
A painful noise made me whip my head around and jump at the same time. When I saw her, I knew she was in bad trouble.
It was the big Holstein cow, one of many, that belonged to our near neighbor, Mr. Tanner. This one he called “Apron” because she was mostly black, except for the white along her belly which went up her front and around her neck like a big clean apron. She was the biggest cow, Mr. Tanner told Papa, and his best milker. And he was fixing up to take her to Rutland Fair, come summer.
As I ran toward her, she made her dreadful noise again. I got close up and saw why. Her big body was pumping up and down, trying to have her calf. She’d fell down and there was blood on her foreleg, and her mouth was all thick and foamy with yellow-green spit. I tried to reach my hand out and pat her head; but she was wild-eyed mean, and making this breezy noise almost every breath.
Turning away from me, she showed me her swollen rump. Her tail was up and arched high, whipping through the air with every heave of her back. Sticking out of her was the head and one hoof of her calf. His head was so covered with blood and birth sop that I had no way of telling he was alive or dead. Until I heard him bawl.
Apron went crashing through the puckerbush, me right behind. I’d never caught up. But because she had to stop and strain, I got to the calf’s head and got a purchase on him.
He was so covered with slime, and Apron was so wandering, there was no holding to it. Besides, being just twelve years old, I weighed a bit over a hundred pounds. Apron was comfortable over a thousand, and it wasn’t much of a tug for her. As I went down, losing my grip on the calf’s neck, her hoof caught my shinbone and it really smarted. The only thing that made me get up and give the whole idea another go was when he bawled again.
I’d just wound up running away from Edward Thatcher and running away from the schoolhouse. I was feathered if I was going to run away from one darn more thing.
I needed a rope. But there wasn’t any, so I had to make one. It didn’t have to be long, just strong.
Chasing old Apron through the next patch of prickers sure took some fun out of the whole business. I made my mistake of trying to take my trousers off as I ran. No good. So I sat down in the prickers, yanked ‘em off over my boots, and caught up to Apron. After a few bad tries, I got one pantleg around her calf’s head and knotted it snug.
“Calf,” I said to him, “you stay up to your ma’s hindside and you’re about to choke. So you might as well choke getting yourself born.”
Whatever old Apron decided that I was doing to her back yonder, she didn’t take kindly to it. So she started off again with me in the rear, hanging on to wait Christmas, and my own bare butt and privates catching a thorn with every step. And that calf never coming one inch closer to coming out. But when Apron stopped to heave again I got the other pantleg around a dogwood tree that was about thick as a fencepost.
Now only three things could happen: My trousers would rip. Apron would just uproot the tree. The calf would slide out.
But nothing happened. Apron just stood shaking and heaving and straining and never moved forward a step. I got the other pantleg knotted about the dogwood; and like Apron, I didn’t know what to do next.
Her calf bawled once more, making a weaker noise than before. But all Apron did was
heave in that one place.
“You old bitch,” I yelled at her, grabbing a dead blackberry cane that was as long as a bullwhip and big around as a broom handle, “you move that big black smelly ass, you hear?”
I never hit anybody, boy or beast, as I hit that cow. I beat her so hard I was crying. Where I held the big cane, the thorns were chewing up my hands real bad. But it only got me madder.
I kicked her. And stoned her. I kicked her again one last time, so hard in the udder that I thought I heard her grunt. Both her hind quarters sort of hunkered down in the brush. Then she started forward, my trousers went tight, I heard a rip and a calf bawl. And a big hunk of hot stinking stuff went all over me. Some of it was calf, some of it wasn’t.
As I went down under the force and weight of it, I figured something either got dead or got born.
All I knew was that I was snarled up in a passel of wet stuff, and there was a strong cord holding me against something that was very hot and kicked a lot. I brushed some of the slop away from my eyes and looked up. And there was Apron, her big black head and her big black mouth licking first me and her calf.
But she was far from whole. Her mouth was open and she was grasping for air. She stumbled once. I thought for sure I was going to wind up being under a very big cow. The noise in her throat came at me again, and her tongue lashed to and fro like a tail of a clock. It looked to me as if there was something in her mouth. She would start to breathe and then, like a cork in a bottle, some darn thing in there would cut it off.
Her big body swayed like she was dizzy or sick. As the front of her fell to her knees, her head hit my chest as I lay on the ground, her nose almost touching my chin. She had stopped breathing!
Her jaw was locked open so I put my hand in her mouth, but felt only her swollen tongue. I stretched my fingers up into her throat- and there it was! A hard ball, about apple-size. It was stuck in her windpipe, or her gullet. I didn’t know which and didn’t care. So I shut my eyes, grabbed it, and yanked.
Somebody told me once that a cow won’t bite. That somebody is as wrong as sin on Sunday. I thought my arm had got sawed off part way between elbow and shoulder. She bit and bit and never let go. She got to her feet and kept on biting.
That devil cow ran down off that ridge with my arm in her mouth, and dragging me half-naked with her. What she didn’t do to me with her teeth, she did with her front hoofs.
It should have been broad daylight, but it was night. Black night. As black and bloody and bad as getting hurt again and again cold ever be.
It just went on and on. It didn’t quit.

Customer Reviews

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A Day No Pigs Would Die 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 108 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first started reading this book in 10th grade. My friends found this book to be completely boring and this book happen to banned for some particular reason. I think these people completely misunderstood the book. This book is really amazing. From the very first page, it captures you. It is a really captivating book. I found myself crying over and over again. I loved the way Robert Newton Peck usess his words. I could actually feel the emotions of the character's. I cried during sad times and laughed during the fun times. Your emotions seems to go along with our main character, Robert. I really loved the relationship between Robert, Haven and Pinky. This is an outstanding book. Its really heartwrenching and I had a really good time reading it. You guys should give this book a try. I'm positively sure that you will enjoy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed A Day No Pigs Would Die very much. Some things in the book were very funny, others were very sad. I almost cried at the last part when Robert went into the barn and found his father, but I knew that everyone would make fun of me so I held it back.I was also about to cry when they had to kill Pinky. I do not blame Haven Peck, though, for killing Pinky because I know that it had to be done. I felt very sorry for Robert because I know how loosing a pet feels. I was hopping that Haven was wrong about him going to die .I did not really like the end of the book because it left you not knowing what happened to the Pecks after Papa died. I am glad thre was a sequel to the book, but it too was very sad. I would recomend this book to everyone who likes to read. I don't think that this book would be very good for younger kids, though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my favorites. Its about a boy how is rewarded a pig by Mr, Tanner. He cares for until it is butchered. By the end of the story you find why the title is the title.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was good. I had different feelings about this book because sometimes I laughed and sometimes I nearly cried. I thought that my parents were hard on me, but I don't have to wake up every morning and do chores. I would not like to be in Roberts shoes. I felt sorry for Robert because he lost his only pet. I thought it was funny when Pinkey was chasing the frog. I think Robert was scared when the hawk came down at full speed because he thought it was going to hit him. Before I read this book, I didn't know about the Shaker way of life. Now I do. I did not know how you could tell a pig was in heat until I read this book. I am looking forward to reading the sequel - A Part Of The Sky.
laurab_53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful and heartbreaking story.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My 1972 edition states that over 1.5 million copies were sold. The American Library Association lists this on the top 100 banned/challenged books. In the 1990's, it was #16 on the list of books that people demanded to be removed from libraries.Oh, my! Perhaps those who oppose the book might want to dust off their pearls. This is a unique, special, honest, real-to-life tale of a 12 year old young man who hails from a plain, simple Shaker family. Living a no-frills life, they own very little. When Rob rescues an adult cow who is having a very difficult birth of her calf, the owner rewards him with a baby piglet. It is the first thing Rob has ever owned.This is a story of the relationship of Rob and his pet pig and of his endearing bond with his father and his family. Rob suddenly becomes more mature when he learns that his father is dying and that very difficult decisions much be made.Highly recommended. This is what well-written YA books are all about -- life, reality, difficulty, joy, sadness, humor and relationships.Highly Recommended
lpecil on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite book.
nittnut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The simple narrative of this story, sometimes humorous and sometimes poignant, pulled me in all the way. It made me laugh, it made me cry. The story is narrated by the main character, Robert. It is the story of how he changed from boy to man in just a few short months. The story begins when he is a 12 year old boy, covers just a little less than a year, and ends when he is 13 and has become the man of the house. We catch a glimpse of how his father is teaching and preparing him to take over the farm and the care of his mother and aunt.
paulafonseca530B on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Robert Peck is a Shaker boy whose feat of bravery in helping his neighbor¿s cow birth its calf earns him a piglet. With four sisters married and two brothers buried in the orchard, Robert is the only child left to help his father, a pig slaughterer, keep the family farm going. Pinky, the piglet, is his only possession in the world, and he cherishes her with all his heart, caring for her better than he cares for himself. When Robert takes Pinky to the Learning County Fair, his heart swells with pride to see his beloved pig win the blue ribbon for ¿First Prize for Best-Behaved Pig¿¿even though, as he notices, all other pigs also receive blue ribbons. His dreams of breeding Pinky come to an end once the pig is found to be barren. With his father sick and the prospect of a winter without food, Robert must accept Pinky¿s slaughtering at the hands of his own father. At the age of thirteen, after the passing of his father, Robert Peck must assume his father¿s role in the family. Robert¿s desire of a ¿day [when] no pigs would die¿ (146) comes true at a very high price.Robert Newton Peck¿s A Day No Pigs Would Die is a coming-of-age story in which the narrator, twelve-year-old Shaker boy Robert Peck, must let go of his childhood whims embodied by Pinky¿in his own words, ¿the only thing I ever really owned¿ (139)¿to inherit his father¿s role within the family. Robert is a practical boy, born and raised in a farm with no luxuries or privilege, and he understands that sometimes one must make sacrifices in order to survive. He learns from his father Haven, an illiterate man who works at the slaughter house, that in life ¿¿Ain¿t what you need matters. It¿s what you do¿¿ (p. 120). As the story develops, Robert learns about the sacrifices the family makes¿his father who smells of blood and death so that the family can pay for the farm, and his mother who loves Robert¿s father in spite of the smell of blood and death¿and understands that when he is called to make his own sacrifice, he must do so with strength and dignity. Once his father passes away, the humorous and whimsical quality of young Robert¿s prose is gone, replaced by a serious and somber tone of someone who has lost more than he could ever replace. The transformation, however, is not a negative one. In the process, Robert gets closer than he has ever been to his father, and in the moment after Pinky¿s slaughter, Haven lets his guard down, and father and son share an experience that will help shape Robert¿s personality from then on.To many, the strong scenes of sex (even if between pigs) and violence have deemed A Day No Pigs Would Die a book unfit for young adults, granting it a spot on the ALA list of most banned/challenged books of the past 20 years. The graphic depiction of Pinky¿s mating with Samson and her slaughtering may be too shocking for younger readers, but it is nothing more than a true depiction of the experiences the character goes through. This is one of the most impressive qualities of the book: Its honest account of farm living from the point of view of one who lived it. The theme of sacrifice is another highlight of the story. It teaches readers young and old that life can be tough, and many times it is downright unfair, but from these experiences we gather the strength of character that makes us better people. Robert Peck lost his father and Pinky, but he gained the drive to live a life as honest and virtuous as his father¿s.
KBroun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be an entertaining and realistic portrayal of life on a farm for an adolescent. The book does an excellent job of showing how the cold realities of poverty and death can force children to become adults. I would recommend this book to MS students seeking a realistic YA fiction book.
HippieLunatic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The day of his father's death, the day no pigs would die is the turning point in a young boy's life, when he realizes he is to become a man. No, it is not an easy story to read (in the thematic or in the sense) nor is it a story for 13 year olds, in my opinion. It is a story written to show the development of maturity, and in today's world, that simply does not happen at age 13 for most people. So no, the details of Peck's story do not meld into every man's life (the Shaker lifestyle alone would put most reader's at a distance). The voice is different from ones that young adults are used to today, but it is still an important read.This story shows that the metamorphasis between boy and man can happen in an instant, regardless of the preparation one has for it. The change in tone when discovering his father's death allowed the reality of the growth to set in for me.It is a simply written, unshameful examination of the death of a father and boy, and the birth of a man.
paroof on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Until I read this book, I had thought it was about some 1950 or 1960 youth gang's confrontration with the police. I had always heard the title and that is just what I managed to conjure up in my mind. Sooooo, I was a little surprised to learn it was about young Shaker boy. But I wasn't disappointed - NOT AT ALL. I couldn't stop reading and I plan on giving this book to several people I know. Yes, it's a young adult coming-of-age story, but it's one of those that's often best appreciated by adults. The opening scene of the birthing cow is exciting and amazing. The characters are strong and genuine. I am so glad I finally took the time to read this one.
DuffieJ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"A Day No Pigs Would Die", deals with a young Shaker boy, Robert Peck, coming of age in his society. Early in the novel Rob receives a piglet as a gift for saving the life of a neighbor's cow, who was stricken with a goiter in her throat. Robert names the pig "Pinky" and really loves her. PInky is barren however which means that the only available option for the struggling Peck family is to slaughter the pig. This incident, combined with the death of his father profoundly change Rob and force him into becoming a man.Narrated with humor by Robert, "A Day No Pigs Would Die", is a heartfelt book about a universal and timeless theme. The book is filled with facts about the way Shaker's live their lives and approach the world around them. I found these fascinating. I also thought the sparse language used in certain parts added to the overall "feel" of the book. "A Day No Pigs Would Die" appeared on the ALA's list of the most frequently challenged books between 1990 and 1999.
SamanthaHM More than 1 year ago
Exquisite writing. Told from the youth's understanding, but in a way to give the whole picture. Insightful and delightful, though very real (and thus a bit sad).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am very suprised at the bad reviews I belive the only reason for bad reviews is because some dont understand the REAL lives of early shakers...This is a great book and i hope people read it and i suggest reading the sequal after you read this book.I am thirteen and am mature enough to read the book and understand the important moral the story teaches.I reccomend this book to teen readers and adult readers because the book glues you to its pages and puts you in real life situations. -Megan P.S. some of you reviewers need to grow up!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The most interesting book that kept me wanting to read more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked the story i just had to get the next one to fgure out what came next
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could someone tell me what it is about.I do not get it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didnt read it yet so i would lile it if you people can write reviews of how it is. And what do you think the ages are for this book. I would appriciate it if you people write a review about my questions. Thanks!
dayzd89 More than 1 year ago
A Day No Pigs Would Die is a compelling book. It's extremely sad and heart breaking to read. I definitely cried toward the end. As a vegetarian and animal lover, it was very hard to read some of the passages here. That doesn't take away the amazing story of compassion and endurance in this novel. While I am certainly surprised by the low ratings of this book, I can understand it. The themes and descriptions in this story could easily be considered controversial. But they are realistic. They are not meant to shock or to provoke. This is real life. The author doesn't sugar coat the grim realities of a Shaker family. Again, I am impressed by how certain authors can write so much in such few pages. There are so many descriptions and emotions in this book. I definitely recommend this novel to young adults and adults alike. 4.5 stars, which rounds to 5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a heart warming book eith some of the best imagery detail