A Day No Pigs Would Die

by Robert Newton Peck

Hardcover, 1996



Local notes

Fic Pec



Alfred A Knopf (1996), Edition: 1st, 150 pages. $23.00.


To a thirteen-year-old Vermont farm boy whose father slaughters pigs for a living, maturity comes early as he learns "doing what's got to be done," especially regarding his pet pig who cannot produce a litter.

Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

150 p.; 5.78 inches


0394482352 / 9780394482354



User reviews

LibraryThing member paulafonseca530B
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.
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LibraryThing member DuffieJ
"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.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
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
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LibraryThing member lpecil
This is my favorite book.
LibraryThing member laurab_53
A wonderful and heartbreaking story.
LibraryThing member KBroun
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.
LibraryThing member HippieLunatic
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.
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LibraryThing member lpihlaja
My seventh grade class read this book, and I wish we wouldn't have because it seemed like a lot of the students didn't understand the deep emotions in it. I personally enjoyed it very much. The main character, Robert Peck, is a boy who has to become a man too soon when his father, a pig butcher, dies. I cried my eyes out.
LibraryThing member lois1
A quick good read of what feels like a classic I didn't know about until now. Reminded me a little of Charlotte's Web but much more sophisticated. I love reading about 'the old days'and this Shaker family did have hardships.
LibraryThing member paroof
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member nittnut
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member caltstatt
Robert is a young Shaker boy growing up in the time of clapboard wagons and living by your own hands in the country. He helps a neighbor's cow one day have her calf and saves the cow's life. In return, the neighbor gives Robert a pig. It's the first thing Robert has ever had of his very own. The pig grows with Robert as he learns the Shaker way from his father and how a man should live. Robert is surprised one day when his father tells him to learn all he can about farming now because he feels he won't live much longer and it will be up to Robert to take care of his mother and aunt. A few months later, Robert's father does die. His father had a job of slaughtering pigs. Before he died they had to slaughter Robert's pig, Pinky, because she was barren. It was very hard on Robert. That was the day he learned life is hard and a man can't afford not to be realistic. The day Robert's father died, Robert remarked it would be a day no pigs would die since they were having his father's funeral.
This was a very sad book for me. I would recommend this book for 5th grade and up, especially for boys. The class could study this time period and see how farmers lived compared to this story. The students could also see how families interacted with one another. There wasn't a lot of conversation between each other. It just seemed as though there was a silent understanding.
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LibraryThing member crunky
I read this to my 3rd grade son at night over the course of a couple weeks. He may have been a bit young for it but he handled it well. There were plenty of opportunities for us to discuss a variety of things such as birth, death, work, religion, animals, materialism, illiteracy, etc. whenever he had a question. Also, it's a good book for a father to read to his son due to the simple yet strong relationship between the main character Robert and his father. I certainly enjoyed it; one chapter in particular had me in stitches, while at least three of the chapters were difficult to read aloud without choking up. My son thought some chapters (15 total) were good and some were boring, but I can tell from his questions and reactions that it's a book he will remember for a long time.

Other than the story, the narrative voice of the book's protagonist is a brilliant achievement. Robert is reliable in his honesty and sincerity, but his unwittingly adolescent take on some subjects will keep you smiling. The language used by the Peck family and their neighbors is rife with folksy similes and imaginative phrasings that make the book highly recommended for any lover of American colloquialisms.
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LibraryThing member NicoleSch
This is not Charlotte's Web. I knew that, and was not at all surprised when the pig died. I was, none the less, disappointed. It was bad enough the pig had to die, why did the dad? I enjoyed the first chapter or two, when Rob saved the cow and her calfs, but I honestly didn't care about the characters, the story wasn't particularly interesting, add some of the gory, bloody scenes... I understand that running a farm, and particularly a pig farm is bloody and gory, but I really don't want to read about it in a (supposed) kid's book.… (more)
LibraryThing member CharlaOppenlander
I read this one out loud with Scot. It was a really good story, but very sad! Spoiler alert: there actually is a day when pigs will die! I asked Scot what he thought about the book and he said he really liked it too. There is a surprisingly detailed account of the farmers trying to get two pigs to mate...I have to admit I skipped a few sentences of it here and there, but we got the idea. :) Overall, this was a worthwhile read that we enjoyed!… (more)
LibraryThing member justablondemoment
Found this at my local library on display with some other historical fiction books. Although it is intended for a juvenile audience I thought I would give it a go. Glad I did. It's funny in places and sad in others and you can't help but fall in love with the adorable 12 year old Rob. Quick easy read that took me away from the more "heavier" adult reading and let me just relax into a coming of age story. The only thing keeping it from a 5 star for me was it was a bit graphic in some places (animals mating, slaughtering of farm animals) and for the age group it is written for I thought those areas were a bit much.… (more)
LibraryThing member KamGeb
This book annoyed me. The boy seems very slow for his age. Also there was misinformation about Shakers in the book. Finally it just seemed boring. Definitely not a book I enjoyed.
LibraryThing member engpunk77
The themes were classic and touching, but I had a hard time getting into the "grossness" of it (farm stuff). Blood, pigs, county fairs, vomit, you know. Yuck. But I can see that it would really reach some of my kids who could relate to those aspects of life that a former city girl like me can't handle.
LibraryThing member ElizaJane
The last chapter had me choking back the tears. I read this book probably in about Grade 5 and from there went on to read all Peck's books. This is my first re-read and I can see why it affected me so much at the time and I also see that it began a long-lasting relationship for m with this type of literature. I'm still drawn, today, to books about farm people, mountain people, uneducated folks, living off the land, living plain and simple. And books that end with sadness and people dying, books that some would call depressing but rather I see the redemption that will follow after the book has been closed.

This is Peck's first book and is autobiographical; he even uses his and his father's own names for the characters. Set in 1920s Vermont it opens with a violent, brutal first chapter involving a cow birthing gone wrong and the main character being injured. The rest of the book follows suit. This book is very real where the animals are concerned and gets banned or censored regularly by animal rights activists making it a good choice for Banned Books Week. I just love the rawness of this story, the love of this simple family living off the land, the Shaker ways they try to uphold and the plainess of the language. It makes me want to re-read all Peck's books again from the 70s and 80s and read all the new ones I haven't read. I see a sequel was written in the 90s. One certainly isn't needed but it will make for an interesting read to find how Robert's next year on the farm fares. This is a keeper for my shelves, but I'll have to scout out for the hardcover edition I remember from my 70s childhood.
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LibraryThing member CharlaOppenlander
I read this one out loud with Scot. It was a really good story, but very sad! Spoiler alert: there actually is a day when pigs will die! I asked Scot what he thought about the book and he said he really liked it too. There is a surprisingly detailed account of the farmers trying to get two pigs to mate...I have to admit I skipped a few sentences of it here and there, but we got the idea. :) Overall, this was a worthwhile read that we enjoyed!… (more)
LibraryThing member jguidry
This was a realistic depiction of coming of age on a Shaker farm in Vermont. Peck described all the ins and outs of farm life, and some of it was pretty hard for me to take at times. I'll admit to bawling my eyes out at the ending. This book was very well-written, but I'd have liked one more chapter. We got to see Robert become a man in the eyes of his neighbors. I'd have like to see his new journey start.… (more)
LibraryThing member fingerpost
This semi-autobiographical novel is a coming of age story that tells of Robert Peck growing up in a Shaker household in Vermont between the World Wars. Live is hard, but simple. Robert's loving but firm father, who can't read, teaches him the value of education, hard work, honesty, neighbors, family, responsibility, and many more things. Somewhat episodic, the series of story-chapters frequently focus on Pinky, a pig given to Robert by a neighbor in gratitude for a significant service Robert provides in the opening chapter. Robert loves Pinky - the only thing that has ever truly been his own. The book is sometimes quite funny, though its overall mood is a serious one. The last two or three chapters become quite somber, as Robert learns some of the most difficult lessons of his young life.
I always am left wondering in these "semi-autobiographical" books, just how much is fiction and how much isn't. One thing is certain though, Robert Peck, author of dozens of books for intermediate readers, loves honors and respects the illiterate father who raised him. In many ways, the book is a love song to his father.
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LibraryThing member br13clma
In the book A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck, Robert is faced with many challenges. Will he keep the family farm up and running or will it fail?
In my opinion the book is written in great detail. It describes what it was like to live around the time of the Great Depression. Also it describes the challenges that they faced during this time period.… (more)




(251 ratings; 3.6)
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