A pig story; Redwater grad thinks a novel about a pig with a heart

A Redwater High School graduate and former Houston middle school teacher will have her story about a big-hearted pig and the boy who befriends published later this month.

Released October 26 via Little, Brown and Company’s Young Readers, “Pighearted” is the debut novel by Alex Perry, the 2009 Redwater graduate who now resides in central Arkansas and recently visited Texarkana high school students virtually. about her heartwarming story. .

“It’s the story of a boy with deadly heart disease and his best friend – the pig with a heart that could save his life,” Perry said.

The story explores the unlikely friendship between Jeremiah, a young boy who develops heart disease, and J6, a research lab survivor who may well save Jeremiah.

“‘Pighearted’ is about 12-year-old Jeremiah, who suffered a heart attack during his first football game. His only hope is a transplant from a pig genetically modified to grow a human heart,” said the author. “The pig grew up in a lab, where he lost all of his brothers, and after meeting Jeremiah, he hopes the human boy can be his new brother.”

They bond and share silly, fun adventures together, but only Jeremiah realizes that the pig also has a human-like brain. The narrative perspective oscillates between the pig and the boy.

“The story alternates from the pig’s point of view and his distorted, comedic take on the human world and Jeremiah’s point of view as he navigates to the hospital and isolates himself, much like what all these kids do. lived last year in their 40s, “Perry says. “Now they have to fight to save each other.”

J6 realizes he has a special role to play, but he doesn’t know what it is. Meanwhile, their friendship blossoms. This may not be what ultimately happens, but the intention is for the pig to be an organ donor. Parents try to keep them from getting close, Perry explained.

“They say he’s a therapy pig,” she said. “The pig sees himself as a cross between a bodyguard and a therapy pig, like a Secret Service animal. He thinks he’s that tough client who protects Jeremiah at all costs.”

When a girl tries to kiss Jeremy, J6 knocks her down to save him.

“She also fell in love with eating pork chops, so she deserved it,” Perry said.

Think of it as a nasty story about never giving up the fight for your loved ones.

Perry came up with the idea for an NPR story she heard four years ago. “All of the science in the book is 100% real,” she explained. “Scientist is trying to take pigs and use CRISPR gene editing technology to give them human organs.”

The author said that part of the reason that is still illegal is that it could be possible that, by mistake, the pig could develop human thoughts.

“I thought it would be a really interesting book to tell a story from a pig’s point of view,” Perry said. “And then I thought of ‘Charlotte’s Web’.”

It’s like a futuristic and realistic version of what could happen, a question that can spark discussion among young readers.

The novel is aimed at 8 to 12-year-olds, the former grade 6 teacher said. “I really refined this age group. They are so smart, and one thing I noticed as a teacher is that they love cutting edge science,” she said. , “and they love to debate big questions.”

Children this age have such great feelings, she said, and older people can relate to this time.

“It’s just such a mess of feelings, learning and new experiences, the perfect time for something dramatic to happen to a new protagonist,” Perry said.

Her mother is from New Boston and her father is from Texarkana. They worked at the Red River Army Depot, so the family traveled as a child. She graduated from Redwater after living in Germany and Massachusetts.

“This would be my home port where we would always return,” Perry said of the Texarkana area. Her parents encouraged her to write adventures from an early age.

After being a teacher, Perry and her family moved to Arkansas a few years ago, where she writes, tries to win the lottery (with the support of her husband), and is now raising her toddler.

She quickly wrote a draft of “Pighearted” after hearing this story from NPR, but an extensive editing process ensued. It took about a year to find a shape that made her happy, and then she hired her agent. Eventually, an editor from Little, Brown and Co. showed interest.

“We worked on it last year to get everything ready, getting the pig ready to go to market,” Perry joked.

What does she hope a young reader will take away from her book? She herself has no firm opinion on what was in store for J6 and her pig heart, whether or not it would be morally right to use it to save a human.

“But I hope it can help kids think critically about these big questions and try to find those answers on their own. Rather than telling them what to think, I want them to practice this critical thinking.” , said Perry. “I also think there is a strong message about never giving up on the people you love and always trying to fight to help others. The pig and the boy both want to save each other. . “

The book will be available in ebook ($ 9.99) and hardcover ($ 16.99) format. The publisher compares it to “Charlotte’s Web” and “My Sister’s Keeper”.

(On the Net: AlexPerryBooks.com. Link to the publisher’s book: www.lbyr.com/titles/alex-perry/pighearted/9780316538800.)

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