Apple Pigs by Ruth Orbach, published by The National Trust and Pavilion Books
When we moved to our house a few years ago, we inherited a very old apple tree at the end of the garden. Crooked and weather beaten, it didn't look very happy at all. Its branches were tangled with no sign of buds, let alone fruit.
We arranged for a tree surgeon to have a look, and he cut its branches back almost to the trunk. A year later, there was little sign of life, except for a few smaller branches developing from the stumps that remained.
The next spring, however, green shoots appeared, soon followed by a sprinkling of tiny apples. At the end of summer, a hundred or so apples hung from the tree. Apart from a couple of apple cakes and some apple sauce, most of the apples became windfall and were donated to as many relatives, friends and neighbours as would take them.
Each year since, the tree has produced more and more apples. This year was the largest crop yet - more than 200 apples - resulting in a flurry of apple chutney. Our daughter proved herself a very helpful windfall collector and enjoyed helping wash them and dispose of their peel.
Recently, just as the lawn has been cleared of the last apple of the year, we read Apple Pigs for the first time. Reprinted in 2015 by the National Trust and Pavilion Books, this delightful tale of apple abundance is available afresh to a new generation, nearly 40 years after its debut.
When a girl tends to an old apple tree in her garden, clearing its roots of rubbish and promising to look after it, the tree agrees to start producing its fruit once more. At first, the girl is pleased to benefit from its annual crop. But soon, she and her family can't bear to eat another apple: "apples for dinner, apples for tea - too many apples, we all agreed".
As more and more apples appear, they are increasingly at a loss at what to do with all this fruit and where to keep it: "We packed them in baskets, in boxes, in trunks. We stuffed them in cupboards and up in the bunks". Even their bath, sink, grand piano and pram are filled with them, yet the tree gives more and more.
When there is simply nowhere else to store them, the family decides to hold an Apple Feast and invite not just the neighbours but a local menagerie of birds and beasts too - with dancing, songs and, of course, apples (in every form!): "Apple fritters, apple-ade, apple custard father made. Apple strudel, apples dried, apple pigs were mother's pride".
Many of the guests, such as the hippos, giraffes, camels and elephants, are too big to get into the house and have to eat outside, while in the house bears, monkeys, goats and mice enjoy everything an apple has to offer: "Some ate cores, some ate peelings, some ate apples from the ceiling".
As well as being fun to read aloud, Apple Pigs is also a great choice for helping children connect their everyday lives with nature, build an appreciation for the value of food, and learn about how apples grow. Told with a gentle rhyme alongside sparse yet pleasing illustrations, doused in Royal Gala red, this is a joyful tale of apples and the sweetness of sharing with others.