(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Babe weaves its themes of tolerance and individuality so seamlessly throughout the narrative that the young reader will almost effortlessly absorb the novel’s lessons of tolerance and individuality. Dick King-Smith manages to convey several layers of meaning without resorting to preaching or didacticism, making this novel valuable for teaching to and discussing with young readers.

Babe deftly dramatizes the dangers of stereotyping to both its victims and its perpetrators, illustrating how readily prejudice can be born of ignorance when its characters make unwarranted assumptions about one another. Fly’s puppies ask their mother if pigs are stupid: “Fly hesitated. On the one hand, having been born and brought up in sheep country, she had in fact never been personally acquainted with a pig. On the other, like most mothers, she did not wish to appear ignorant before her children. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘They’re stupid.’” After only brief acquaintance with Babe, however, she realizes that he does not conform to her preconceived ideas of pigs.

Fly also believes that sheep are stupid, that their bleating is meaningless, and that she can only control them through coercion. The sheep, in turn, are culpable of thoughtless prejudice by making no distinction between sheep dogs and wolves, lumping herders with predators. Through Babe’s efforts to know and understand both the sheep and the sheep dog, stereotypes are broken...

(The entire section is 599 words.)