Small Press, Big Pig, Clever Hen

In the world of book publishing, small presses can introduce and take chances on new authors. They can publish smaller runs of books that may not, at least at first, draw a large audience, as well as shorter books that experiment with form and offer content that might be viewed risky by larger publishing houses. Edible East Bay has reviewed many books from small local presses like Parallax Press, Ulysses Press, and Counterpoint Press, in part because their focus on niche topics often lines up with the magazine’s focus on hyper-local, seasonal food and the people who produce it.

Stone Pier Press, a San Francisco–based nonprofit specializing in environmental books and food systems, joined the cozy world of small-press publishing in January 2017 with its first book, Sprig the Rescue Pig, published in April 2018, followed in September by Gwen the Hen. Both are written by Leslie Crawford with Sonja Stangl’s charming illustrations complementing the gentle, playful tone of the texts.

Intended for children ages 4 to 7, Sprig and Gwen are the first in a series of Farm Animal Rescue Books. Clare Ellis, publisher and founder of Stone Pier Press, says, “We wanted to convince people that a book about humane, climate-friendly ways to grow and eat food can actually make for good reading. A beautifully illustrated set of children’s books seemed like a good start.”

Sprig is the story of a pig herded onto a truck with lots of other pigs (presumably bound for slaughter, adult readers will assume) that escapes into surrounding woods and is discovered and adopted by a young girl and her family. Eventually they figure out it’s not practical for them to care for the animal, so they send the pig to an animal sanctuary. Inspired by true events, the book includes a section called “More About Pigs,” where readers learn that pigs are smart enough to play video games, enjoy sleeping in cozy pig piles, and run really fast.

Also inspired by real-life events, in this case a series of tornadoes that destroyed a large egg-laying farm in Croton, Ohio, Gwen the Hen imagines the adventure of one chicken whose cramped cage gets up-ended and blown away in the whirlwind. Gwen lands in an unfamiliar world, where she finds a friend in a boy named Mateo and eventually reunites with some of her flock. Like Sprig, the book contains a section with fun facts about chickens. Did you know they have extraordinary eyesight, a complex language of 24 sounds, and are descended from dinosaurs?

“Next up is a book about a cow, another factory-farmed animal that could use some love and understanding,” says Ellis. Stone Pier Press is also developing a series of Growing Good Food Books to help gardeners work in a way that mimics nature, builds soil, conserves water, promotes pest resistance, and locks in carbon.

— Kristina Sepetys

Note: Readers who buy the books at get 30

% off when using discount code GS30.