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A Day No Pigs Would Die
A Day No Pigs Would Die.gif
Cover to paperback edition
Author Robert Newton Peck
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
ISBN 0-394-48235-2
OCLC 328920

A Day No Pigs Would Die is a semi-autobiographical novel by Robert Newton Peck about Rob Peck, a boy coming of age in rural Vermont on an impoverished farm. Originally published in 1972, it is one of the first books to be categorized as young adult fiction, in addition to being Peck's first novel; the sequel, A Part of the Sky, was published in 1994.


Robert Newton Peck was born on February 17, 1928, in Ticonderoga, New York to Frank Haven Peck and Lucile Dornburgh Peck, who may have had an interest in the tenets of Shakerism. He served as a machine-gunner in the 88th Infantry Division during World War II, and then upon returning home in 1947 enrolled in Rollins College. After graduating in 1953, Peck began taking courses at Cornell Law School, but never finished. He pursued multiple careers during his adult life, including working as a lumberjack, in a paper mill, and he even killed hogs. Eventually, Peck began working as an advertising scriptwriter for American Home Products.

Peck had long believed that "the brutal truths of farm life survival are quite beautiful", and had wanted to write about them since he was eleven. It took him thirty-three years to do so. Peck starting publishing young adult novels at the age of forty-four, using the time he spent commuting to and from New York City – ten hours a week – to write; working this way, he produced the manuscripts for five young adult novels in just three years. A Day No Pigs Would Die was written over the course of three weeks and became Peck's first published work.

Plot summary

While skipping school one day, twelve-year-old Rob Peck finds himself assisting a neighbor's cow through the delivery of a pair of calves (and saving her life from her goiter). He is injured in the process, but eventually recovers and the farmer whose animals he helped gives Rob a piglet. He names the piglet Pinky. Pinky quickly becomes Rob's best friend and closest companion save for his father, Haven, a butcher working to save money to pay off the Peck family's farm. Unfortunately, Pinky is barren and they eventually decide that they have to kill the piglet if it won't bring the family any more piglets or profit. Robert hates his father when he kills Pinky, but understands that his father is heartbroken as well. Rob's father, Haven, dies in his sleep a few months later and Rob discovers while doing random chores that his father had been trying to teach himself to write.

Main characters

  • Robert Peck: The sheltered twelve-year-old narrator who learns to be a man from his pig-farmer father and his best friend, his pet pig Pinky.
  • Haven Peck: Rob's faux-Shaker father; a poor, illiterate farmer who wants to provide for his family and teach his son how to grow up right.
  • Pinky: A sow gifted to Rob in thanks for his helping Mr. Tanner's cow through a difficult birth.
  • Lucy Peck: Rob's caring, resilient mother who fears that her son is growing up too quickly.
  • Aunt Carrie: Lucy's older sister who lives with the Pecks and serves as a second mother to Rob.
  • Benjamin Tanner: A Baptist farmer who is a neighbor and friend to the Peck family.


Peck published a sequel, A Part of the Sky, in 1994. It picks up where A Day No Pigs Would Die leaves off, following Rob's decision to leave school in order to find employment so that he can pay for the farm and care for his mother and aunt, despite being only thirteen.

A Part of the Sky was not as well received as its predecessor; the New York Times said that it "has the disconcerting effect of making us wonder whether we were wrong about the first book. Was it really so lugubrious and uplifting? Dare we go back? Don't worry. From the first page, A Day No Pigs Would Die pulls readers into its world and holds us fast with a combination of harsh realism, tenderness and laughter that sweeps to the heartbreaking ending."

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