When you were growing up or while raising your children, did you read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald?
As a child, I absolutely adored those books and loved reading them to our children when they were young. I was so happy to learn from one of our local librarians that the books remain popular with young people today. I checked out several of them and re-read the stories with a big smile on my face.
For those of you who may have forgotten about these precious books and stories, let me give you a refresher as well as an update for “modern-day” young readers.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was a little old woman who lived in a house that was upside down. The kitchen, bathroom and staircase were “right side up,” since that was more “convenient.”
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle loved children and all of the children loved her. She was always doing something fun and the town’s children were constantly at her upside down home playing pirates, digging holes, playing dress-up or eating freshly baked cookies Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle made.
As a child, I remember longing for a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to live in my neighborhood. Besides being so much fun, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was also the one all of the mothers in the town would go to when their children had bad attitudes or developed bad habits. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s “cures” are all chronicled in the books and are funny but also involve good common sense practices which show children some things that seem lost on some young people today — that is, things we do, or don’t do, have consequences.
I loved re-reading several of her books and laughed when I was reminded of some of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s popular cures.
Our family especially loved “The Won’t-Pick-Up-Toys Cure,” in which young Hubert Prentiss refuses to pick up his many toys and his mother always ends up picking up after him.
After much frustration, a friend suggests Hubert’s mother phone Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. The “cure” part is Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s instructions — in this case, she instructs Hubert’s mother to not pick up after Hubert at all.
When Hubert cannot get out of his room, she tells the frazzled mother to phone her back. The story chronicles Hubert’s continuance to not pick up his toys and eventually he is trapped in his room.
His frantic mother again phones Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who tells her to feed her son bread by putting it on the garden rake and putting it up to his window — nothing but water from the garden hose is his drink.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle also sends a note to Hubert, telling him the only way to get out of his room is to put everything away where it belongs.
After being trapped for awhile, Hubert does, and his reward is marching in a parade with Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and his friends.
Another story, “The Radish Cure,” involves a little girl named Patsy who hated taking baths. This cure, again instructed by Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, involved allowing Patsy to not take a bath, so of course she got dirtier and dirtier.
When she was covered in dirt, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle told Patsy’s mother to sprinkle radish seeds on the little girl while she was asleep. Guess what happened? Yep. Radishes began growing on the child. She was so upset, she begged her mother to allow her to take a bath. Another success story thanks to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s sage advice.
Somehow in today’s world of political correctness and helicopter parenting, it is refreshing to read these stories. Of course these books were written in the 1940s and 50s — a different time for sure, but still … I well remember in the early 1990s reading parenting book after parenting book. The advice to parents, if faced with a screaming, temper-tantrum-throwing 3-year-old, was to calmly look at your child and say, “I see you are feeling angry now.”
Really? I can assure you I tried that and saying that to a red faced, screaming child, doesn’t work — except possibly to make the child angrier.
For Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle fans — old and young, I have some exciting news. While the practical, jovial Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle may not be back, her great-niece Missy Piggle-Wiggle is.
Written by Betty MacDonald’s great granddaughter, Annie Parnell and Ann M. Martin, of the famous “Babysitter’s Club” fame, teamed up to “Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure.”
The stories are much more modern — the mothers in the stories go to work, the siblings argue with each other using up-to-date phrases about more relatable issues for today’s children, and there is much more magic involved in the cures. The artwork, by Ben Hatke, is also updated and delightful. The book is sure to capture the hearts of new Piggle-Wiggle fans — but don’t discount those old Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books — they are as charming as ever.
South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.