Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chapter Books A to Z: P is for Piggle-Wiggle

Ah, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, the wisest woman who ever lived in children's book land. This beloved character, created by Betty MacDonald, lived in an upside-down house that was built by her late husband. He was also rumored to be a pirate. The children in the neighborhood loved her and parents depended on her wisdom to help them rear their children. She had all kinds of magical powders and tricks that helped teach naughty children to break their bad habits.

Reading as a kid, I was fascinated by the magic of her cures and by how naughty some of these kids were! I also felt a little guilty here and there, as I recognized myself in some of the stories. I was the kid who had the chronically messy room and back-talked her parents. I was secretly glad that my parents didn't have access to a real-life Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, because I didn't want to be a victim of those magical spells!

As an adult, I appreciate her wisdom in caring for children. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was extremely understanding of children, their feelings and their thought processes. She loved them unconditionally, which is all children really want, along with freedom within established boundaries. I think that part of my core of understanding and loving children, despite their imperfections, is due in part to reading these books so much as a kid. I had aspirations, even back then, of being a sort of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle when I was older.

Some of these stories were "translated" into picture books of individual stories. I have read both the picture books and the chapter books in my classroom with kindergartners and with older kids whom I nannied. All of the children have loved them almost as much as I do.

My favorite of the series was the fourth book, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic. My copy had a purple cover, which is my favorite color, and probably helped my attraction to it. This is the story in which the children are all visiting Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's house. She is out of money, but is convinced that Mr. Piggle-Wiggle still has some more hidden somewhere for her. The children go on a quest to help her find it, even though it is pouring rain.

My least favorite was Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farm. The pictures were drawn by Maurice Sendak, where the other books were illustrated by Hilary Knight. Between different drawings and a different location, the book has a different feel to it. I do enjoy the animal characters in it, though.

A fifth book, Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle came out a few years ago. This was primarily written by Betty's daughter. It includes one story actually written by Betty MacDonald. The rest are based on her notes. It also has a different feel to it, but is still entertaining.

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