Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, by Betty MacDonald, was published in 1947 by Harper.
Meet Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! She’s the kind of grown-up you would like to have for a friend—and all her friends are children. She is a little lady with brown sparkly eyes. She lives in an upside-down house, with a kitchen that is always full of freshly baked cookies. Her husband was a pirate, and she likes to have her friends dig in the back yard for the pirate treasure he buried there. Best of all, she knows everything there is to know about children. When a distraught parent calls her because Mary has turned into an Answer-Backer or Dick has become Selfish or Allen has decided to be as Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has the answer. And her solutions always work, with plenty of laughs along the way. So join the crowd at Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s hose—and enjoy the comical, common-sense cures that have won her so many friends.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is one of the most beloved series of my childhood. I read those books over and over again (my favorite being Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic) and, rereading them however many years later, it’s like I never left. I still remember almost every word of the book and reading it brought me back to all the times I would read it growing up.
There’s bound to be a little bit of a culture gap with children who read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle today. The book was published in 1947 and so, while many aspects are the same or similar, the attitude is certainly different. This was especially apparent to me when reading the Selfish Cure and the Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker Cure. While Dick is certainly a menace, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s cure is something that certainly would not fly today, especially considering it was basically encouraging bullying as a way to get kids to share things. I do think shame or embarrassment, which is so often today considered something negative, can do wonders for character development (there have been many times when it has been shame over something I have done that has forced me to seek to better myself), but MacDonald exaggerates it to the point of cringe-worthiness, in my opinion.
In addition, the Slow-Eater cure was basically to let Allen not eat for a couple of days. I know today that certainly wouldn’t fly, considering how many arguments I’ve seen erupt over not giving children food (not in the extreme sense, as in truly neglecting them, but in the sense of “If you don’t eat your dinner, you will go to bed hungry”).
Now, of course Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is clearly exaggerated, but it still highlights the culture gap from 70 years ago. I enjoyed the book and I think kids today would enjoy it, too, but a lot of interesting questions would probably arise because of reading it—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Recommended Age Range: 6+
“That’s what I called about,” said Mrs. Prentiss. “Can you suggest a way to make Hubert want to pick up his toys? His room looks like a toy store after an earthquake.”
“Why don’t you call this Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? I have heard she is perfectly wonderful. All the children in town adore her and she has a cure for everything.”