Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, by Betty MacDonald, originally published in 1957. 128 pages.
I’d been meaning to get acquainted with Mrs. Piggle Wiggle for the past couple of years but she kept dropping off of my radar screen. In anticipation of a recent family road trip I ventured out to the library to find books on CD. There on the shelf, was Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.
Before I continue the review, a brief aside. Despite the fact that we are a house full of avid book lovers, our 9-year-old shows very little interest in reading. She occasionally runs across a book that holds her interest to the very end, but without some gentle prodding from one of us, rarely will she pick up a book for the pure pleasure of it.
It occurred to me that in addition to the books on CD, I should also check out hard copies of the books so that our youngest girls could read along while they listened to the books during the long road trip. We checked out several books and CD sets according to this plan.
In the car the girls decided to start out with The Whipping Boy, even though they’d read it before. They like the story and read their books while the CD played. It was such an enjoyable experience for our 9-year-old that she said it “didn’t even feel like I was reading.” Of course I filed this strategy into the mental Rolodex, and decided to pass it along to any readers who have a child who is a fine reader but just doesn’t particularly enjoy it as a pastime. While they read The Whipping Boy, I decided to preview Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is a delightful woman who lives in an upside-down house, smells like fresh-baked sugar cookies, and welcomes all the children in the neighborhood into her home where they can play, be creative, and of course, have tea and cookies. She also knows what makes children tick, and because of this parents often call on her to provide fun and creative, if a bit wacky, solutions to the behavior problem they encounter in their children.
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle reminded me of a cross between Nanny McPhee and Mary Poppins, but without actually living with the children she helps, which means she could help lots more children and parents.
One of the interesting notes about the book were the way Betty MacDonald had the mothers of the children call on their friends to ask for suggestions to deal with their child’s sassiness, messiness, or selfishness. Of course after several phone calls someone always refers her to Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, who is sure to have a fix for hat ails the child.
With tricks to cure everything from impudence (The Answer-Backer Cure) to sibling fighting (The Fighter-Quarrelers Cure, to messiness (The Wont-Pick-Up-Toys Cure), there is very little related to the proper care and training of children that Mrs. Piggle Wiggle doesn’t know about. This magical neighborhood nanny always gives instructions to the parents for them to execute, and with patient endurance and sticking to the plan, they always get results.
With plenty of humor that only an adult could appreciate, Betty MacDonald weaves a tale and creates a character in Mrs. Piggle Wiggle that is good fun for adults as well as the children who are her target audience.
I would suggest that this book is appropriate for children ages 8-10.
Content advisory: In Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, spanking is mentioned as a normal and perfectly legitimate for parent to use as a disciplinary measure. It didn’t bother me, but I thought I should offer this information for those who are reluctant to allow their children to read it for that reason.