Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle: New and Improved?

Look! This post isn't about Harry Potter! Amazing, isn't it?

One of my very favorite children's book characters has always been Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. She's a wonderful (and unfortunately fictional) woman who lives in a very 1950ish neighborhood (not surprisingly since the books were published in the 1950's) who always knows exactly how to solve every possible child-rearing problem. Each book contains several short stories that are very loosely connected and they make great early chapter books. They're slightly difficult to read aloud because of the complicated sentences and long chapters, but well worth the effort. My personal favorites are the very first chapter "Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Herself" in the first book (Mrs. Piggle Wiggle) and "The Waddle-I-Doers" which is the last chapter in the last book, (Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic).

My friend Cate likes the earlier books the best because Mrs. Piggle Wiggle comes up with creative (and vaguely believable) solutions like the Radish Cure.... whereas in the later books Mrs. Piggle Wiggle primarily uses magic, and well, that's a little harder for the average parent to do. Cate also wonders (and so do I every time I read the books) why the neighborhood mothers haven't learned that when they have a problem with their children they should immediately call Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (who will, of course, be able to solve it for them). Instead, they all seem to waste valuable time by calling several of their friends until one of them finally suggests asking Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (who then, of course, solves the problem.)

Alas, author Betty MacDonald passed away in 1958, and so only four Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books were ever published. The original books are in the process of being re-released with new covers. I think it's great to have these books in print, in any form, though it's hard to improve on the classic illustrations by Hilary Knight and Maurice Sendak.

Recently, Betty MacDonald's daughter Anne MacDonald Canham found an unpublished manuscript of a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle story. The first new Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book in fifty years will be be published in October 2007, it's titled Happy Birthday Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and features the unpublished story along with several new stories written by her daughter. Several more Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Anne MacDonald Canham are currently in the works. I have mixed feelings about this... on the one hand, I love the character, in any form... and on the other hand I think it's hard to improve on the originals. But since it's written by MacDonald's daughter, it's being done with a huge amount of love and respect... so I'll reserve my opinion until I read the new book. What do you think about it?


  1. We'll have to wait and see how her daughter does, but remember, Peggy Parish's nephew took over the Amelia Bedelia books, and he has done pretty well with keeping the true spirit.

  2. Thanks for pointing that out! I meant to mention Herman Parish's books in my post. I have to admit that I like the original Amelia Bedelia books better... but I agree that he stays true to the spirit of Peggy Parish's books.

  3. i had forgotten about mrs. piggle wiggle -- i loved those books!

  4. I also love Mrs. P-W and will have to read the "new" book! I was disappointed when I tried to read the first book to my 5 year old son and he wasn't interested. We've read other chapter books together, but it struck me that maybe Mrs.P-W is a bit more long-winded than say, Junie B., which has been his absolute favorite of our read-aloud chapter books so far. I thought your comments on her style were interesting; maybe that's why it wasn't a favorite. I'l try again when he's a bit older. Thanks for passing on the news!