“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.”
-Taken from Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
I loved Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories when I was a kid. I love them as an adult too. Although I have to admit, reading them from a parent's viewpoint adds a whole new layer to these classic books. As a kid, I loved the cures Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle would use to heal children of "diseases" like selfishness, never-want-to-go-to-bedders, and fighter-quarreleritis. (Ah, if only!) Her cures felt so out-of-the box, extreme, and funny. As an adult, her cures feel a lot like using natural consequences to teach a lesson. (Hmm, I wonder if the author had an ulterior motive...)
As a kid, I didn’t pay much attention to the frantic phone calls the moms would make to each other before someone would suggest calling Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Now, I have a new appreciation/empathy for the overwhelmed mom who calls her friends for advice, only to hear that their child never struggle with things like selfishness or quarreling. As a kid Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was funny, as an adult it feels a lot more like satire.
Originally written in 1947, the first Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle feels slightly dated, especially with lines like “As soon as I spank Susan, I’m going to call her,” scattered throughout. It is hard to imagine a book written today referring to spankings. Still, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a classic that most kids will enjoy, on their own or with their parents.
More recently, author Ann M. Martin has begun a new series based on the original. Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure introduces Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s niece to readers. Missy comes to town to take care of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s animals while she is away and pretty much takes up where her famous aunt left off.
This new spin on an old classic feels more magical. The house is a character, there is a hint of romance, and overall the book is whimsical and creative. Missy helps parents cure their kids of ailments like spying, gum-smacking and tardiness. And, for the parent who is reading along, it has the same hint of satire as the original with an underlying message that takes aim at the adult reader.
Whether you pick up the original, the newest version or both, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and company are sure to delight.