Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Oh, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle!!!

Remember Mrs. Piggle Wiggle? The portly widow with the trim ankles and the box full of magic cures for all the REALLY awful ailments children catch?

I find myself thinking about her lately, as my son heads into the "mines" phase of childhood development. "MINES, NO, MINES!" he screams as he grabs for a toy that is absolutely NOT his and which he has decidedly NOT been playing with. And I think, as I wipe the snot off said toy, "Did Mrs. Piggle Wiggle have any cures for "MINES!"?

She did not, I think.

But then I wonder if any of her cures are actually things I can legally execute myself (bear in mind, when she moved to the farm many of her cures were non magical).

Not likely. You aren't allowed to abandon a child alone on a farm for an afternoon anymore. But in any case, she's on my mind. So I thought (of course) she should be on *your* mind.

If you don't know her, run right out and grab a copy of the first book in the series. You'll love her.

In the 1950s graphic-art town she inhabits, all the kids have ridiculously funny names, stay-at-home-mommies, healthy afterschool snacks, and easily solved problems. And maybe that's the real charm of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. The 1950s ease of her world. Because although we read these books with a sense of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's insane intelligence (in solving afflictions like talkbackitis) , and even an appreciation for what was surely a meta-mind on the part of Betty McDonald (the author, who was also self-aware enough to write a humorous account of her battle with tuberculosis) since surely nobody could name a character Harbin Quadrangle without having a sense of sarcastic humor about it....

We also, in reading these books, sink into a world in which every problem can be solved. Each book is episodic, a series of linked stories really. And each episode is quickly resolved with a kind of "happily ever after" finality. It's nice. Very nice.

The smartypantsy needs of a reader are met by the language, the tongue in cheek tone. But the desire for a simpler world is met too. Yes, this is world where filthy kids who refuse to take baths learn their lessons in a week. When they are allowed to grow so filthy their mothers can pull radishes from the healthy loam caked behind the kids' ears.

Ah, if only it were so easy.

With pictures by masters like Maurice Sendak and Hilary Knight, these are truly classics.


Wizards Wireless said...

Hi Laurel,
You summed up exactly how I feel about Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. I wish I could call her. =)

Incidentally, did you know a new Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book is coming out next month? It's written by Betty MacDonald's daughter.

I put more about it on my blog...

Thought you might be interested.

Laurel said...

Somebody else backchannelled about this, and I'm so excited.

Thank you!!!

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