HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic
Author: Betty MacDonald
Illustrator: Hilary Knight
Publisher: HarperCollins, republished in 1994
Language level: 2 (some common euphemisms)
Reading level: Ages 6-10
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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McDonald, Betty. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic (published in 1949 by J. B. Lippincott Company, a division of Harper and Row Publishers Inc., 10 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY 10022; republished in 1987 by Scholastic Inc., 730 Broadway, New York City, NY 10003). Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the neighborhood’s grandmotherly lady who is loved by all the local children and is asked by all their parents for advice on how to deal with their children’s bad behavior. The first book of the series, simply titled Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, was written in 1947. I have not read it Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic, the second book, tells how Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle helps to cure such problems as the “thought-you-saiders,” the “tattletales,” the “bad-table-manners,” the “interrupters,” the “heedless breaker,” the “never-want-to-go-to-schooler,” and the “waddle-I-doers.” MacDonald produced two more of these books, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm (1954), and Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (1957).
Betty Bard MacDonald’s first book, and perhaps the most famous one generally, is The Egg and I (1945). I have never read it, but we have seen the film version which starred Fred McMurray and Claudette Colbert, and introduced the characters Ma and Pa Kettle, who were so popular that a series of nine more films were made featuring them. MacDonald based Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle on bedtime stories that she had made up for her daughters, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, grandnephews, and grandnieces. In 2007, MacDonald’s daughter, Anne MacDonald Canham, published Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, based on stories and characters created by her mother, and the two share the credit for writing it. The first story in the book is an unpublished MacDonald tale, while Anne explains in the book that the remaining portion is taken from notes for other stories among her mother’s possessions.
Some people prefer not to read books with “magic” in them. However, even though the cover of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic pictures Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in a witch’s hat with a magic wand in her hand, there is no real “magic” in the book. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle simply has a store of pills, powders, tonics, and other nostrums, including the neatest pig in the world, to help the children overcome their bad habits. It could be argued that Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is one of the world’s greatest experts on the use of child psychology. What I saw in the book is simply a humorous way to help children see how some of their thoughtless activities can be very annoying to others and to encourage parents to be more creative in working with their children’s foolishness than just yelling and screaming at them all the time.