HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden or The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House
Author: Mary Chase
Illustrator: Don Bolognese
Publisher: Yearling republished in 2005
ISBN-13: 978-0394816555 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0394816552 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9780440419563 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0440419565 Paperback
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Chase, Mary. The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden or The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House (published in 1968 by Alfred A. Knopf Inc.; republished in 1971 by Scholastic Book Services, a division of Scholastic Magazines Inc., New York City, NY). Nine year old Maureen Swanson lives with her parents and older siblings, Diane, sixteen, and Henry, fourteen. Maureen is “a hard slapper, a shouter, a loud laugher, a liar, a trickster, and a stay-after-schooler” with a reputation as the scourge of the neighborhood. Sometimes when she passes the old Messerman Place, reputed to be haunted, she imagines that she is Maureen Messerman–rich, privileged, and powerful. While hiding after spraying the neighbor, Mrs. Moody, with the hose, Maureen finds her way into the forbidden, boarded-up mansion.
In the hallway she finds paintings of seven young women wearing elaborate gowns and haughty expressions, and has something scathing to say to each one, but she notices that the figures seem to have shifted in their frames. Later, she meets a leprechaun named Leaper who explains that the portraits were of the seven Messerman daughters who were nastier and meaner than Maureen ever thought to be. Maureen takes a bracelet belonging to one of the sisters which she found, then gets caught back in time with the Messerman daughters as girls. What will happen to her? Will she ever be able to get back home? And why do those seven pigeons keep flying around?
There are a few common euphemisms such as gosh and the fact that Waldo Messerman smokes a pipe, but little is found to which most parents would object. Those who oppose the depiction of any sort of “magic” in stories will want to avoid the book, but children who enjoy eerie, almost Gothic-like fantasy tales should find this ghostly mystery interesting. Maureen is obviously a less than stellar example, but she does end up learning some important lessons about coldness, selfishness, small-heartedness, and lying through her experiences with the wicked, wicked Messerman ladies.