The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Treasury by Betty MacDonald

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Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a magical friend to children, with her upside-down house and delicious cookies that are always waiting for you. She’s also a wonderful help to parents, who often don’t know how to solve the problems of parenthood.

When I was young I loved learning Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s “cures” for naughty children’s problems, such as not putting away toys, answering back, and refusing to take a bath. Her cures were ridiculous and magical, and they were funny.

However, as an adult, reading three volumes of such stories in The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Treasury by Betty MacDonald became tiring. In some respects, the sequels failed to live up to the original, and I was horribly disappointed.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the original book, published in 1947, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a loving friend as she cures children such as Patsy, who refused to take a bath (“The Radish Cure”) and Allen who ate veeeeeeery sloooooowly (“The Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker-Cure”), my personal favorite. The cures are often clever tricks of reverse psychology, and the results are rather funny. Although Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s world is obviously out-of-date today, I found revisiting Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to be a lot of fun.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic was written two years after the first, and now the cures involve magical potions and powders, which Mr. Piggle-Wiggle the pirate had left in a trunk when he died. These are clever but I began to tire of reading of children whining and complaining. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is still fun, and I wished it continued to focus on her interactions with the kids.

I had a similar problem with Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, which was written ten years after the first book. In Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, MacDonald provides more in-depth stories, with the cures happening in just the last few pages of each story. I found myself horribly bored with these, I’m sorry to say, and unlike the first two books, Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle felt inappropriately dated to a large extent. For example, Mrs. Weathervane encourages her daughter to feel sorry for poor Cornelia, whose mother works during the day and isn’t home waiting with a plate of cookies after school. All the books condone spanking to some extent (maybe that is just illustrating how stupid the parents are without Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s help) but the “housewife” cluelessness can only be described as reminiscent of an earlier era. The last book seems even more so. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle herself is only a minor character in this volume of stories, and the children never interact with her.

In the end, I wish Betty MacDonald had stopped while she was ahead. Then again, maybe I should have stopped while I was still enjoying them. The “Treasury” of all three, I’m sorry to say, became rather annoying by the time I’d read it all aloud to my son.

Note: I just found two more books, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm and Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle on Amazon. If I hadn’t been so disappointed with this volume, I would have checked it out. The latter is apparently written by Betty MacDonald’s daughter.

Reviewed on June 5, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • Shelley, Yeah, I think it’s just the difference between cute “reverse psychology” cures and “magical cures”. The Magic just wasn’t as fun, ironically enough.

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