A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Betty MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series has remained popular since the first book was published in 1947. Early editions featured such heavy-hitting illustrators as Hilary Knight (Eloise) and Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), with the newer editions given art updates by Alexandra Boiger (Tallulah's Tutu). Each of the chapters addresses a behavior problem, but the stories are pure, silly, entertaining fun, never sour or preachy. The books have an old-fashioned, 1947 feel. The families have stay-at-home moms and dads who sometimes spank. Kids at play try to avoid being "caught by the Indians." The book refers to a "real mom" in relation to adoption, and the families are all white, as are the (Irish) janitors and housekeepers. But period detail and dated language and characterizations can prompt discussion about changing times. These books can be paired with the 2016 spin-off introducing Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's great-niece, Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure, written by Ann M. Martin with Annie Parnell.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The books in the MRS. PIGGLE-WIGGLE series feature a fun but quirky older woman who invites all the neighborhood kids into her upside-down house and also helps their moms with the kids' sometimes difficult behavior. Each chapter features a specific behavior problem, such as talking back or refusing to share. For each, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle suggests a "cure" that involves letting the kids' behavior stand, thereby exaggerating the consequences. For instance, a girl who won't take a bath gets so dirty that they plant radish seeds on her, which sprout. For a kid who talks back, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle provides a parrot who talks back to the kid using her own snippy language. When taken to the silly and absurd, the kids see the error of their ways.
Is it any good?
These classic books written mid-20th century have an old-fashioned charm and infectious silliness that will tickle the funny bone of contemporary kids. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a throwback to an earlier age when kids were free to roam their neighborhoods and hang out at the home of a woman living alone -- the wife of a dead pirate! She's a favorite because she's something of a big kid herself, never too grown-up to get down on the floor with them and play. What kids wouldn't love someone who lets them dig up her yard in search of buried treasure? The behavior "cures" found in the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series are palatable because, at heart, she loves and understands the kids, and her guidance allows kids to take their behavior to absurd and therefore very funny lengths.
Many of the characters have seriously silly names, like Mrs. Wingsproggle and Mrs. Crankminor, or highfalutin' ones like Paraphernalia and Pergola. No kid does anything too bad -- they quarrel with their siblings, refuse to pick up their toys -- so most kids will recognize themselves and have fun laughing at the book and themselves.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the bad behaviors in the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series. Do you ever behave these ways? What do you think about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's "cures."
What details can you find in the stories that seem old fashioned or out of date? Do you like books that are set in another time?
Can you find all the funny names? Why do you think the author gave so many characters silly names like Mrs. Broomrack and Mrs. Moohead?
- Author: Betty MacDonald
- Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: January 1, 1947
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 128
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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