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Review: “Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” by Betty MacDonald

My husband’s book collection gets a break this week as we review one of my family’s favorites. I remember walking into my old elementary school when I was 11 years old and watching my mom read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books to the classroom she subbed. The second-graders came from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, and every single student listened silently. We all loved the magic of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and her cures, even sixty years after the books were written. Today we’re focusing on perhaps my favorite book of the series, Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald.

Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

Though many reviewers on Goodreads fault Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for relying on magic instead of advice for raising children, I preferred this book for the magic. Truthfully, even though the cure may be a magic pill or powder, they often point to a more realistic cure for the deeper issue. I can’t say this is always the case (although I do wish I could get ahold of Harbin Quadrangle’s slowpoke spray… I could get a lot more done with a dose of that in my shoes,) the show-off and whisperer cures point to real-life advice. Ultimately, Philip Carmody stops showing off because he no longer receives attention for his antics. For the little girls who can’t stop whispering, the candy-stick cure might have been quite magical, but learning to appreciate those who are different from us certainly isn’t. Plus, the moms in the whispering chapter truly show concern for raising their daughters to be empathetic. They discipline their daughters before they ever call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

While modern readers take offense to the labels used in the book, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle truly views each child as full of potential. In the chapter with the town bully, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle tells the relieved mother that of course her son treats the younger children with respect after taking leadership pills. She says, “Down inside he probably always was [patient and kind]. It is just that sometimes with children, especially boys, their bodies grow faster than their patience and kindness,” (pg 69). The label, while name-calling, relates to a specific behavior. Once the behavior rights itself, the child shows him or herself to mature into a more fulfilled person.

Faith in Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

Though MacDonald wrote the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books in the 50s, they don’t mention church or praying. Honestly, it just wouldn’t flow with the story. Yet, Hello Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle teaches compassion and empathy for others. Each child is full of potential. They just need a little help to get past their current struggle or bump in the road. Especially in the story of the whispering girls, readers learn generosity. Mrs. Crackle treats the economically poor Cornelia with respect and as an equal. She teaches Cornelia gardening, which the girl wanted to but could not learn at her home, in exchange for a party dress. Rather than condescending to or degrading Cornelia for her lower social status, Mrs. Crackle pays Cornelia for her hard work.

In each of the stories in Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, the children are empowered to lead and view the strengths in others. To me, this recognizes the image of God reflected in each human. Everyone is capable of great things if we each choose to treat others with respect.

Betty MacDonald and Hilary Knight, Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (New York: Harper Trophy, 1985).

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