The Quick 10: Mrs. Piggle Wiggle

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Oh, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. When you look back at these stories today, they were clearly intended as lessons for kids. But because Mrs. Piggle Wiggle used funny magic (left to her by her dead pirate husband in a mysterious old chest) to cure children with horrible behavior, smelled like sugar cookies and lived in an upside-down house, we loved her. At least I did, and so did millions of other kids, judging by Betty MacDonald's book sales. Were you one of them?

1. Like a lot of good children's stories, Betty MacDonald made up the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle stories simply to entertain her kids, nieces and nephews at bedtime. "I hope this book sells," she once said. "If it doesn't it will prove that all these years I've been boring children instead of amusing them."
2. Maurice Sendak illustrated Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Farm before he was a famous author himself.
3. Hilary Knight illustrated the rest of the Piggle Wiggle books
. Although these books were quite popular, Knight is best known as the artist who brought another character to life - Kay Thompson's Eloise.

4. A few of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's famous (or infamous) cures: The Thought-You-Saiders Cure, The Interrupters, The Whaddle-I-Doers, The Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker Cure, the Fighter-Quarrelers Cure, The Never-Want-to-Go-to-Schooler, The Fraidy-cat Cure, The Show-off Cure and The Slowpoke.

5. Betty MacDonald actually started out writing for adults. The Egg and I, a humorous autobiography about her life as a chicken farmer, is probably the most well-known. It sat at the top of the bestseller list for a while in 1945. She also wrote about her brief stint in a sanatorium due to a bout of tuberculosis. It was called, of course, The Plague and I.

6. The Egg and I was later made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert; it later spawned the uber-popular Ma and Pa Kettle series.

7. Over the course of four books, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle cures or runs across 151 children. Many of these children were named after people in her own life - for example, Sylvia Quadrangle was named after her little sister who died in childhood; the Burbank siblings from Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic shared names with another sibling and a nephew. There was also a Burbank sibling named Bard Burbank; Bard was MacDonald's maiden name.

8. After a long hiatus (Betty MacDonald died in 1958), Mrs. Piggle Wiggle returned in 2007 with Happy Birthday Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. Betty's daughter, Anne, found some old notes of her mother's and based the book largely around those. The release date honored what would have been MacDonald's 100th birthday.

9. I've always enjoyed the quirky names in Harry Potter; apparently I completely forgot that this was a trick Betty MacDonald used in the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series as well. A few of my favorites: Calliope Ragbag, Paraphernalia Grotto, Cormorant Broomrack, Pergola Wingsproggle, Imogene Haversack, Enterprise Beecham, Corinthian Bop and Nicholas Semicolon.

10. After being in print for nearly 50 years, the series was finally made into a T.V. show in 1994. It didn't last too long, but it starred Jean Stapleton as Mrs. P. Here's a sample:

Did you have a favorite Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Cure or tale?

What other books has Stacy covered? Find out here.

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April 27, 2010 - 11:30am
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