• mrspwFinally, the original book in the series, and surprise–it wasn’t the way I remembered it! Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle doesn’t use any magic in this one, other than that (blah) magic of manipulation.

It’s funny, though, how most of my memories of the series were about this book: as I reread, I kept stumbling over passages and things that were instantly familiar to me, like the little hump on Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s back, which is “a lump of magic.” Oh, and how she dresses up like an evil witch and a cruel queen to show her first two child visitors how to enjoy doing chores! I loved that stuff, and when I was a kid, I wanted to make beds and wash dishes by hand like Mary Lou and Kitty by pretending to be a gorgeous blonde princess with “apple-blossom skin.”

Sigh.

Anyway, I think this book has the most satisfyingly unique cures, even if they’re not magical. There’s also quite a few of them, plus an introductory chapter of the titular lady herself. Continuity becomes a problem, though, when you look at this book and compare the later ones. Here, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle built her upside-down house herself, and had just moved in, alone, when she starts helping children.

What? In the same book, we’re told that little boys enjoy digging for Mr. Piggle-Wiggle’s pirate treasure in the backyard, and in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic, there’s a whole subplot about him hiding money and jewels in the house for her to use after he’s gone. Whaaaa?

 Anyway, this time, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle dishes out:

  • The Won’t-Pick-Up-Toys Cure – Hubert Prentiss is left in his room with all his toys, until there’s such clutter he’s trapped. To join Mrs. P-W and the children at the circus, he has to put his toys away.
  • The Answer-Backer Cure – Mary O’Toole gets a dose of her own rudeness when Mrs. P-W lends her Penelope the Parrot (yay!).
  • The Selfishness Cure – Dick Thompson won’t share until Mrs. P-W has his mother label all his possessions, leading to humiliation and humility.
  • The Radish Cure – In the best and most vivid of all the cures in all the books, Patsy (no last name) learns why not taking a bath is a bad idea.
  • The Never-Want-To-Go-To-Bedders Cure – Bobby, Larry and Susan Gray are allowed to stay up as long as they want…but when they start feeling the consequences, they wise up.
  • The Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker Cure – Allen (no last name) plays with his food so much that, with Mrs. P-W’s special, tiny dishes, he gets so tired and weak he realizes that he needs to eat like a growing boy.
  • The Fighter-Quarrelers Cure – Twins Joan and Anne Russell get a taste of their own medicine when their parents pretend

There are some really funny moments in the book, especially when good old Penelope’s crossness takes over.

Mary brought her milk and cookies over by Penelope’s cage and was very surprised when Penelope blinked and said rudely, “Gimme a bite, pig!” Mary broke off a piece of the cookie and poked it through the bars of the cage. Penelope snatched it and said, “Thanks, pig!”

I also loved (then as now) the banter between Mr. and Mrs. Russell as they tease their twin girls with exaggerated imitations of them, shrieking at “a big black spider on my side of the bed!”

However, the high point in the weird, wonderful and slightly grotesque world of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle occurs with “The Radish Cure.” My elementary school teacher always skipped over it, because she found it so disgusting. It kind of is, but not really. Basically, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle advises Patsy’s mom to let her keep skipping baths until she’s built up an inch or so of “rich black dirt.” Then, using “small, red round radish seeds” (“not the long white icicle type”), they’re supposed to plant them on their daughter in her sleep. When the radish plants have three leaves, she can start pulling them.

“Oh, yes, Patsy will probably look quite horrible before the Radish Cure is over, so if you find that she is scaring too many people or her father objects to having her around, let me know and I will be glad to take her over here.”

The image is both fascinating and kind of gross: plants growing off a child covered in dirt. Of course, my elementary school teacher probably had a lower threshold for all things disgusting!

It’s not surprising that this book led to so many others: it’s very strong, and the groundwork is all here. It’s definitely the best place to start in the Piggle-Wiggle pantheon.

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