Popular children’s author Ann Martin updates a series from the 1950s for a new generation of children who could use some shaping-up.
Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure by Ann Martin, with Annie Parnell. Illustrations by Ben Hatke. Feiwell & Friends, 2016, 241 pages
Reading Level: Middle Grades, 8-10
Recommended for: ages 8-12
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who lives in the upside-down house in Little Spring Valley, has decided to take matters into her own hands and go searching for her husband, a former pirate who was kidnapped. That means someone else must upside-down house-sit, and who better qualified than Ms. Piggle-Wiggle’s niece and protégée, Missy? Missy is glad to come and look after Penelope the loquacious parrot, Lester the genteel pig, Wag the dog and Lightfoot the cat. But her help is also needed by the hapless parents of Little Spring Valley, who can’t figure out how to break their children’s bad habits. These range from the merely irritating, like gum-smacking, to the seriously character-deficient, like greediness. Missy is confronted with a range of challenges, including I-Never-Said-That, Know-It-All, Just-One-More-Minute, and more. The cure usually involves magic. Frankfort Freeforall, for instance, overcomes his Whateveritis by floating above it all in an indestructible bubble until he’s ready to come down and engage with the human race. (Remember Maurice Sendak’s Pierre, Who Didn’t Care, and a cure that was much more, um, permanent?)
Betty McDonald’s original Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle tales were published in the 1940s and 50s and developed out of bedtime stories she told her children—one of whom, Annie Parnells, is collaborating on the new series. I never read the originals, but if the tone of Missy Piggle-Wiggle is a faithful echo, they were probably good fun and not heavy-handed moralism. Which is fine, as long as Christian kids (and their parents) understand that bad behavior is not the result of “bad habits,” but something much deeper that requires a more drastic cure. Pictures by Ben Hatke of Zita the Spacegirl fame add to the charm.
Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)