Do you know this “eat this, not that” series of books? The idea is to help you make good choices in food and drink to avoid hidden calories that will tank your health. Well, Rosie had the thought that we could do something similar with books for the Library Project*.
Our well-worn copy of Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! (All the book links in this post are Amazon affiliate links and give us a little pocket change.)
No one expects me to like a new, updated version of mostly anything, but I’m trying to be balanced…
However, I’m probably failing.
There’s a new Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, I have recently found out (and another one due next year).
In the new Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, the drawings are really nice, which is saying something, because Hilary Knight’s whimsical imagination made so many books come alive.
But after that, I’m not sure why we don’t just stick with the old ones. If people would like to update old things, why don’t they just try their hand at invention? Plenty of great new things use the old ones as a starting point, it’s quite legitimate. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with something completely new. One wonders about the marketing angle…
The new Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle tries to have the same light-heartedness as the old, but right from the beginning it’s heavy going, with the first “problem” not even appearing until chapter 3. I don’t know how you are supposed to keep the kids’ attention through all that back-story. The original dives right in with very little explanation, allowing us to figure things out as we go.
How is the old Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle not perfect?
“Too 50s” — which means, everyone has parents who are married to each other and Dad goes to work while mom stays home.
Well, there are worse things than that! No one reads Aesop’s fables and complains that it’s all about animals! It is what it is. And dare I say, how else will children find out the secret if we rewrite all the stories to reflect the new “normal”? As a child with divorced parents, I was grateful for stories that depicted stability.
And as to the enlightenment of our time: The truth is, even now when parents are oh so liberated and tasks fall on everyone equally because we have decreed it to be so, men still have to think about work and women still fret over household matters… and, often, work as well.** It’s just all more stressful now because no one dares admit it.
**A truth borne out by all studies everywhere. Nothing is more common than a father who is distracted by his job, or a mom who’s focused on the minutiae of the kids’ behavior. We just don’t have a sense of humor about it nowadays. (How’s that for a statement!)
Casting characters according to type is a time-honored practice that yields much comedy. It would be sad to think that we have to do away with the healing powers of laughter, but I fear that many a smile has been sacrificed at the altar of “realism.”
It’s hard to believe, dear reader, given the sorry state of children’s literature today, but these books are not how-tos. They are hilarious stories! I still chuckle when I remember “I thought you said, ‘She fell in the toaster and was burnt up dead!'” from probably the best chapter ever, The I Thought You Saiders Cure — and when I remember all the times I laughed with my kids over these books.
They are rollicking good fun, with a healthy airing of human nature. There aren’t ponderous morals for children (although there is wisdom for parents, which is why they keep us interested as we read!) If only our real parents would let us dig holes wherever we wanted in the yard! (To be fair, the new version retains this attractive feature of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s house. I’m not saying don’t read it. I guess.)
And you know what, it might not be a bad idea to be reminded of how futile it is to “crowd-source” child-care advice (think “online forums” or “facebook mom’s groups”!) — just call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle instead!
Other funny children’s chapter books to read aloud:
The Henry and Ribsy series by Beverly Cleary (her books are usually pretty funny, to a kid at least)
Penrod by Booth Tarkington (I wrote more about this here)
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish (for very young chapter-book readers who are trying to figure out why you say things like “dress” the chicken — if you do ever roast a whole chicken!)
What funny books do you love to read out loud with your children?