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Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle    by Betty MacDonald & Anne MacDonald Canham order for
Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
by Betty MacDonald
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Betty MacDonald (19081958) authored scores of children's books, including the lovable Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series, with stories such as Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle; Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farm.

The author's daughter, Anne MacDonald Canham, found in her mother's possessions a never-before-published Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle story along with notes for others. Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a collection of short stories in which parents seek the advice of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to bring about changes in their children's behavior. Alexandra Boiger's illustrations are among the best black pencil, full-page sketches I have come across, vividly catching details of characters' expressions, setting and mood.

The first story stars Kitten and Sean Hanover in The Just-One-More-TV-Show Cure. They fuss and sputter when eight o'clock bedtime and bathtime arrives, with excuses that their friends get to watch more TV programs, and stay up much later than they do. What to do? Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to the rescue. And quite a cure it is, as she babysits the Hanover children over a weekend, along with her talented dog Wag and cat Lightfoot (there's also a pig named Lester who teaches table manners, along with a parrot named Penelope, but they show up later.)

In The Won't-Brush-Teeth Cure, Betsy Applebee's breath is just this side of a bad case of halitosis! Wag the dog arrives with his green satchel to spend a weekend with the Applebees. Wag has the best teeth-brushing habit on record - he's a very thorough brusher, and he spits too. Blake Branson takes pleasure in yelling and name-calling, even with his best friends. The Insult Cure is another specialty of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who provides a secret cure in a large package of luminous sheets of paper that float to the ceiling.

The Picky-Eater Cure is a challenge when Will Pemberton (who only finds noodles appetizing) is given a bottle of colored crystals to sprinkle on his food. My favorite of all the stories is The Afraid-To-Try Cure featuring Jonathan Campbell, who has a very creative mind. However, when it comes to accepting invites to skateboard, play basketball, or other challenges, Jonathan tells his friends: 'I don't know about that. I've never done a skateboard jump before; I don't know how. Maybe I'll just watch. You know, so I can learn the right way to do it.' Mrs. Piggle sets up an event with cat Lightfoot resulting in Jonathan becoming the town hero.

Katy McCloud's bedroom is a complete catastrophe, literally, and you should see her school locker! It calls for The Messy Stuff-And-Cram Cure, and what a melodrama Mrs. Piggle creates for Katy, with flying clothes, books, and such . The next to the last story before Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's neighborhood party bash, focuses on Janie Beaumont, a sweet, and enthusiastic girl, who doesn't finish projects because of distractions that catch her fancy. Janie's adventure is featured in The Never-Finish Cure, and all it takes is sprinklings of Mrs. Piggle's accomplishment power.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a luscious delight to read. It's structured with several short stories, and embraces recognizable behavioral habits in youngsters, with plenty of humor in the cures. The final story is a winner involving all the neighborhood children and parents, and more than a few wondrous surprises for their beloved Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle!

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