Introduced in 1947’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Betty MacDonald’s eponymous heroine won the hearts of children and their parents, who were—and continue to be—enchanted by her magical cures for such timeless vexations as kids’ impudence, interrupting, bickering, and refusal to share. Since that title and its four sequels were inspired by MacDonald’s experiences raising her children and grandchildren, it’s heartwarming that her great-granddaughter, Annie Parnell, has teamed up with Ann M. Martin to expand Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s legacy in Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure (Feiwel & Friends, Sept.).
In this recasting of the legendary series, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has gone away unexpectedly and left her niece, Missy Piggle-Wiggle—who also possesses magical powers—in charge of the Upside-Down House and the menagerie of animals living there. Ben Hatke is the illustrator for Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure and a sequel, due in fall 2017. He follows Maurice Sendak and Hilary Knight as illustrator of novels set in this enchanted world.
Jean Feiwel and Liz Szabla of Feiwel & Friends approached Martin (whose extensive author credits include the Baby-sitters Club and Main Street series, as well as A Dog’s Life, Belle Teal, Rain Reign, and the Newbery Honor book, A Corner of the Universe) to reimagine Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s world in conjunction with Parnall.
One of the major appeals of writing within Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s magical world, says Martin, is the humor and understanding with which MacDonald created it. “Though her protagonist is put in charge of habits that need to be fixed, there is no sense of preaching involved,” she notes. “You never feel like the kids are bad kids or the parents are self-righteous—in fact, they are completely clueless. It was so much fun writing about a town where no one blinks an eye at the magical cures—they take everything in stride. That makes the books even funnier to write. I can get away with a lot and no one will question it.”
Martin, who will sign ARCs of Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure today, 10–11 a.m., at Table 2, in the Autographing Area, is hoping booksellers give Missy a warm welcome. “I hope they find that this book lives up to the novels originally written in Betty’s wonderful, fanciful world,” she says. “It has been an honor to work on this project and to write for these characters I loved so much as a child, and thought so funny. And it has been truly fun working as a team.”
This article appeared in the May 12, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.