Monday, May 12, 2008

It's National Children's Book Week!

This weekend was so wonderful. On Saturday, Darren took care of the girls for the entire day so my friend Becky and I could spend the day shopping. We had lunch and went to all sorts of girly little shops with table accessories and soap dishes and placemats and such with no one to rush us out or say it was boring or alarmingly finger all the breakables. It was great.

Mother's Day itself we spent over at my parents' house. My mom had made all of us a delicious Sunday dinner, which seemed wrong--we should have cooked for her! But...I didn't argue. I printed out the tribute I wrote to her and also to her mom, slipped them in an envelope, and left them on her pillow without mentioning anything to her (oh and my mom does not read my blog, so she'd never seen the tributes before. I give her a hard time about that, but she has dial-up and is not very computer friendly anyway so...) It was really cool because my mom rarely mentions her mother, but after my dad prayed for the food and before we started eating, my mom offered a toast (we always toast before the meal on holidays and birthdays). For the first time ever, she toasted her own mom (and got choked up doing it) and we all raised our glasses to Matie!

We had a great time eating and chatting, and the girls played with all the toys my parents have stored at their house. It was all going well until an un-napped Elaine went Defcon 1 over the appropriate way to put two baby dolls to bed, so we left. If you're anywhere in the Tri-State Area, I'm guessing you heard her screams around 3 p.m. yesterday. She was asleep almost by the time we got to the end of the driveway.

And, as I said in the title, this week is National Children's Book Week, so hopefully I'll try and highlight a number of our favorites over these next few days. Feel free to chime in with any of yours in the comments.

This is the one we're currently reading. (Actually, we have a three-volume Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle treasury.) I read these books in elementary school and absolutely loved them. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the widow of a pirate who lives in an upside-down house. She loves children and knows absolutely everything there is to know about them. Each chapter focuses on a particular child with a particular bad habit. The harried mother first phones her various friends (who have hilarious names such as "Mrs. Broomrack," "Mrs. Moohead," "Mrs. Crankminor," etc.) They advise her to call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle who knows everything and will be able to help. (Yes, each chapter is a bit formulaic, but it doesn't detract from the fun. In fact, Lucy loves hearing about the naughty child and then the distressed mother's phone call, and will always chime in, "Call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle!")

All of the books are good, but the first volume is the best. The reason is that the "cures" Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle recommends are simply common sense, while in the later books she employs magic. The first book has chapters such as "The No-Pick-Up-Toys Cure," "The Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker Cure," "The Fighter-Quarrelers Cure," "The Never-Want-to-Go-to-Bedders Cure," etc. For the little boy who never picked up his toys, she recommends that his mother stop cleaning his room and let little Hubert play as much as he wants and never put anything away. He finally has so many toys out that he is unable to get out of his room, and his mother has to send his dinner up on a rake through the window, and his father sends up the garden hose for him to drink from. He finally realizes that the only way to get out of his room and go play with the other kids is to put everything away neatly. Possibly the most hilarious cure is for Patsy, the little girl who never wanted to take a bath. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle recommended that her parents let her get as dirty as she wanted and never bathe. When she had about a quarter inch of topsoil on her, they were to plant radish seeds on her skin while she was asleep. Patsy was so horrified when the radishes sprouted that she spent the rest of the day in the shower.

As I said, the other books are extremely enjoyable too, but the cures involve magic pills and potions instead of simply letting the child reap the fruits of their bad behavior. For the little girls who won't stop whispering, she provides candy sticks that make everything they say inaudible. For the little boy who won't stop showing off, she recommends a powder that makes him invisible every time he starts acting up. Stuff like that.

The illustrations for all the books are done by Hilary Knight, whom I just love (well, his illustrations. I don't know him. And he might be dead for all I know.) Anyway, they're whimsical and add a lot to the stories. Some of the newer editions have different cover art--I don't know why--but it annoys me to no end.

Even though the first book was published in 1947, children still have the same naughty behaviors so they're just as much fun to read. I'm really enjoying going through them again, and I'm loving hearing every evening and off and on during the day too, "Mom, can we sit down and read some more 'Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle'? Pllleeeeasssse?"


Ann-Marie said...

Boy, this was an eye-opener! I loved to read young adult books, but I really can't recall ANY books I read as a little kid! NOT. A. ONE. Sad!

I know I read, because we didn't have a TV, but what I couldn't tell you. I do remember Pippi Longstocking, the Ingalls, and the Woodlawns!

Melanie said...

I too am always amazed by your ability to recall so vividly the way you passed time in childhood. It's magic I swear! Anyway, once again - more books I never knew existed and feel I sorely missed out on. Luckily, now I know and Cole will reap the benefits!