YA Novel Review
A book that helped make me a reader.
In the last few months, I’ve been having discussions with some of my students and former students about the books we remember reading as children. What’s interesting across the board for me as a writer and teacher is how many people, whether they consider themselves readers or not, can point to a book and say, ‘that book mattered to me.” I have a student right now who, in his own words, “hates to read” but he loved the book The Outsiders. I have another student who is an intense reader but really feels Harry Potter “made” her a reader. This idea took hold and I started asking people what books helped make them a reader – could they remember them? What was it about them that stuck with them? I know my list is vast. Anne of Green Gables, A Wrinkle in Time, anything by Dr. Seuss. I thought it would make an interesting focus for Point of View. After all, our individual point of views often draw us to a book in the first place.
To my delight, one of my former students (now a dear friend) agreed to write about a book she looks back on as one that helped make her a reader so I asked her to guest post for this newsletter. It’s my first time having a guest writer and I’m grateful to her for digging a bit deeper into this whole idea.
Here is the delightful Ariana Rampy writing about the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald.
Yesterday I went to the library for a very special book I haven’t checked out in years. At the counter the librarian’s eyes lit up – “I LOVE Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle!” Yep, me too. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a little old lady who always smells like cookies. She lives in an upside-down house (the chandelier is on the living room floor) and her husband was a pirate. She loves children and all the children love her. They like to use her chandelier as a campfire, or braid her very long hair, or dig for buried treasure in her backyard. She has a small hump on her back and when the children ask her about it she says it’s where she stores her magic; it’s also an ideal place for fastening fairy wings.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s real magic, though, is that she can turn any ordinary chore into a really fun game: don’t like washing the dishes? Now you’re a Fairy Princess and you have to sweep up every crumb before the Evil Queen comes to inspect your work! And she always knows the right way to help any parent who calls asking for advice: the Won’t-Pick-Up-Toys Cure, the Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker Cure, the Bad-Table-Manners Cure (one of my favorites because it involves a very well-mannered pig). I remember feeling a secret glee when I read about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and her cures. Never one to be excited about my own chores, her dramatic imagination appealed to my theatrical nature. I was so impressed with her ingenious ideas and creativity – what will she think up next! – and also with the way she understands and appreciates all these less-than-perfect children. Plus, she always has time for baking more cookies.
Reading it again today, I am as charmed as I was when I was seven. And her priorities and approach to life feel right on to me. My mom says whenever I checked out a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book, she loved to read it on her own, too; it seems Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s magic is enchanting no matter how old you are. Now I think I’ll go bake some cookies.
I want to thank Ariana for this incredible look at a magical book from her past. It also happens to be a favorite series around this house! I guess Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s magic is timeless. Like most good books.
I love how Ariana brought up Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s “magic” that she stores in her hump (when, really, most of her magic is the sort that comes with just loving people for who they are and finding a fresh, imaginative way to handle situations). Create a story in which one of your characters is “magic.” What is his or her magical ability? How does it impact the people with whom he or she comes into contact? Is it real “magic” or is it “everyday magic” – the kind most of us are actually capable of given a bit of imagination (and a good helping of cookies).
Outside Reading School Project
Make a list of those books from your past that made you a reader. For each, write a bit about what it was about that book that made it special – was it the story, the characters, the world of it? Did you read it at a particularly special time of your life? Did you share it with your family in some way?