A few weeks ago I was very excited to spot new additions to two of my old favorite series – the Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond, and Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books.
I still have my old copy of MRS. PIGGLE-WIGGLE’S MAGIC, and I recently re-aquired the others. I loved these books as a kid – hey were just fun, and funny, which is quite an accomplishment when the moral of the story is always something like “have good table manners” or “don’t tease your sister.”
The new book, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MRS. PIGGLE-WIGGLE, is a collection of unpublished stories and new stories based on notes Betty MacDonald’s daughter Anna MacDonald Canham found and put together. Its enjoyable, but somehow didn’t have quite the same magic as the earlier books. A few of the stories were a bit too similar to ones from other collections, and in many of the chapters the pacing felt a bit off – either the solution was too quick and easy, or it took too long after it was already clear what was going to transpire. There are some choice moments though, like when the “stuff-and-cram” child’s belongings rebel against her and come hurtling out from the closet and under the bed to whiz around the room.
On the other hand, PADDINGTON HERE AND NOW, written by Michael Bond, the author of all of the earlier Paddington books, is absolutely top-notch classic Paddington humor. I was giggling to myself by page 2, laughing out loud by page 11 – just like old times. The Paddington books were really among my all-time favorites as a kid. My dad must have read a few of them to me when I was still quite young, because by the time I was 4 or 5 I had named my second-favorite teddy bear Paddington*. I can’t even imagine how many times I’ve re-read them since, and I can still rely on them to make me laugh out loud every time. Like when Paddington saws off the legs to Mr. Curry’s table…Or when he drops his marmalade sandwich down from the balcony onto that guy’s head at the theater…Or when Mr. Gruber takes him to the auction and he keeps raising his hat….heehee.
Right, anyway, the new volume has a few great classic moments to add to the Paddington tomes, including a mix-up at the police station when his shopping cart goes missing, and a halloween incident involving Mr. Curry’s doorknob. Speaking of Mr. Curry, I was glad to see in this book that Paddington has become a bit more wise to Mr. Curry’s ways. Not wise enough to avoid mishaps entirely, but he seems to have had enough years living next door now to no longer view his neighbor though rose-colored glasses. Its a refreshing development, but without going too far to violate the ultimate politeness and can’t-exactly-refuse quality of Paddington’s character.
Ok, well, now that I’m thinking about them, I feel an overwhelming compulsion to go read some of my other Paddington books again. Meanwhile, you all should read the new one. And the old ones if you somehow tragically missed out until now.
*This was a real deviation from my general stuffed animal naming pattern which had a very literal bent – my favorite teddy bear was named Teddy; I had a Little Brown Bear; Bun-Bun the bunny; an elephant named Ellie-phunt…you get the idea.