This news item comes to me from Ms. Kathy, an alert reader
and Madcap fan based in the Emerald City.
Excerpted from Crosscut May 8, 2013. Nota bene: I cleaned up the punctuation in this article-MM
Book City: Paula Becker has Mrs. Piggle Wiggle on the brain
The HistoryLink staff historian is consumed with the idea of time and how Piggle Wiggle creator Betty MacDonald was so prolific.
Paula Becker is a staff historian for HistoryLink.org, an online encyclopedia of Washington state history. She’s at work on a history of the life and career of Betty (Mrs. Piggle Wiggle) MacDonald, who lived in Becker’s Ravenna neighborhood.
Tell us about the book you’re writing, and what got you interested in Betty MacDonald?
I first became interested in Betty MacDonald when I realized that the neighborhood where I then lived, Ravenna, was actually a stone’s throw from the house where Betty and her family lived when her daughters were growing up. I’d enjoyed the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series as a kid, although I hadn’t loved Betty’s gigantic hit, “The Egg And I.”
After I made the Ravenna/Roosevelt neighborhood connection, I read Betty’s three later memoirs and was intrigued by her offbeat but heartfelt style and by what a great writer she was.
I sleuthed out the locations of all the houses Betty and her sister Mary Bard Jensen (who also wrote memoirs and the “Best Friends” juvenile series) lived in, and started writing about them for HistoryLink. I’ve worked on Betty’s story in one way or another for about 12 years now, and I feel that I want to take on the story of her life and career in a sort of personally exploratory biography.
I’m thinking a lot about autobiography/memoir as a genre—what it meant when Betty wrote in the 1940s and 1950s versus what it means now—and about what an enormously crazy enduring smash success “The Egg And I” was. It came out right at the end of World War II, sold more than a million copies in hardback in less than a year and introduced Betty, her family and the Pacific Northwest to readers around the globe. It has never officially been out of print—since 1945! It was—she was—a true phenomenon.