What do you expect from a child care provider? Were you looking for a guitar-playing proto-nun? A mistress of malaprop? That mean-looking lady with the Liz Lemon glasses? Or something a little more... unexpected?
"Oh yes," said Nanny Piggins. "I can regale people with anecdotes from my sordid past and think at the same time."
That's my kind of nanny. In fact, if resumes had epigraphs, I might have to ask her if I could use that quote on mine. It should certainly be inscribed on Nanny Piggins's calling card. After all, I'm just a librarian who used to sell kites for a living - Nanny Piggins is a pig on the run from a cunning ringmaster who has signed her to an exclusive fifty-year contract which stipulates, among other things, that she is to be shot out of a cannon on a daily basis.
So... Mary Poppins she is not.
Kids who like subversive humor will luxuriate in this book about a nanny who loves trashy novels and cake, whose idea of fun is to drop things off the roof and watch them crash, and who knows just enough Korean to get them all rescued by fisherman when their boat is caught in a storm on the way to China.
When Nanny Piggins first arrives at the home of Derrick, Samantha, and Michael Green, she immediately goes to the kitchen and rifles all the cupboards "looking for things that contain sugar. Then eat as much as I can until I feel sick." She's greedy (for cake), she lies (to get cake), she is blissfully - willfully - ignorant of things like school or nutrition or a consistent sleep schedule. She's Australian, and opinionated, and makes me want to bake.
Maybe I appreciate subversive books like this because we run such a tight ship in our house. When - every now and then - we do something nuts like a movie double feature or French bread pizza (or both!), it is a delightful and unexpected treat for all of us. Fraulein Maria is all well and good, but all those hikes in the Alps! Exhausting.
I am always on the lookout for bedtime chapter readaloud books. They can't be too suspenseful or fast-paced, they must be humorous, and they should appeal to little kids and medium sized kids and parents as well. Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand fits these requirements, Mary Poppins is a perennial choice, and plenty of parents swear by Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. I have lately been recommending Lois Lowry's The Willoughbys, which has a terrific nanny in it as well. Now add Nanny Piggins to the short list of funny and imaginative, subversive but gentle books about nannies and nurses, babysitters and caregivers.
That are, ahem, illustrated hilariously. Did I almost forget to mention? Nanny Piggins gets treated lovingly by Dan Santat, who shows us that just because a lady is a little stout and a pig, she may still be elegantly put together. In her neat bob, print dress and cloche hat, she looks quite a bit like my grandma in last week's post. Weird.