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Betty MacDonald was a writer, in the forties and fifties, of extremely funny autobiographical books about life the Pacific Northwest. Most of them are still in print. Her work is often described as "heartwarming" but in fact its main quality is her off-beat and continuous sense of humor. Her main works:

  • The Egg & I: This was her first big seller. It is about life, seen from the point of view of a well-brought up city girl, on a chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula, across Puget Sound from Seattle. Two of its characters, Ma & Pa Kettle , were slovenly hill-billy types. These characters spawned both a series of very corny movies that had nothing to do with the book and a major lawsuit by some people who claimed that they were the originals of the characters and had been slandered by the description of them in the book. Betty's defense was based on the right of a writer to create composite characters; she testified at the trial and won. For an excerpt, click here.

  • Onions in the Stew. This is a book about raising adolescent daughters in the forties on an Vashon Island in Puget Sound. It is my favorite book because it is about the beach community I grew up in; Betty was a neighbor. It became doubly my favorite after my daughter hit adolescence. For an excerpt, click here

  • The Plague and I : Betty developed tuberculosis at a time when the main cure was long term bed rest in a sanitarium. Only Betty could make such an experience hilarious.

  • Anybody Can Do Anything. This is about family life in the Great Depression.

  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Series : A series of children's books featuring a grandmotherly, sort of Mary Poppins type woman who lives in an upside down house with buried treasure in the back yard. Her adventures involve curing various childhood "illnesses" such as Won't-Put-Away-Toys-itis, Answerbackism, and Fighter-Quarrelitis. My favorite is her cure for a child who refuses to wash: sprinkle the kid with radish seeds and let them sprout.

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