Fond memories of Uncle Wiggily books

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2012

Have you ever heard of Uncle Wiggily?

I ran across Uncle Wiggily’s Story Book on a shelf in my home office as I was searching for a reference book recently. As soon as I saw the colorful cover with the gentleman rabbit and two children on the cover, I abandoned my search. I just couldn’t resist pulling the book out and flipping through it. Several years ago, it had caught my eye as my husband and I browsed a book store. He didn’t quite understand when I showed up at the checkout with a children’s book in my hand. I knew I couldn’t leave without it.

Ah, how the memories flowed as I turned those pages. Suddenly I was 11 years old, sitting on my aunt’s couch reading to my chubby, energetic five-year-old cousin Harold. He stopped me often to run his fingers across the illustrations throughout the dime store paperback edition of Uncle Wiggily. When sudden summer showers interrupted the Florida sunshine and chased us on the porch, he grabbed the Uncle Wiggily book. It was a given at bedtime, even if we’d read it sometime during the day.

By summer’s end when I returned home to Alabama, we had visited with wise old Uncle Wiggily so much that the book was a little crinkled at the edges. We became very well acquainted with Uncle Wiggily’s muskrat housekeeper, Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy, and Grandpa Goosey Gander, along with other colorful woodland creatures.

When I paid return visits for a couple more summers, I thought maybe Harold had outgrown Uncle Wiggily. I was wrong. Every night close to bed time, he drug out the then tattered book. He handed it to me. Then he plopped down beside me on the couch. The time came when I knew he could read it himself. He never did in front of me.

Through the years Harold and I discussed our Uncle Wiggily reading sessions but it was Harold’s secret if he read it himself when I wasn’t there. As children, we never gave a thought to the person who created those charming Uncle Wiggily stories. I believe, though, if someone had asked me the author’s name, I could have answered Howard R. Garis considering the many times I held that book with the author’s name on the cover.

According to the dust cover of my book, the first Uncle Wiggily story was published in 1910 in The Newark News. It was an immediate success. It was syndicated and appeared almost daily for the next fifty years. The author died in 1962. I was surprised that he was producing those delightful stories at the same time Harold and I were enjoying some of them.

I’m especially glad I didn’t resist buying that book. Harold has passed away. Flipping the pages sometimes brings tears to my eyes. But mostly, a smile breaks through with thoughts of a chubby five year old snuggled beside me listening to an Uncle Wiggily story.