The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden

Another book that etched itself upon my young mind was about a young girl who is the neighborhood pain in the ass. She’s unruly, she’s a bully, she’s the neighborhood terror! One day, she makes her way into an old mansion which has been gated shut for quite some time. Her name is Maureen and she makes the mistake of stealing something she finds there in that old, abandoned house, and in doing so,  brings down the wrath of the seven wicked sisters who still live in that house…or do they?

The book, written by Mary Coyle Chase in 1968, and illustrated by Don Bolognese, was my first real experience with time travel and the supernatural. I think it’s one of the reasons that I’ve never been able to get this story out of my head. I checked it out of the library to read in the fourth grade and never forgot it. I searched for a copy for years and was unable to find one.

About 15 years ago, I actually called the San Antonio Public Library and asked for the children’s librarian. I could not remember the title of the book at the time, only the plot, so I described it to her. She had no clue at all about what book I was referring to but she knew a librarian in another city in Texas (I hesitate to name the city for reasons that will become clear as I tell you my story) who specialized in children’s literature and if anyone would know which book I was trying to find, she said, this librarian would know. So I called the other librarian and described the story to her and she knew exactly which book I was talking about. The title was The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden. She informed me the book was out of print but she had one in her library that no one ever checked out and she would be happy to send it to me. I gave her my address and she was as good as her word. About a week or so later, I had the book in my hands and I was able to visit the old Messerman Mansion with bratty Maureen once again.

The funny thing about this book is that I never payed any attention to whom the author may have been, even as an adult. It just wasn’t anything I had given much thought to until a few years ago when I decided to look up the author and find out more about her.

I was surprised and delighted to find out that Mary Coyle Chase was primarily a playwright who was best known for writing one of my favorite plays entitled, “Harvey”. Remember Harvey? The giant, invisible white rabbit? Mary Chase later adapted her play into the movie that starred Jimmy Stewart. In 1945, Ms. Chase was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in drama for Harvey. To date, only a handful of women have been awarded a Pulitzer prize in the area of drama. Ms. Chase wrote several plays but only two books and both of them were children’s books. In 1958, she wrote a book entitled, Loretta Mason Potts, a book of which (I am ashamed to say) I know absolutely nothing about, and my book, The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden.

In 2003, Knopf republished the book with the revised title of The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House and is still somewhat difficult to find. Prices for the 2003 printing vary from $3.00 used, in good condition to $69.82 for a new copy. The original 1968 publication is currently selling for anywhere from $160.00 for a library copy all the way up to $449.00 for a fine copy. I think now it may be easier to understand why I didn’t want to share which library gave me this book so many years ago!

For me, this is one of those books I’ll never sell, even if I were to find a better copy. This was a childhood book whose story never left me. Imagine my surprise and delight when I learned the author of this story was also the writer of one of  my favorite movies. And, my book also carries the memory of a kind librarian who helped me to reconnect with a book from my childhood I never thought I’d find again.

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About Monica

I enjoy reading and have blogged in the past about travel and books. My latest blog is a vanity blog. I write about whatever comes to mind, specifically, things I think I need in life. Hope you enjoy! View all posts by Monica

25 responses to “The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden

  • marniedresser

    I’m so happy to see this post! I’m pretty sure this is a book I have been hunting and hunting and hunting for, and WOW–to find out about Harvey!

    Like

    • Monica

      Hi Marnie, thanks for reading the post and for your comment. I was also very surprised when I found out the author of one of my favorite childhood books had also written Harvey, which is one of my favorite movies AND plays. I’m so glad it helped you out too! Thanks again for stopping by and for following my blog!

      Like

    • Laura

      Monica, I feel the same way as Marnie!! I tried hunting based on my memories of the cover but never could find anything. This was just fate that I stumbled on this article courtesy of Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves blog. So exciting!! I’d like to describe a plot of another childhood story I remember if you have a moment to listen….maybe you will know the title!

      Like

  • loonyliterature

    I loved reading about your adventure finding the book again. I have that problem with a series of children’s books I loved as a child and I have never been able to find them – maybe I should try harder.

    Like

    • Monica

      Let me know what series it is you’re searching for and I’ll see what I can do to help you find them!

      Like

      • loonyliterature

        It is a series of books about The Cherry family and their father invents “happenings” for them. It is for the 8-12 age. The author was Captain somebody – I can’t remember the rest of his name. I’ve tried to find them and it’s as if they never existed.

        Like

    • Tiffany

      Ii have been looking for this book for 6 years and was tell my babies about it and my 9 year old son goggles it now I need to know how can I get this book so I can read it to my babies

      Like

      • Monica

        Hi Tiffany and thanks for stopping by.

        Are you referring to the book I posted about (The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden) or about the book that LoonyLiterature was asking about?

        If I recall, we did find out which series LoonyLiterature was referring to but I don’t remember the name myself. I can find out for you if that’s the book you’re asking about. I can also direct you on how to find either book if you’re interested.

        Like

  • Mary Jansen

    The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden was a huge reason I grew to love reading as a child. I still have my copy and am reading it to my class!! It’s awesome to hear how others love this book.

    Like

  • Laura

    Hi Monica,
    I faintly remember my 5th grade teacher reading a chapter book to us as a class and I loved it so much. The premise was something about a family moving into a home where they kids discovered a child’s bedroom that had been closed up and walled off. Inside the room were lots of old fashioned toys and of course, tons of mystery! It was not “Flowers in the Attic” – haha. This is all I can remember…..

    Like

    • Monica

      Hi Laura,

      Could it have been

        Samantha’s Secret Room

      ? Other than that, it doesn’t really ring any bells but maybe someone will read this and have some ideas.

      Like

      • Laura

        Monica, this one doesn’t sound quite right, but it sounds like a great read! I’ll keep thinking and investigating. Thank you for your suggestion!!

        Like

    • Dana

      Laura, I think you’re referring to “The Four Story Mistake” by Elizabeth Enright. She wrote a series of books about the Melendy family… they’re some of my favourites! They were reissued fairly recently, I believe. They should still be available. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Steve

    I remember reading this in 1973, when I was 12. It had been published in 1971 already as “The Wicked Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House” I remember the back cover telling the original title. Why I thought of it tonight I’ll never know, but I Googled it and found your page. I will find a copy and read it again at age 52!

    Like

    • Monica

      Hi Steve,

      I’m happy you found my page. As I’m sure you read, this book stuck with me throughout my life and I’m so happy to have found a copy of the original. I hope you are fortunate enough to find a nice copy to read. By the way, I don’t think it matters how old we are because when we read, we are ageless. Enjoy your read and thanks for the comment!

      Like

  • Dana

    My cousin lent me The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden when we were children. Many years later, in the early ’00s, I sourced out an almost identical hardcover copy from an on-line secondhand book seller. I purchased it for about $75, which at that time, seemed outrageous, but I didn’t care. It was only recently that I discovered how rare it is, and copies are now going for $350 – $400. I will never give up my copy of this wonderful book, and I re-read it once a year, just for nostalgia’s sake.

    PS – To the commenter above (Laura, from January, 2014): I believe the book she is referencing is The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright. It is part of the Melendy series written in the mid-’40s.

    Like

    • Monica

      Hi Dana,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I’m so happy you were able to secure a copy of the book for yourself! They are definitely hard to find and very rare.

      I re-read my book periodically, as well. The story holds its own after all these years. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Laura

      Dana! Thank you so much for your reply!! I love that someone out here in the “interwebs” was able to offer insight into my query! This book sounds just like what I remember! I am buying a copy tonight!! Can’t wait to read it 🙂 Thank you so, so much!!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Jeanne

    Thank you so much for this post! Like other commenters here, this was the first book I read that kind of blew my mind. I think I was in the third grade. I’ve never been able to forget it.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Catherine

    This is one of my favorite childhood books as well. I searched and searched before finding a copy. I wish I could afford to get one for each of my grandchildren. My copy isn’t a great copy, but I love it anyway. I bought the reprint for one of my sons, but the pictures are different and a few words were changed. I wish we could get the publisher to reprint the original.

    Like

    • Monica

      I’m always amazed at how many people fondly remember this book but my understanding was that it went out of print because there weren’t enough sales to warrant another printing. Ah well, we still have great memories of a wonderful book!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

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