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Nancy and Plum

Nancy and Plum

4.7 17
by Betty MacDonald, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator), Jeanne Birdsall (Introduction)

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It was Christmas Eve. Big snowflakes fluttered slowly through the air like white feathers
and made all of Heavenly Valley smooth and white and quiet and beautiful.

So begins the story of two orphaned sisters at Mrs. Monday’s Boarding School. But nothing is heavenly for Nancy and Pamela (aka Plum): their parents died in a tragic accident


It was Christmas Eve. Big snowflakes fluttered slowly through the air like white feathers
and made all of Heavenly Valley smooth and white and quiet and beautiful.

So begins the story of two orphaned sisters at Mrs. Monday’s Boarding School. But nothing is heavenly for Nancy and Pamela (aka Plum): their parents died in a tragic accident years ago, they’re constantly punished by the cruel Mrs. Monday, and they’re all alone for the holidays.

Luckily, Nancy and Plum have each other, and though their prospects may be bleak, they’re determined to change their lot for the better. If their plan works, the spirited sisters will never spend Christmas at the cold, dark boarding school again. But what will they find on the other side of Mrs. Monday’s gate?

Adventure, warmth, unforgettable characters, and unexpected kindness abound in this classic story by Betty MacDonald, which was originally published in 1952. With illustrations by the acclaimed Mary GrandPré and an introduction by Jeanne Birdsall, National Book Award–winning author of The Penderwicks, this edition introduces the spunky, beloved heroines to a new generation of fans.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
After the deaths of their parents, orphans Nancy and Plum are sent by their Uncle John to Mrs. Monday's Boarding Home for Children. The cruel and heartless Mrs. Monday dresses all the children in ragged clothes, feeds them meager rations, and keeps their sleeping quarters cold and drafty. Letters sent to the girls from their uncle are destroyed and pretty dresses he sends are given to Mrs. Monday's spoiled niece Marybelle. Alone at Christmas, Nancy and Plum discover empty boxes addressed to them that once held beautiful dolls—dolls that are now in Marybelle's bedroom. As their lives become more difficult and with Mrs. Monday singling them out for punishment, the girls decide to escape the hardships of the boarding home. Late one night, with they help of Old Tom, the caretaker, they slip through the iron gate and embark on an adventure that eventually leads them to a new family. If the author's name looks familiar it is because MacDonald is also the author of the beloved "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" series. Originally published in 1952, the book has a gentle, old-fashioned feel to it. At times the language is overdone and it slows the flow of the story but much of that can be credited to the simpler times in which the novel was first written. Children who are Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle fans and those who still enjoy the works of Eleanor Estes, Elizabeth Enright, and Jeanne Birdsall (she wrote the introduction) will like this satisfying story that lacks the impact of a true melodrama. They will sympathize with the girls and be indignant at the malevolence of Mrs. Monday. The illustrations by Grand Pre who also illustrated the American "Harry Potter" series add just the right atmosphere. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Living at Mrs. Monday's Boarding School is truly torture, but orphaned Nancy and Plum make the best of their situation. While they tackle their seemingly never-ending list of chores, from cleaning windows to mending socks, their imaginations set them free. The sisters daydream about the perfect Christmas, having a family, and how their lives could be different, perhaps even wonderful. Eventually, they become fed up with Mrs. Monday and they make plans to run away. Once they escape, Nancy and Plum contact their uncle, spend the night in a haystack, and eventually find the family of their dreams. Originally published in 1952, this edition preserves the charm of MacDonald's writing and is a great choice for fans of her "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" series (HarperCollins). GrandPré's detailed illustrations enhance the story and help to capture the time of horse-drawn carts, working farms, and pinafores. The rich description draws readers in, inviting them back to a simpler time. Nancy and Plum are lovable characters whom readers will be drawn to and their colorful adventures keep things moving along. However, the book is rather slowly paced until the girls decide to run away. With a simple plot and well-developed characters, this title is a good choice for a wide range of readers, especially those who enjoy MacDonald's imaginative stories.—Mary-Brook J. Townsend, The McGillis School, Salt Lake City, UT

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.60(d)
1020L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Mrs. Monday's Boarding Home    

It was Christmas Eve. Big snowflakes fluttered slowly through the air like white feathers and made all of Heavenly Valley smooth and white and quiet and beautiful. Tall fir trees stood up to their knees in the snow and their outstretched hands were heaped with it. Trees that were bare of leaves wore soft white fur on their scrawny, reaching arms and all the stumps and low bushes had been turned into fat white cupcakes. Mrs. Monday's big, brick Boarding Home for Children wore drifts on its window sills, thick frosting on its steep slate roofs, big white tam o'shanters on its cold chimneys and by the light of the lanterns on either side of the big iron gates you could see that each of the gateposts wore a round snow hat. Even the sharp spikes of the high iron fencehad been blunted by the snow.   However, in spite of its snowy decorations, in spite of the beauty of its setting, and even in spite of its being Christmas Eve, Mrs. Monday's was a forbidding-looking establishment. The fences were high and strong, the house was like a brick fortress and the windows, with the exception of one small one high up and almost hidden by the bare branches of a large maple tree, were like dark staring eyes. No holly wreath graced the heavy front door, no Christmas-tree lights twinkled through the windows and beckoned in the passer-by, no fragrant boughs nor pine cones were heaped on the mantel of the large cold fireplace, for Mrs. Monday, her niece Marybelle Whistle and all but two of her eighteen boarders had gone to the city to spend Christmas. Nancy and Plum Remson (Plum's real name was Pamela but she had named herself Plum when she was too little to say Pamela), the two boarders who remained, were left behind because they had no mother and father. No other place to go on Christmas Eve.  

You see, six years before, when Nancy and Plum were four and two years old, their mother and father had been killed in a train wreck and the children turned over to their only living relative, one Uncle John, an old bachelor who lived in a club in the city, didn't know anything about children, didn't want to know anything about children and did not like children. When the telegram from the Remsons' lawyer came notifying Uncle John of the tragic accident and the fact that he had just inherited two little girls, he was frantic.  

"Dreadful!" he said, fanning himself with his newspaper. "Gallivanting around the country getting killed. Dreadful and careless! Two little children! Heavens! What will I do with them? I'll have to move from this nice leather chair in this nice comfortable club and will probably wind up washing dishes and making doll clothes. Dreadful! Heavens!" Beads of sweat sprang out on his forehead like dew and he fanned himself some more. It was while he was folding his newspaper to make a bigger and better fan that he noticed the advertisement. It read:  

CHILDREN BOARDED--Beautiful country home with spacious grounds, murmuring brooks, own cows, chickens, pigs, and horses. Large orchard. Delicious home-cooked food. A mother's tender loving care. Year round boarders welcome. Rates upon request. Address Mrs. Marybelle Monday, Box 23, Heavenly Valley.  

With trembling hands, Uncle John tore out the advertisement and wrote a letter to Mrs. Monday. He received an immediate answer and three days later he was on his way to inspect this delightful boarding home so chock-full of good food and tender loving care for little children.  

It was springtime in Heavenly Valley and the fields were golden with dandelions, the slopes were foaming with cherry blossoms, the sky was lazily rolling big white clouds around and meadow larks trilled in the thickets. Uncle John was entranced. "Had forgotten the country was so beautiful!" he said to his chauffeur. "Certainly the place for children. Beautiful, beautiful!"  

When they drew up to the imposing entrance of Mrs. Monday's Boarding Home for Children, Uncle John was most impressed. "Nice, solid, respectable place," he said, noting the very large, sturdily built brick house surrounded by the high spiked iron fence."Well built," he said to his chauffeur, who had jumped out to open the heavy iron gates for him.  

"It certainly is," the chauffeur said, wondering to himself why a boarding home for little children should have such a wicked-looking fence. Surely not just to keep the rolling lawns from oozing out into the road!  

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Betty MacDonald was born Anne Elizabeth Campbell Bard in Boulder, Colorado, in 1908. The daughter of a mining engineer, she spent her early years in some of the mining towns of Idaho, Montana, and Mexico. When she was nine, her father took the family—his wife and five children—to Seattle, where Betty lived until shortly after her marriage.

Among her books for children are Nancy and Plum, originally published in 1952, and the beloved classics Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm, and Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.
Mary GrandPré is perhaps best known for creating the jackets and illustrations for the Harry Potter books. She has also illustrated The Blue Shoe, a novel for young readers by Robert Townley, as well as many fine picture books, including Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat by Jennifer Armstrong and Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root. You can read more about Mary GrandPré and her work at www.marygrandpre.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Nancy and Plum 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kiss your hand 3 times, and post this comment to 3 other books. It's magic, it works!!
writeforme More than 1 year ago
My sister read this to me when I was too young to read it myself. When I got older I checked it out from the library a number of times after that and read it again and again. Then I read it to my children, both boys (born ten years apart) and they both read it at least once when they learned to read. I enjoyed it as much when I read it to my children as I did as a child, plus it was a joy to share with my children and see their eyes light up when I said it was time to read another chapter. When my youngest son first discovered they were expecting their first child, a little boy who is now nine months old, I chuckled when he asked, "Mom, what was that book you read me about the two little girls at the boarding home? I want to get that so I can read it to our baby." I am now buying it so my six older grandchildren (ages five to fifteen) can read and enjoy it on their nooks.
mamalander More than 1 year ago
My 4th grade teacher read this book to her class in 1960 and it became a favorite of mine! I've shared it with many friends and even ADULTS love it! I'm so glad it's in circulation again. I've given many copies away and it's always got rave reviews. It's not a Gone With The Wind, but just a sweet story with memorable characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BookSakeBlogspot More than 1 year ago
The characters of Nancy and Plum are a bit extravagant, but so is their living situation. The story of children sent to live in a home that isn’t their own, are looked over by a guardian that isn’t quite nice, and are made to go without many basic needs is very familiar. MacDonald tells the tale in such a way that you can easily envision the characters, what their home looks like, feel their happiness over the small things, and have your heart break along with theirs at the sad moments. It’s a fairly simple tale, sure to please many young readers. While there are a number of characters, each one is so different from any other that they are not easy to confuse. Overall it is an entertaining children’s story with a feel good basis. Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
karyna johri More than 1 year ago
u will love the sweet twisted tale of nancy and plum
trooperswife39 More than 1 year ago
my mom read this story to me when i was too little to know how to read yet and over the years i think ive read it to my kids and myself hundreds of times. it is incredible and one that you never grow tired of. great choice
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Guest More than 1 year ago
My 4th grade teacher read this book aloud to the class. I was fascinated by the book and long considered it to be my favorite of all time. Even in my 20's and 30's, I remembered the book and wanted a copy. I could never find it in a bookstore--it was out of print. One day along came the internet, and I did a search and found that my beloved book was back in print. I was thrilled and immediately ordered it. I have read it aloud to my children, who range in age from 9 to 16, both sexes. All of my children loved the book as much as I did. You simply must read it. It is a classic tale, well written, and one that I will never forget.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like most of the other reviews that I have read, my third grade teacher also read 'Nancy and Plum' to me. I have tried many times over the years to locate this book. I can't wait until my three granddaughters are old enough for me to read it to them. This is a truly remarkable, unforgettable book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My teacher read this book to my 3rd grade class 50 years ago. I have never forgotten the story and hope every little girl will read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a 33year old physician and mother of one. I read my mother's childhood copy of this book many years ago. At that time I was the oldest of three children being raised by a single mother on minimum wage. In this book I found two little girls who shared my pain and my dreams. My eight year old has read it countless times since I introduced it to her last year. This is a timeless story of hope and perseverance and love.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My mom and I read it together. I didn't want to read it at first, but once I read the first page, I knew I liked it. It was a fabulous book. I loved it. It was about two kids, a boy and a girl, that lived in a orphanage. It tells about how they lived through it. A fabulous book. Anybody could read it and enjoy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My third grade teacher read this to my class 16 years ago and I've loved it since. I have tried to find this book for many years and am so glad to have finally found it! I hope all little girls read this book.