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Nancy and Plum

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  687 ratings  ·  136 reviews
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
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published 1952)
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Average rating 4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  687 ratings  ·  136 reviews

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Absolutely loved this. It was recommended to me last January by a friend who knew I was looking for more Christmas books, so I put off reading it until now, and I'm both sad and glad. Sad that I'm just discovering it, and glad that I'm reading it at the start of the Christmas season.

The book covers a whole year in the lives of orphaned sisters Nancy and Plum, but it starts and ends with Christmas and has a sort of Christmassy spirit throughout. It's based on the stories about two plucky sisters
Dec 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“It was Christmas Eve. Big snowflakes fluttered slowly through the air like white feathers and made all of the Heavenly Valley smooth and white and quiet and beautiful.”

This was how young Betty MacDonald began the bedtime stories she shared with her sister about two orphans, Nancy (age 10) and Plum (age 8), who spent Christmas Eve in a barn (much like the baby Jesus). MacDonald never forgot those stories, and many years and books later, she wrote a version that is a delightful classic for child
Michael Fitzgerald
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful story that is still fresh after more than half a century. Glad to see it reprinted, although the additions (new illustrations and introduction) do not improve it.

Here are the titles mentioned over the course of the book:

Robinson Crusoe (1719)
Oliver Twist (1838)
David Copperfield (1850)
The Water Babies (1863)
Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates (1865)
Tom Sawyer (1876)
Black Beauty (1877)
Heidi (1881)
Toby Tyler (1881) ...more
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: children ages 7 - 10
This is my absolute favorite childhood book. It deals with so many amazing issues, but the best part is having two very different protagonists who both find their own way in the world. Plus the whole bad-guys-get-it-in-the-end is extremely satisfying. :)
May 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: younger, realism, holidays
Pretty standard orphans-at-cruel-school fare, nothing too horrific. The introduction mentioned that originally Nancy and plum represented the author and her sister in a series of adventurous stories she made up as a child. Here all the adventure is removed and a fairly realistic portrayal of rural school is left. I would have a preferred some wilder action, personally, which is I guess why I prefer The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.
Luisa Knight
If you think of the book "A Little Princess" but with more fight-back spirit and light-hearted moments, you'll be close to spot on with this book. It's a charming Christmas story about two sisters, Nancy, 10, and Plum, 8, whose parents died in an accident and are left at a boarding house to be raised by Mrs. Monday.

But Mrs. Monday is a horrible, old meany (Mrs. "Monday" - isn't that hilarious! Everyone hates Mondays; haha!!) who pampers her niece, Maribelle, and persecutes the other girls in he
Jenni Moeller
This is such a great book! I highly recommend it. I read it aloud to my 5 & 7 year old boys and soon enough my 9 & 10 year old boys were listening too. Now my 10 year old is reading it on his own because he missed the first half of the book. The characters are funny, smart, kind, and full of joy despite their circumstances.
Mar 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids, cozy, favorites
One of my very favorite books as a kid. Orphans at a boarding home run by the cruel Mrs. Monday, Nancy and Plum have to dress in worn clothes and eat oatmeal and prunes. They dream of escaping the boarding home and are helped by their teacher and the town librarian when they run away.
Great descriptions of baking potatoes in a fire, sleeping in a haystack, eating apples, and the joys of having a china doll with real hair, many dresses, a fur coat, and little white gloves.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Betty MacDonald’s Nancy and Plum has been republished as part of the Vintage Children’s Classics series, which features such titles as Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The novel includes an afterword by former children’s laureate Jacqueline Wilson, who says that it is her favourite work for younger readers, and charming new illustrations by Catharina Baltas.

Nancy and Plum, which was first published in 1952, begins on Christmas Eve. MacDonald sets the scene immediately:/>Nancy
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids
One of my favorite young patrons gave this such an enthusiastic, glowing recommendation, I just had to read it for myself. I am so glad that I did because it's absolutely something I also would have loved and stayed up too late reading as a kid.
First finished read aloud of 2018!! Which is exciting! Even more exciting than the book was unfortunately. This book held the kids attention well enough I suppose but never got all that interesting.
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, read-aloud, children
This took us about two months to get through, so it wasn't our fastest can't-put-down read, but it was charming and I really loved the last third.
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before there was Lemony Snicket and his Series of Unfortunate Events, there was Betty McDonald's Nancy and Plum. A gem of comic storytelling, this is one of those books you show down on reading as you pass the halfway mark, because you just don't want it to end. A thorough delight!
Mar 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Deyanne by: Holly
This is a nostalgic children's Christmas story by renown author Betty MacDonald of theMrs. Piggle-Wigglefame. Vividly, the clever magic of Mrs. Pigglewiggle is one of my earliest childhood memories of a book that I just loved. I have no idea how old I was when I read this and I wish I had been introduced to this Christmas story at tha ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
We've all had days when we felt like abandoned, unloved orphans. When we wished someone would swoop down and take us away from it all--or that we could run away from our lives into a new, wonderful world. For days like that, this is the ultimate comfort-read. The author must have read and loved A Little Princess as much as I did. And do. It all feels very Victorian until you run into references to cars and airplanes. I had to chuckle when the librarian says she has read "over a thousand books." I've don ...more
Susan  Dunn
Apr 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j-fiction
This is a great story for those conservative parents who don't want their kids to be reading books with sex and drugs and violence. Also for girls who loved Sara Crewe. After their parents are killed, two little girls are sent to live at a horrible boarding school run by the cruel and abusive Miss Monday. How the manage to rescue themselves makes a quick but sweet read.
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first time reading "Nancy and Plum" since my third grade teacher read it aloud to us after recess each day in 1994. I loved it then, and now I can understand why: there are detailed descriptions of EVERYTHING and the simplistic story lines are filled with adventure and exaggerated characters, most of whom are either good or evil. Perfect fodder for a child's imagination.
Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book at the library and thought I'd give it a's a children's book and I had a lot of fun reading it. I didn't want the story to end and wished there was a part 2 and 3 etc..etc..
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I can't remember when I read this first - when I was 10 or 11, probably. I do clearly remembering loving it to death, and it being the perfect wintry book to snuggle up with. A really charming classic. :)
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful book! I love that it gives a glimps into Betty MacDonald's childhood because it is the story that she would make up to tell her sisters in bed at night when they were young.
Kellyn Roth
One of the best books I've ever read. :)
Sarah Sandfort Schultz
One of my favorites that I've read to the kids! They loved it, too. Great for post-Christmas, had that Christmas-y, winter feel to it. Wish there were more Nancy and Plum books!
Ginny Messina
Jun 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kidlit
Wonderfully descriptive and with little touches of Betty MacDonald’s classic humor, this is a cozy and happy read for children and adults!

Nancy and Plum tells the story of two young children, orphaned when their parents are killed in an accident, who are placed in the care of their rich Uncle John. As he has little time for children, Uncle John leaves the girls in the care of Mrs. Monday, a harsh and greedy woman who owns a boarding house. The book follows the girls' adventures as they navigate life in the boarding home with Mrs. Monday and her spoiled niece, Marybelle.
This book is such a sweet, straightforward read. In many
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is quite a different story from all the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, but just as charming. This one also bears more than a passing resemblance to Burnett’s “ A Little Princess,” but is more down-home and American in character. I (appropriately) despised Miss Monday while rooting for Nancy, Plum, and the other kids. It’s always satisfying to see bad behavior punished and the ill-used protagonists find their dreams coming true at long last. It was also nice to read the book during the Christmas ...more
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the story and subject and writing are a bit old-fashioned, this is a very enjoyable book. The simplicity of the story, 2 orphan girls in a home run by an evil matron, and the pleasure of simple things we so take for granted is really wonderful at this time of year when we all get to feeling overloaded with the minutiae of life and to experience again the pleasures of childish things and a simple existence and good people doing the right thing.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my favorite book when I was a child. I love the story of Nancy and Plum and the way they overcome the trauma of being orphaned young and being abused by the evil Mrs. Monday. The story begins on Christmas Eve and ends on the following Christmas. MacDonald uses vivid details and description,and her story is interesting. Good prevails over evil at the end; the story ends happily. I highly recommend this book.
Jon Paulson
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved all the characters that Betty MacDonald was able to bring alive in this wonderful book. Nancy and Plum are orphans who are treated horribly by Mrs. Monday who runs the girls home they live in. Against all odds Nancy and Plum are able to be optimistic and use their imagination to create fun. We read this together as a family and our kids aged 11 and 15 really enjoyed it (as did their parents).

I'd rate this G - appropriate for all audiences
Brittany Bradley
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My favorite line in the book: “They were good and kind however, and oftentimes goodness and kindness cast a glow over people that passes very well for beauty.”

I was so happy for Nancy and Plum; I wanted the world for them! And Mr. and Mrs. Campbell are the sweetest couple— I want to be like them. A wonderful Christmas read-aloud that teaches a great lesson of being selfless.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars as a read-aloud. It would likely be less clunky to read silently. The handling of dialogue was especially tedious when read out loud: Nancy said, “....”. Plum said, “...”. Over and over again. And really too much detailed description at times when the plot just needed to move forward. MacDonald was good at plot and characters but needed a better editor.
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MacDonald was born Anne Elizabeth Campbell Bard in Boulder, Colorado. Her official birth date is given as March 26, 1908, although federal census returns seem to indicate 1907.

Her family moved to the north slope of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood in 1918, moving to the Laurelhurst neighborhood a year later and finally settling in the Roosevelt neighborhood in 1922, where she graduated f
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“It was Christmas Eve. Big snowflakes fluttered slowly through the air like white feathers and made all of the Heavenly Valley smooth and white and quiet and beautiful.

Tall fir trees stood up to their knees in snow and their outstretched hands were heaped with it. Those 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.”
“On either side the wild roses, their pink dewy faces turned to the sun, tumbled over the fences, sprawled on the ground and filled the air with their pure summery smell.” 4 likes
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