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Nancy and Plum

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Written by Betty MacDonaldAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Betty MacDonald
Illustrated by Mary GrandPreAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Mary GrandPre
Introduction by Jeanne BirdsallAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jeanne Birdsall


List Price: $6.99


On Sale: October 26, 2010
Pages: 240 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89776-4
Published by : Knopf Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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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 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.


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.
Betty MacDonald|Mary GrandPre|Jeanne Birdsall

About Betty MacDonald

Betty MacDonald - Nancy and Plum
Betty MacDonald was born in Boulder, Colorado, and grew up in various places in the West. The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories were first told to her daughters, Anne and Joan. Mrs. MacDonald died in 1958.

About Mary GrandPre

Mary GrandPre - Nancy and Plum

Photo © From the author

For as long as I can remember, I have felt a strong connection to animals. I enjoy learning about them, caring for them, and of course, when ever possible, drawing them. That’s why illustrating The Carnival of the Animals was such a joy. It was great fun figuring out what each animal should look like based on how the poems described them, and listening to the classical music while I drew each one helped a great deal. I believe animals all have unique personalities and abilities, and if we are observant, we can learn a great deal from them.
The first animal I ever truly connected with was my dog Skippy. He was a mix of rat terrier and Jack Russell. He was white with black spots. I was eight years old when we found him at the animal shelter in Bloomington Minnesota, the town I grew up in. The day we got him, we surprised my mom when we went to the grocery store where she was working as a cashier. We went through her checkout line to buy Skippy’s first bag of dog food. Needless to say my mom was not very happy with us that day, and I don’t recommend ever surprising a parent that way with a new pet . . . but the good news is, she ended up loving Skippy as much as the rest of us did.
Skippy and I had a very special relationship. At times it felt like we were actually talking to each other, especially when he would jump up into my lap, tilt his head and point just one ear up. It was as if he was just waiting for me to suggest something we could play together. One of our favorite things to do was to play hide-and-seek. There was an old oak tree that was perfect for climbing in the back yard. Well, no matter how often Skippy and I played hide-and-seek, I would always use the tree as one of my hiding places. I remember climbing up as high as I could go, while Skippy was wandering around in the front yard. After positioning myself comfortably in the highest branches, I would call, “SKIPPY. . . COME AND FIND ME!” Then I would hear the jingle of his dog tags, and wait and watch for him to come around to the back yard. I had a good view, peeking through the green clumps of leaves. As he got closer, I would call again and he would come running to the tree, never looking up, just circling the base, looking confused. Then he would run and sniff and snoop under bushes, behind the shed, or on the swing set. Finally, after a few more calls and more searching, I would quietly sneak down to the lowest branch and then jump to the ground, yelling, “HEEEERRRRE I AMMMM!” He would come running, so excited to see me, seeming so surprised that I had been hiding in the big oak. The funny thing is, no matter how many times I hid in that old oak tree, he never looked up to see me there. He never remembered that I always hid in the tree . . . or did he?
Today I wonder if Skippy always knew. Perhaps he was just letting me stay there while he pretended to hunt for me in other places? Skippy knew how to be a good sport and how to play with vigor. He taught me how to find enjoyment in the little things.
I hope you enjoy meeting the characters in The Carnival of the Animals. Perhaps you too will make a special connection.

About Jeanne Birdsall

Jeanne Birdsall - Nancy and Plum
Jeanne Birdsall grew up in the suburbs west of Philadelphia, where she attended wonderful public schools. Jeanne had lots of great teachers, but her favorites were: Mrs. Corkhill, sixth grade, who encouraged her intellectual curiosity; Mr. Tremonte, eighth grade algebra, who taught Jeanne to love and respect math; and Miss Basehore, second and fourth year Latin, to whom Jeanne (and Mr. Penderwick) will be forever grateful.
Although she first decided to become a writer when she was ten years old, it took Jeanne until she was forty-one to get started. In the years in between, Jeanne had many strange jobs to support herself while working hard as a photographer–the kind that makes art. Some of Jeanne's photographs are included in the permanent collections of museums, including the Smithsonian and the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Jeanne's home now is with her husband in Northampton, Massachusetts. Their house is old and comfortable, full of unruly animals, and surrounded by gardens.
Jeanne Birdsall

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