Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nancy and Plum

by Betty MacDonald
Knopf, 2010. 222 pgs. Fiction.

Betty MacDonald, best known for her Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, also published the story of two orphan girls (of the title) in 1952. Lucky for us, Nancy and Plum (is/are) back. After their parents are killed in a train wreck, Nancy and Plum (Pamela) are sent by their Uncle John (who lives at his club and knows nothing about children) to Mrs. Monday's boarding house where he thinks they are being well taken care of when in fact they are virtual slaves living on burned oatmeal and prunes--really old chewy prunes--and having even that icky food taken away when they fail to complete their list of innumerable chores. Nancy and Plum's lives are made even worse by Mrs. Monday's niece Marybelle who constantly contrives to get them into trouble and who steals their packages from Uncle John (who hadn't the sense of a rabbit). Gentle, law-abiding Nancy is cared for and bossed around by her younger and feistier sister Plum who decides finally that the two need to escape. Nancy and Plum is laugh out loud funny--Mrs. Monday is "as warm and motherly as a pair of pliers," Mrs. Gronk, the Sunday School teacher takes the children on a picnic to the cemetery, and Plum tries to smuggle a letter to Uncle John using a chicken as a carrier pigeon. Just like the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, Nancy and Plum would be a great read-aloud, a book where virtue is at long last rewarded with plenty of laughs along the way.

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