Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald
Because the UK is celebrating Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee around now, this week's books all have a first publication date in 1952.
ch 7 & ch 8
[Orphans Nancy and Plum live in a children’s boarding house, and are bullied and neglected. They want to take part in the school show, but have no suitable clothes]
Sally said “I’m going to be a tree in the program and Miss Dowd make us all tree costumes, and I don’t see why… you couldn’t wear one of those. They’re awfully pretty. The dresses are long…[and] there’s an extra one.”
Monday morning at recess, Nancy and Plum asked Miss Waverly … if Nancy could wear the extra tree costume…
[On the day] Miss Waverly had Nancy’s tree costume all ready for her and to distinguish her from the other trees, she and Miss Dowd had made Nancy’s headdress and branches out of white dogwood blossoms. Nancy looked so beautiful that when she began to sing:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
Miss Waverly and Miss Dowd has to wipe tears out of their eyes and Mr Harris blew his nose so loud he almost drowned out the music.
observations: Costumes weren’t the only problem – the girls’ participation was rather splendidly threatened when Plum jammed a goldfish bowl down over Marybelle’s head. “It had the goldfish in it too… [Marybelle] gurgled like dishwater when the sink’s stopped up.”
Mistreated orphans who are going to come into their own: there is nothing a young girl likes better to read about. Still this children’s book is – as well as being the most complete contrast possible with yesterdays’s 1952 book - seriously weird. At the end, the girls suddenly are given jeans and t-shirts to wear and the alert reader remembers that this is not Little Princess Victorian melodrama, but is meant to be taking place in the 1950s. The author is famous for The Egg and I, a comic memoir of living on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State in the 1930s, a massive bestseller in its day.
Links up with: More orphans - Jane Eyre, Mary Lennox and Sara Crewe (all mentioned in Nancy and Plum.) The book was one of the inspirations for this article looking at jeopardy in children’s literature. For more examples of people not having the right clothes, click on ‘clothes panics’ in the list of labels below.
The picture is from the Illinois Field Museum.