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Little Plum Hardcover – 1964
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Despite her new interest in Japanese culture, Belinda is still outspoken Belinda, and she enthusiastically goes about "helping" poor neglected Little Plum rather like a bull in a china shop. Predictably, the little girl next door (who also happens to be rich and lonely) doesn't appreciate Belinda's efforts. Belinda keeps leaving notes and Japanese presents for Little Plum and her owner promptly throws each one out of the window. This is not meant to be that humorous, and certainly isn't funny to the frustrated Belinda, but the repetition of item after item sailing out the window does make you chuckle after a while - with each new attempt Belinda makes, you can just see how it is going to end up. Eventually, Belinda resorts to drastic measures in order to rescue Little Plum. Will all the dolls and their owners ever be able to work out their differences? Happily, the answer is "yes" but you'll have to read the book to see exactly how this happens.
The story of "Little Plum" is simpler than the story of "Miss Happiness and Miss Flower", and therefore not quite as interesting to read, hence the four stars instead of five. Also, while "Little Plum" does contain some descriptions of how Japanese dolls house props can be made (I particularly remember the idea of cutting up white thread to make a bowl of dollie rice), these items were also described for the most part in the preceding book. Although you don't have to read "Miss Happiness and Miss Flower" to enjoy this book, you'll probably understand the story and the characters better if you read both books in order.
But things get really interesting when a rich family buys and improves the big House Next Door. What delicious opportunities to observe the doings and possessions as they move it--and there is a daughter too! Gem proves to be a "motherless" only child, waited on by her personal nanny and a large household staff--all supervised by an authoritarian aunt. The kindly father is often away on business, but after one trip he brings his daughter a Japanese doll of her own. Poor Little Plum--as the spying girls name her and discover--is neglected by her lonely mistress.
Belinda decides to teach the proper care of Japanese dolls to the sulking snob next door, but soon the teasing and critical notes escalate into a non-verbal war between the headstrong young ladies. Will that "rough child" ever be allowed in the front door of the wealthy but isolated Tiffany-Jones' mansion? And will Gem ever accept cultural tutelage from mere middle-class English children? This is a delightful read-aloud story for Girls Under Ten. And all women who remember the dolls of their girlhood.