Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

by Margaret Sidney

Hardcover, 1963



A fatherless family, happy in spite of its impoverished condition, is befriended by a very rich gentleman.

Library's rating


½ (360 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member drebbles
"The Five Little Peppers" are Ben, Polly, Joel, Davie, and Phronsie. Their father died when Phronsie was a baby and Mrs. Pepper struggles to earn enough money to support the family. Despite their poverty, they are a loving family, full of spirit and adventure. Ben and Polly do what they can to
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support the family, but a bout with measles threatens the well being of the entire Pepper clan, especially Joel and Polly. The family has other adventures and befriend Jasper King during one of them. This friendship will enrich their lives in ways they never thought would be possible.

It's always interesting as an adult to reread a book that I loved as a child. When I was young I thought how much fun the Peppers had and longed to belong to a large family. As an adult, I realize how poor the family really was and how quickly the children had to grow up. As a child I thought how terrible it was that Polly couldn't read for days on end because of the measles; as an adult I realize the Peppers couldn't even afford to buy books.

First published in 1881, "The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew" is old-fashioned (the doctor even makes house calls!), but still enjoyable. The Peppers are all delightful children, with Joel being the most honest of the bunch as he complains about having to eat the same food every day. Margaret Sidney was a talented author, who could make even inanimate objects, such as the stove, seem alive. The children's adventures may seem simple to today's young readers, who are used to Harry Potter and the like, but it's a refreshing change.
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LibraryThing member gundulabaehre
The first of a series, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (first published in 1881) tells the story of the Pepper family (five siblings and their widowed mother), their joys, their struggles, their love for one another.

Rather episodic in nature, and definitely of its time (there are elements of
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religious preachiness, strict gender roles and definite social stratification present), the chapters, while generally readable and enjoyable, are also at times rather far fetched, with some obvious coincidences (so much so, that there at least sometimes seems to be an almost fairy-tale like aura of disbelief encountered, which can be a bit disconcerting, as the book seems to have been primarily written as a piece of realistic fiction). Especially the serendipity presented at the end of the novel (when Percy, Van and Dick's father returns and is revealed to be Mrs. Pepper's cousin) does tend to feel a bit artificial and forced (and while I know that this was often part and parcel to family type stories of the 19th and early 20th century, I do wonder wether modern children reading or attempting to read Five Little Peppers and How They Grew might not feel as though they are being force-fed, that they are being told a story that kind of defies belief and one that assumes innocence and naiveté on the part of the reader).

However, even more of an issue (for me at least) is the writing style, the narrative flow of this book, the words used, and the way many of the characters act (or rather, act out). I find the narrative style slightly scattered, unorganised and often overly dramatic, with especially the Pepper children regularly screaming, laughing loudly, crying, on their knees praying (constantly disclaiming or proclaiming their love, their fear, their pain, their joy). Of course, a novel where the characters are described as being mostly devoid of emotion would also not be natural, but in Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, the constant outbursts actually make many of the characters seem exaggerated, almost as though they are defined primarily by their emotions (or rather by their excess of the same).

I would still recommend Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, especially to those who are interested in what I call vintage girls' fiction or vintage family stories, but I do wonder wether modern children would really enjoy this book, or wether they would also be (like I was and am) slightly put off by the obvious and heavy-handed coincidences and especially the overly exaggerated emotionality of much of the text. As for me, while I will most likely read the rest of the series, this will be more due to academic interest and not necessarily because I expect to greatly enjoy reading the sequels.
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LibraryThing member BillieBook
This is one of my favorite books from childhood and, in a fit of readerly nostalgia, I decided to re-read it for the first time in decades.

You can't go home again.

I could see why I loved this book as a child but, oh does it have some issues. There are two single-parent households with no
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explanation as to what happened to the missing parents. Characters drop into the story with no introduction, just all of a sudden "Bob" is there and you're wondering who the hell "Bob" is. My largest issue with this book, though, lies in the idea of the rich older man swooping in and "rescuing" the Peppers from their poor-but-happy existence because he has a deep affection for a four-year-old. (I'm not sure if he offers to marry Mrs. Pepper or hire her as his housekeeper. Maybe they're one and the same to him. And I really don't want to think too deeply about his deep, immediate affection for Phronsie.)

I'm not giving this a star rating because grade school me gives it five stars with sparkles and rainbows and adult me would be feeling generous to give it two stars.
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LibraryThing member LeHack
I read and loved this book when I was a child - so I bought it for my children. They didn't love it like I did. I don't think my daughter even finished it.
LibraryThing member MerryMary
A bit overly-sweet by today's standards. Poor family finds joy in everyday trials. The very first "big" (ie chapter) book I ever owned. this is where I learned what a velocipede is!! I found this vintage copy at Loganberry's.
LibraryThing member debnance
The Peppers are horribly poor, too poor for the children to go to school, too poor to celebrate Christmas, too poor to even buy an envelope to mail a letter in. Then the Peppers meet Jasper and their lives do a complete turnaround. Five years I've had the Five Little Peppers. I've finally completed
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LibraryThing member ASBiskey
I read this many times growing up. It was always been one of my favorites. I was thinking about it recently, and decided to reread it. It is just as good now as ever. The characters are wonderful. The story is simple but encouraging. This book stands the test of time and will continue to be a great
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read for many years to come. This book just makes you feel good and hopeful.
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LibraryThing member momma2
The was a very endearing book. The children enjoyed the adventures of the Peppers and were tickled at the long, lost relations ending.
LibraryThing member kmmt48
this was my favorite book growing up.
LibraryThing member MommyWithLittles
This is one of our favorite books.
LibraryThing member Mia_Catapang
I love it although its very long.
LibraryThing member fuzzi
I had downloaded this old favorite some months ago, and decided to reread it as a light contrast to my other current read.

While I did enjoy reading again about Polly and Ben and all, it was evident that this story had lost something over the years: I found it just a little too simple and lacking
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in je ne sais quoi. Perhaps it is just me.

Maybe this was simply one of those childhood favorites that doesn't translate well into an adult read...too bad.

I would recommend this as a child's read, like "The Bobbsey Twins".
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LibraryThing member BonnieJune54
I don't remember this from my childhood. I love visiting the pleasant land of Classic children's books too much to have considered giving this one up but it isn't the best for an adult. The first half reminded me of Dick and Jane type readers. There were boisterous siblings interacting while
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speaking in stilted language. The action centers on baby sister Phronsie. I had an audio book. I kept imagining reader-style illustrations. I got the feeling that the author had never been poor herself. Her Wikipedia bio seems to confirm this. The Pepper family seems to be her idea of what the deserving poor should be. Alcott and Dickens used more of their own life.
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LibraryThing member ljhliesl
I'd like to know of a book about poor children in which a wealthy benefactor does not appear. Didn't Mr. Melendy read this to Mona Rush Randy and Oliver? Or some book parent to offspring? And the children were horrified because they didn't want to be reminded of vegetables? So not the Melendys.
LibraryThing member FriendsLibraryFL
Five Little Peppers and How They GrewMargaret SidneyPolly and Ben Pepper are full of secret plans to surprise Mamsie. But it's hard to come up with ideas for presents when there isn't even enough money for the children to go to school.Since their father died, the five Pepper children and their
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mother have been living in poverty, with only potatoes and brown bread for supper. Ben chops wood to help support the family, and Polly looks after the little ones while their mother earns what she can by sewing. The Peppers are so poor, they've never even had a Christmas. But from measles to monkeys, through bad times and good, the cozy kitchen in the little brown house rings with laughter and hope.Then, just when a misadventure nearly leads to tragedy, a boy named Jasper King tumbles into their lives. Can good fortune be far behind?
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LibraryThing member TheresaUpshur
A Wonderful Story

This is an excellent book for both children and adults alike. It's about a how a mother and her five children live, love and stick together through life's challenges. Nice surprise at the end. Good book for the 8-12 year old crowd. Excellent as a read aloud for younger children too.
LibraryThing member Karin7
This is a delightful, well done children's classic that was first published in 1880. Almost too good to be true, except that I have stayed with families this lovely in real life, the Peppers suffer the poverty that comes with the loss of a father, and their challenges stem from poverty, a bout of
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serious measles, a close call with abduction of one of the children and other woes. When they meet up with Jasper, a new friendship ensues, and later they meet his nephews, who do suffer normal sibling rivalry.

All in all this is a book I loved when I was a child. I was a bit taken aback when I started to read it out loud to at least one of my children when they were younger, but only at the start. I just listened to it on audio, but that audiobook was terrible. If you do want to listen, avoid the Recorded Books audiorecording by Sally Darling. I am rating this also in print, because I couldn't in good conscience give 4 stars to that audiobook.

The edition I first read is not this paperback, but it hardly matters if it's the same book.
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LibraryThing member Karin7
Two stars for this abysmal recording of a 4 star classic children's book. Sally Darling was NOT the woman for this job. Her voice makes 11 year old Polly sound like a middle aged matron from the first half of the twentieth century or earlier, and she is greatly affected in her entire reading, most
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particularly when it comes to the children. If this were my first introduction to this book, I'd have been turned off of it completely during the first CD.

There are plenty of other recordings of this book, not necessarily at my library, and they might be better. Or you can read it in print. Bear in mind that it was published in 1880 and what children's literature was expected to be then.
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LibraryThing member scatlett
My absolute favorite series as a child!!
LibraryThing member deckla
Loved it when I was a child, but perhaps a bit moralistic now.
LibraryThing member terran
One of my favorite reads from my childhood.
LibraryThing member gingerzing
Actually my mother's favorite childhood series. She had been planning on naming me after the two girl characters... Polly Saphronsie.
Very sweet story and while some terms are quite dated, it would be similar to reading the American Girls series. A cozy read in childhood form.
LibraryThing member Lyndatrue
Even when I was a child (oh, so very long ago), there were very few children's books that I was interested in. Black Beauty was always a favorite, and later on, the Black Stallion, but this book just stayed with me. It still has the dust jacket, and was published in 1938, which is only apparent
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from the copyright announcement for the illustrations).

It's an unlikely story, and even as a child, it seemed unlikely to happen in real life, and yet... I wanted to believe it. How nice to know that this little family that inhabited my childhood is in my home again.
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Grosset & Dunlap, Inc.

Original publication date



0448163039 / 9780448163031

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