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The Nickel-Plated Beauty by Patricia Beatty


In April, 1886, the Kimballs’ old stove began to rust away, and they were too poor to buy a new one. But lack of money had made all seven of the Kimball kids resourceful and independent. Right away Whit, the oldest, ordered a new stove—the Nickel-Plated Beauty — C.O.D., not realizing he’d have to pay for it. When the stove arrived it sat, black and shiny, in the general store. There it would continue to sit, the children hoped, until they could earn the twenty-seven dollars necessary to buy it.

Hester organized the campaign, and did her part by going to work for their mean Aunt Rose, who ran the Palace Hotel. Soon she was also involved in the wild troubles between Aunt Rose and her henpecked husband, who had belatedly decided not to be henpecked anymore.

This flavourful story, humorously told by the observing Hester, tells of life from another era on the coast of Washington territory and the ways a determined group of children found to scrounge the price of a Nickel-Plated Beauty.





Hester Kimball, “the one with the good head on her shoulders,” is the narrator. That good head also has a good eye for the telling detail and the author of Bonanza Girl (1962) is once again at home with period fiction. The seven Kimball children, with 12-year-old Hester and her 13-year-old brother Whit leading them, worked and saved $27.00, enough to buy The Nickel-Plated Beauty, Sunshine Stove—The World’s Finest for their mother. It was an almost impossible sum for children in 1886 to acquire, about half of what Mr. Kimball could make in a month’s work. The old stove had rusted out in the salt sea air of the peninsula area of south-western Washington State. In the spring, Whit had sent for the stove C.O.D., convinced that this was the way to buy when you had no money. The Kimball children decided to work off the price until Christmas and present it as a surprise. All of them dug and sold clams, Hester put up her hair and went to work at her aunt’s hotel where she joined Aunt Rose’s henpecked husband in a killing schedule. Whit worked for the skinflint storekeeper who threatened to sell the magnificent stove he stored for them. Hester tells about the seven months of hard labor with humor and growing insights into hard work, money, and what it means to realize a goal
— Kirkus Reviews
Exceptional is the book that evokes genuine laughter from the entire family. If you’re on the hunt for an authentic, humorous, and touching family read-aloud, look no further than The Nickel-Plated Beauty. Not once, not twice, but at least four times my mom read this book to us. Set in Washington State in 1886, it tells the story of the Kimball kids, who order their mother a new, shiny, nickel-plated cookstove for Christmas, keep it a secret, and spend their summer and fall working hard to try to pay for it. The story is well-written and heartwarming, but I think the number one draw for our family was how true-to-life the siblings and their relationships with one another were. They fought hard, worked hard, played hard. They were so normal and hilarious and predictable. They argued over stupid things. But when they needed to, they pulled together with an unbreakable will to succeed. Through thick and thin we followed this motley crew on their adventures and mishaps. We grew to love each character, and with the rereads came favorite chapters and scenes
The earning-money-for-a-good-cause theme is given fresh, amusing treatment in a lively story of the Kimball children living in 1886 on the coast of Washington Territory. The good cause here is a present for their mother: a new and shining Sunshine Stove. Twelve-year-old Hester tells of the children’s enterprise and determination. Flavourful, fast-moving, easy to read, and often funny.
— Horn Book