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Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

Foreword by Ann M. Martin

About The Book

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew was originally serialized in an 1880 edition of Wide Awake, a children's magazine. The publisher of the magazine, Daniel Lothrop, loved the Pepper stories so much that he published a hard-cover edition of the story -- and married the author in 1881. In 1883 the couple moved to historic Concord, Massachusetts, and resided in a house called the Wayside, which had previously been home to Nathaniel Hawthorne and also to Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women.

Reading Group Guide


The Pepper children -- Ben, Polly, Joel, Davie, and Phronsie -- live in the Little Brown House with their hard-working "Mamsie." The Peppers are poor, but their love for one another and enthusiasm for living keep them happy. When a boy their age, Jasper King, comes to stay in nearby Hingham, Ben and Polly strike up a friendship with him. Can the Peppers help Jasper out of his loneliness? Can he help them out of their poverty?

  • Why does Mrs. Pepper say that her children "haven't had any bringing up; they've just scrambled up"? What would she most like to give them if she could?
  • How is each Pepper affected by the measles? Whose sickness is worst? Who takes care of the Peppers when they are sick?
  • What is Polly's old stove like? Why does she need a new stove, and how does she get one?
  • What makes the Peppers decide to celebrate Christmas for the first time? What happens when they do?
  • What worries Polly about leaving her family and the Little Brown House?
  • Describe Jasper's father, Mr. King. How does he become friends with Phronsie? Why does he want the Peppers to come and live with him?
  • What do we learn about the Peppers and the Kings at the end of the book? How will this news change the relationship between the two families?

  • Find out more about the lives of poor children in the late 1800s. What kind of schooling did they receive? How old were they when they started to earn money, and what did they do to earn it?
  • The Peppers' lives are very different from how your typical American lives today. Learn about what people in the late 1800s ate, what their houses and clothes were like, and what they did for fun.
  • The distance between Hingham and Boston is less than twenty miles, but Polly's journey to the King's home in the "big city" takes many hours. Learn about transportation before cars became common. How long would the trip from your house to your school have taken in the Peppers' time?
  • Not only do the Peppers have no television, DVDs, or video games, they don't even have any books to read! To entertain the family, Polly and Ben tell long stories. Have your whole family spend an evening together telling stories. Who tells the funniest stories? Who tells the scariest stories?
  • Polly and Ben enjoy keeping their Christmas plans secret from their younger siblings. Try surprising someone in your family with a special celebration! How can you plan it without anyone finding out about it beforehand?
  • Read more about the Peppers in one of Margaret Sidney's many books about them, such as Five Little Peppers at School, Five Little Peppers in the Little Brown House, or Ben Pepper. You might also enjoy other classic series about siblings growing up together, such as the All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor, or the Little Women books by Louisa May Alcott. Which family is most like yours? Which series do you like best and why?

About The Author

Margaret Sidney's real name was Harriett Stone (1844-1924). She was born in Connecticut and authored twelve books about the Pepper clan. She is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Massachusetts.

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More books in this series: Aladdin Classics