- Molly McIntire
- Susan Shapiro
- Linda Rinaldi
- Helen McIntire
- Jill McIntire
- Ricky McIntire
- Brad McIntire
- Gladys Gilford
- Alison Hargate
Chapter by Chapter Summary
Chapter One: Guess What?
Molly was playing skip rope at the end of her driveway, waiting for Susan and Linda to come over as planned. She had some very important news for them, and she couldn't wait to tell them. When she spots her friends coming, Molly tells them to hurry up. When they get close, Molly happily tells them that an English girl was going to stay with her family. She explains how the girl came from London to America, because it was safer, and she was supposed to stay with her aunt in Jefferson until the war was over. But her aunt was sick and couldn't take her, so Molly's mom said she could stay with them until she got better. Molly says the girl would stay with them for at least a couple of weeks, meaning she would be here for her birthday. Susan sighs that Molly was lucky to have a real English girl for her birthday. Linda asks why she was coming now, as England had already been in the war for a long time. Molly thinks out loud that maybe her house got bombed by the Nazis and Susan adds she was probably was raggy and starving like the children in Life magazine. Linda shakes her head and reminds Susan not every one in England was raggy and starving. For all they knew, she was as rich as a princess. Molly bets that the girl even looked like Princess Margaret with dark curly hair and blue eyes. Molly tells her friends that she was going to share her room and come to school with her as she was exactly her age. Linda asks if she knew her dad in England and Molly answers no. When Susan asks when the girl was going to arrive, Molly announces today and the two girls shriek. As the English girl was about to arrive, they all decide to wait inside. Susan dreamily suggests that when the English girl arrives, Mrs. Gilford could give them little tea sandwiches every afternoon like they did an England, and Molly says this was going to be a fun time.
The girls entered the kitchen and down the stairs to the basement, where their new hideaway was. They set up a card table in there and covered it with an old blanket so it would resemble a bomb shelter. A few weekends ago, the girls saw a newsreel on bomb shelters people used in England, and the girls were very impressed. They thought the idea of having a bomb shelter in their very own room was both horrifying and exciting and right after the movies, they went to Molly's house to make a pretend bomb shelter. Linda complains about the blanket's smell as she crawled under the table and Molly reminds Linda about the shelters they saw in the reel. Susan comments that the English girl could have had a bomb shelter like theirs in her house. Linda asks if English people every stayed in shelters overnight, commenting how crowded it was in their shelter, and Molly says they stayed in the shelter as long as the bombing continued. Something heavy landed on the table over and over again as a voice yelled bombs away. The girls looked at each other and giggled out Ricky's name. Molly stuck her head out and saw that Ricky was bouncing his basketball on the table. Molly tells him not to do that, secretly pleased that the thud of the basketball made it easier to pretend there were real bombs outside. Ricky says their bomb shelter wouldn't last two seconds in a real bombing as he bounced the ball on the table again. Molly protests and says this is what they had in England and when Ricky doubts her, she says the English girl could tell him about it. Ricky groans that there was going to be another drippy girl in the family, but he stops commenting on their bomb shelter.
Just as Ricky left, Molly's mom asked the girls to come upstairs. The girls squeal that the English girl was here, and they run up the steps. Molly stopped so suddenly in front of the kitchen that Susan stumbled into her back. The English girl was standing by the table, Mrs. McIntire standing behind her. Mrs. McIntire introduces Emily to Molly and gently pushes her towards Molly. Emily kept her eyes on the floor. Molly smiled and held out her hand while greeting her, but Emily glanced up briefly before looking down again. She touches Molly's hand with her fingertips and whispers a 'how do you do' before stepping back to Mrs. McIntire. Susan pushes past Molly, asking her 'how do you do?' She attempted to curtsy in her pants while introducing herself. She says she thought English girls always curtsied, causing Ricky, Molly, and Linda to giggle at Susan. Emily didn't look up, but Molly noticed her ears turned pink with embarrassment and Molly realizes she thought they were laughing at her. Molly introduces her friends and her brother and mentions her other siblings, but Emily remains quiet. Everyone stared at Emily in silence until Mrs. McIntire tells Emily that they were very glad to have her here. She asks Ricky to take Emily's suitcase upstairs and asks Molly to show Emily her bedroom. Ricky led the way upstairs, Emily quietly followed him, and the three girls lagged behind. Linda whispers to Susan that Emily was awfully skinny and din't look like a princess. Susan's eyes glowed as she said she told her she'd be starving. Emily was the skinniest girl Molly had ever seen, and she notes that her skin was pale, as if she hadn't been in the sun for a long time.
Ricky puts Emily's suitcase on one of Molly's bed and left as Susan and Linda sat on the other bed. Molly offers to help her unpack, but Emily shook her head no. Molly clears up one of her chest drawers and tells Emily she could use it. Emily unpacks, carefully lining up what little clothes she had. Susan asks if that was all Emily had and asks if the rest of her clothes got lost or burned up. Emily didn't answer, instead carefully hanging up her two skirts and blouse. Susan adds that they had lots of clothes and things she could use, so she didn't need to worry. Molly comments that Emily liked things neat as Emily smoothed the bed spread. Molly couldn't think of anything else to say, as Emily seemed to have a wall around her that made it difficult to talk with her. Molly then thought of something Emily would be familiar with and could talk about. She tells Emily they had something to show Emily in the basement and she leads the girls down. In the basement, Molly shows her their pretend bomb shelter and asks if she wanted to go in it. Emily backed away saying no thank you, before going up the stairs quickly. Linda says at least Emily finally said something and Molly sighs. Susan suggests that Molly should go up and talk to Emily as she was supposed to be making friends with her.
Molly climbed up the stairs to see her mother sweeping the kitchen. Mrs. McIntire tells Molly that Emily went up to write a letter to her parents. Unsure what to do, Molly asks if she should go up to her. Mrs. McIntire suggests leaving Emily alone for a while as she probably felt overwhelmed today. Molly comments that Emily was awfully quiet and Mrs. McIntire chuckles that everyone wasn't a chatter box like Molly. She explains how English kids were taught to be reserved and adds that Emily probably felt shy with a new family. Molly says it seemed she didn't like them as she wouldn't smile or play in the bomb shelter. Mrs. McIntire pauses for a moment before asking Molly to give Emily a chance. The war in England had been going on in Emily's life since she was five and the world must have seemed cold and dangerous to her for a long time. Mrs. McIntire thinks that it would take sometime for her to realize it was safe to be herself. She then grins at Molly as she states she imagined she'd have two chatterboxes soon. She asks Molly to keep on being as warm and friendly and welcoming as possible for Emily, and Molly agrees to. But Molly wasn't so sure it would be easy to make friends with Emily.
Chapter Two: The Blackout
For the next few days, Molly did her best to make friends with Emily with little avail. Molly tried to warm Emily up by showing her doll Katharine. Molly handed the doll to Emily, explaining how she was dressed up like a real English nurse. Emily explains politely but firmly that in England, nurses were women who took care of kids and women who worked in hospitals were called sisters. Molly is happy with the news, saying how she liked to pretend Katharine was her sister and it turns out she really is. Emily looked confused. She didn't understand when Molly said something silly just to be funny. She corrects Molly as she hands the doll back to Molly.
On Emily's first day of school, all of the girls asked her a lot of questions to hear her English accent. All morning long, people tried to imitate her accent, but Emily remained quiet. Molly kept on being friendly to Emily, sitting next to her during lunch and trying to include her in the conversation. During recess, Susan kept on asking Emily about the bombings. When she asks if Emily ever saw a house get bombed, Emily pauses before saying yes. When it was clear she wasn't saying anything more, Linda asks what it was like and if it was exciting. Emily looked frosty as she said she didn't remember. Susan asks how she could forget a thing like that and Emily shrugs. there was a chilly silence until Molly suggested they play jump rope, and they all move into the sunshine.
After a while, everyone ignored Emily, silently finding her a disappointment. As Molly, Susan, and Linda walked home from school, they talked about Emily. Linda says at least Emily wasn't a showoff and Molly sighs that she was nice enough. Emily was nice enough, but she was just so quiet. Molly explains that her mom took Emily to see her aunt in the hospital, then was going shopping for sneakers with her later on, hence she wasn't walking with them back home. She adds that Emily called sneakers 'plimsolls' and Linda mocks the word in a hoity-toity voice. Susan tells Linda that wasn't very nice, suggesting that Emily was so quiet because she didn't like sounding different, or she didn't know American slang. She adds she still thought Emily was quiet because she was weak and starving and needed food. Molly says that her Mom was giving Emily plenty of food, but she liked strange food like sardines and didn't like normal things like cake. The girls paused for a moment, trying to imagine not liking cake. Susan asks what kind of cake was going to be at Molly's birthday party. Molly explains how Mrs. Gilford was going to make a vanilla cake without eggs or butter or milk. Susan jokes that she would have Emily's slice if she didn't want it, and the girls suddenly feel hungry for cake. They all see Mrs. Gilford to see if she had any cake, but they ended up getting carrot sticks, which they munched on as they went down to their bomb shelter.
Emily and Mrs. McIntire returned just as the family was about to have dinner. Mrs. McIntire comments that spring was here and asks with a smile if somebody had a birthday in the spring. Molly says that her birthday was only a week away, and Mrs. McIntire asks if she decided what kind of party to have. Molly starts to say that she hadn't decided yet when a siren screeched. Ricky cheers that it was a blackout, and Emily shrank back into her seat. Mrs. McIntire sighs that it was a surprise blackout and she gives her family various orders. She tells Molly and Emily to take Brad down to the basement as she, Jill, and Ricky would prepare the house. Molly was halfway to the stairs with Brad when she realized Emily wasn't following them. Molly tells Emily to hurry up, but Emily didn't move. Molly speaks louder, saying they had to go downstairs for a blackout. Brad assures Emily that it was only a pretend blackout, and there weren't actual bombs coming. Molly takes a closer look at Emily, thinking if Brad was right about Emily being scared. Emily's face was completely white, so Molly softened her voice as she promised Emily that it was only a practice. Emily didn't say anything, but she go up and went downstairs with the two.
When the rest of the family went to the basement, Mrs. McIntire explains that they had these blackout drills once in a while so they'd be prepared for a bombing, even though there wasn't a big chance of getting bombed. Emily was sitting in the darkest corner of the room, wrapped up in a blanket despite it not being cold. Molly sat next to Emily, unable to see her face. Molly starts to say how sometimes they were warned about the drills early when she notices Emily was shivering. Molly asks if she was okay and realizes Emily was crying. She asks if she was scared and Emily shakes her had no. She suddenly says that she hated this, and Molly is silent as Emily goes on talking. Emily explained what a blackout in England was like how she hated the one split second of silence before the explosion She shudders as she says it was almost worse coming out again just to see the house she'd walk by everyday would suddenly be gone. Emily pulled the blanket closer as she said the bombings in England wasn't exciting at all, nor was it a game. It was a terrible thing where people got hurt and killed. She says that the Americans just didn't understand. Molly waited, making sure Emily finished talking. She admits that they really didn't know what a bombing was like as they were safe here, and now Emily was safe as well. Emily sighs that her mum and dad were still in London. Molly moved closer to Emily, knowing how it felt to be worried about someone far away and in danger. Molly shares that her Dad was in England too, and she missed him very much.
Emily looked sideways at Molly as she admitted she felt like a coward for leaving England. Molly says that Emily was as brave as a soldier for going through the bombings. Molly considered her the bravest person she knew after her Dad. Emily says sadly that if she were really brave, she would have asked her parents to let her stay. Trying to make Emily feel better, Molly says that even the princesses of England had to leave London, going from their palace to the Windsor Castle. Molly recalled reading how they slept in the dungeons every night to be safe from the bombs. Emily let the blanket fall away form her head as she asked if Molly liked Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose too. Molly says she loved to see them in newsreels and magazines, and she even had paper dolls of them. Emily's face looked bright as she said she had a scrapbook full of their pictures that she brought with her. Molly asks eagerly to see it and Emily says yes. The all-clear signal suddenly blew, and the blackout was over. Molly and Emily stand up as they agree to look at the scrapbook now. Molly smiles at Emily, and Emily actually smiled back.
Chapter Three: The Princesses
Molly and Emily looked at the scrapbook together, Emily explaining each picture. While Emily still sat up straight, she wasn't stiff and silent anymore. Emily shows a picture of the princesses when they were younger, mentioning how they used to dress up the same. Molly jumps up and says they could dress up the same as well. Emily didn't say anything, but Molly understood that her silence didn't mean she didn't care, she just didn't say everything she was thinking. Molly checks her closet as she mentions she had the same blue skirt and sweater as Emily had, and Emily offers to loan her blue knee socks. The girls put on their matching outfits. As Emily buttoned her sweater all the way to the top, Molly asks why she did that. Emily explains that she kept on forgetting how warm Molly's house was, as British homes used to be very cold. Molly asks if Windsor Castle was cold as well and Emily nods. Emily tells Molly how the princesses made sacrifices for the war like only having a few inches of bath water and eating dreadful things like parsnips and turnips. Molly says they had to eat turnips here as well and Emily says Molly was like the princesses too. They point out that the first letters of their names matched the first letter of the princesses's names, and the two smiled. Molly admits to Emily that before she arrived, she expected her to look like one of the princesses. Emily said she expected Molly to look like Shirley Temple, and Molly says her hair was more like brown sticks than blonde ringlets. Molly sighs that her hair didn't make her look like a movie star or a princess, but if she really wanted to be a princess, she'd have a dog like the British Princesses. Molly suggests that they could have pretend dogs, and the two leave the room with their imaginary dogs.
They bumped into Ricky in the hallway, who made fun of their matching outfits. Molly tells Emily to ignore him, but she instead takes a closer look at the poster he was putting up. It was a homemade poster showing fighter planes from different countries. Emily tells Ricky he mistook an American plan for an enemy plane as she pointed at the mistake. Ricky asks how she knew about fighter planes and Emily explains she saw hundreds of them fly over England. Impressed that Emily even saw a fighter plane, Ricky started to take down his poster and asks if she noticed any other errors. Emily offers to check the poster later, and the two girls go outside. They used jump ropes as leashes for their pretend dogs and walked around the street. Molly asks Emily if she liked dogs and Emily's eyes shined as she said she loved them. Molly agrees, saying how she wished she had a dog before she was a princess. She comments that a dog could really be one's friend and asks Emily what she thought. Emily didn't say anything, and she quickly walked a few steps ahead of Molly.
The next few days, everyone got used to Molly and Emily dressing up the same and walking their imaginary dogs. The girls would share their roller skates, though they could only wear one skate each. Molly apologizes, saying how they stopped making skates for the war, and Emily says she didn't mind. She reminds Molly that they were princesses, and they never complained about their sacrifices they had to make. The girls skated up the driveway, where Mrs. McIntire was tending the flower garden. She greets the two as she reminds Molly that her birthday was only a week away, and she still didn't have a party idea. Molly explains that she couldn't decide. She asks Emily how they celebrated birthdays in England, and Emily says that they had a tea party. Molly interrupts Emily, saying she loved the idea of the tea party and she asks her mom if they could have a tea party, Mrs. McIntire says yes, suggesting that Emily could tell them what to do. Emily glowed as she agreed to help. She admits she didn't have a big birthday party since the war started, but she remembered a party she had when she was young. After Emily explained how her party went, Molly notes that ti wounded like something a princess would do, and states that her birthday party would be the princesses tea party. Molly is then struck with an idea, and she asks Emily if she wanted to share her birthday with her to make up for the parties she missed. Emily blushed as she said it would be very nice. Molly knew that was an excited answer coming from Emily, and she knew she must be as pleased as she was herself.
Chapter Four: Planning the Party
The next day, the girls wrote out the birthday invitations. Emily showed Molly how the British wrote invitations and Molly found it wonderful. Molly suggests that they serve cocoa instead of tea as she doubted any of her friends drank tea. Emily says in England they had real tea, and suggests that they could put a lot of milk and honey in the tea. Molly guesses they could do that as she explains what they usually ate and drank at birthday parties. Emily says that the English had tea sandwiches instead of hot dogs, and the sandwiches were thin and the crusts were cut off unlike American sandwiches. Molly says it sounded okay as she asked what went on them. Emily says it was either meat paste or watercress, meat paste being ground up meat like ham or liver. Molly was horrified at the sound of liver and comments that her friends probably wouldn't like that. Emily sighs that they could have bread and butter, or rather margarine as butter was rationed. Molly figures it would be alright as everyone mostly ate ice cream and cake at a birthday, but Emily explains that in England they didn't have ice cream at tea time. Astonished, Molly asks if they just had plain cake for a birthday tea party. Emily thinks for a moment before saying she'd have a lemon tart for a special tea party. Molly tells Emily that her most favorite birthday treat was the layer cake and Mrs. Gilford even saved up enough chocolate rations for the frosting, so she wasn't willing to give it up. Emily remained silent as Molly awkwardly suggested they could try to make the cake look English. The two sit in stony silence before Molly asks if they had an American cake and the rest of the food was English. Emily simply replies that then it wouldn't be a proper English princesses' tea and Molly eventually gives in, saying as long as Emily was sure the food would be what the princesses had. As Molly and Emily go off to tell Mrs. McIntire about the food, Molly starts to think that the tea part wasn't such a hot idea. The girls at school loved the tea part idea and all week long they talked about Emily's tea party. Susan gushes that the tea party was so elegant and grown up, and Alison tells Molly she was lucky to have Emily tell her how everything was done in England. Everyone envied Molly so much that she begun to think that she really must be lucky. No one else thought that a lemon tart was so bad
The night before the party, Molly and Emily were jittery with excitement as they blew up balloons and made party hats. Molly reminded Emily that they still had to make crowns for themselves so everyone would know they were princesses. Emily laughed softly as she explained that the princesses only wore their crowns on special days and wore normal clothes for a tea party. Since their tea party was going to be a wartime tea party, Emily says that the princesses would have just worn a sweater and skirt as usual. This was too much for Molly, and she tells Emily that she wasn't going to wear her boring school clothes for her own birthday, even if it meant not looking like the princesses. Emily says that then they wouldn't look the same, and Molly suddenly realized that Emily didn't have a party dress of her own. Feeling sorry for her, Molly agrees to wear regular clothes so they would look like the princesses. The girls continued to decorate the dining room, listening to the radio playing in the other room. Molly and Emily begun to sing along with the music, but they sing different lyrics. When Molly tells Emily that it was an American song, and it's words were 'My country 'tis of thee', Emily retaliates that it was the British National Anthem.
The girls argue about the song's origin country when Ricky asks them to be quiet so he could hear the radio. The girls were silent, but the room suddenly felt hot. Molly took off her sweater and tossed it on the floor, prompting Mrs. McIntire to ask Molly to take care of her things properly like Emily did. Molly flung her sweater onto a chair as the voice on the radio mentioned how it was up to America to save England and the world from Hitler's threat. Emily bursts out that it wasn't true, startling everyone. Her face was red as she explained she was tired of hearing how America was winning the war when England had been fighting for much longer. Molly says that it was true that England couldn't win the war without America as their soldiers were stronger then England's. Angry, Emily says how Americans always thought they were so important and Molly begun to argue back when Mrs. McIntire interjected. She reminds the girls that their two countries were fighting together, and she suggests that they go to bed now.
The two girls went upstairs, too angry to look at each other. As she prepared for bed, she thought how her party was suddenly turning into 'Emily's Tea Party'. Frustrated, she threw one of the candy cups she made onto the ground. Emily tells Molly she was going to ruin the cup, and Molly says that everything was already ruined thanks to Emily. Molly says that she didn't want to have lemon tarts or wear old clothes for her birthday, and Emily says that food and clothes was all Molly ever worried about. She tells Molly how she didn't even know what was real, and she was a spoiled child who had to have everything her own way. Molly says that she was going to share her whole birthday with Emily and she even let Emily talk her into doing everything the way she did it in England. She tells Emily that she didn't want her at the party anymore and if England was so great, she should just go back there. Emily pulled the covers over her head and Molly thought that she heard sniffles, but she was too mad to care. She thinks to herself that she wasn't giving into Emily anymore, and she was going tell her Mom that they were having a normal American party that Emily wasn't invited to. With that thought, Molly pulled up her covers and tried to go to sleep.
Chapter Five: Yank and Bennett
Molly usually felt happy when she woke up on her birthday, but her fight with Emily last night still left her gloomy. She felt bad about the mean things she said to Emily and wondered how she went from saying she didn't want a lemon tart at the party to saying she didn't want Emily at the party. Molly looked over at Emily's bed, noticing she had already woken up and made her bed. When Emily came back from the bathroom and saw that Molly was awake, she looked away hurriedly. Molly thought that Emily looked sorry too. Molly thought about what her Dad would do, realizing how much she needed her Dad at times like this. She looked at Emily's back as she knew that her Dad would say that no party was half as important as a friend's feelings.
Just as Molly called Emily's name, Mrs. McIntire and Brad burst into the room and wished the two Happy birthday. Mrs. McIntire hugs the two before telling Jill and Ricky to come in. the two walked into the room with something in their arms, and Molly exclaims happily that they were puppies. They put as dog each on Molly's and Emily's bed as Mrs. McIntire thought that the two princesses deserved real puppies. Molly gushes over her puppy and thanks her family as Emily simple thanks them. Mrs. McIntire tells the two they were going to make a royal breakfast while the two 'highnesses' get acquainted with their puppies, and the family leaves. Molly snuggles with her dog and Emily cradled hers, murmuring that it's been so long. Molly asks what Emily meant. Emily says that she used to have a dog and pauses before explaining that he got killed by a bomb a year ago. Molly hugged her puppy closer as she gave her condolences. Molly let her puppy play with Emily's puppy. Molly told Emily that she was right about the war being harder for Emily than her. Emily says that she wasn't completely right. She shares how she thought how much she missed her parents last night, then thought how she's only been away from them for a few weeks while Molly's Dad has been away for two years. Emily knew how much Molly missed her Dad and says that the war was hard on Molly too.
Emily's puppy played with Emily's bathrobe and the girls laugh. Molly asks what Emily was going to name him and Emily says he'll be called Yank because he was a good American dog. Molly says she was going to name her dog Bennett after her good English friend, and the two smile. Molly says once everyone at the party saw their puppies, they'd know they were the princesses, even if they didn't have crowns and long dresses. Mrs. McIntire stuck her head into the room and tells the girls that if they had started to change their clothes, they would of found a birthday surprise in the closet by now. Molly went to her closet and opened it to find two matching pinafore dresses, one for Molly and one for Emily. Molly hugs her mom and thanks her, saying how everything was perfect, and Emily thanks her as well. Mrs. McIntire tells the girls to change and come down for breakfast as they had a lot to do before the birthday tea party. Emily picks up her puppy and tells Molly that this was a very happy birthday. Molly smiles and agrees with her.
Looking Back: Growing Up in 1944
Discusses childhood in World War Two America. Topics include:
- Childbirth and the use of practical nurses to help raise a baby.
- Why it was easier to raise a baby in the 1940s than in prior times.
- Kids getting vaccination shots to stay healthy.
- Some kids in other countries being evacuated to America, where it was safe.
- Toys and games children played, and what chores they did at home.
- How children celebrated their birthdays.
- Stories and radio programs kids enjoyed during the war
- What teenagers did and how they got money
- Choices a girl could have when she graduated high school.
Items associated with Happy Birthday, Molly!
- Party Pinafore and Birthday Crown
- Bennett the Puppy
- Chrome Table and Chairs
- China Tea Set
- Molly's Party Treats
- Party Games
- Molly's Birthday Set
- After the release of the Emily Bennett doll, illustrations of Emily were modified in this book to more closely resemble the doll and released items. Emily was given longer hair and outfits were redrawn to more closely resemble released items, such as the nightclothes which were changed to Emily's Pajamas, and Emily's Robe and Slippers.
- While the first and second edition covers showed Molly wearing red Mary Jane shoes, these were never sold for her; they were changed to black by the 2000 cover.