The Secret Language (Book) ~ Ursula Nordstrom (Author) Cover Art

The Secret Language (Book)

By: Ursula Nordstrom (Author), Mary Chalmers (Photography)



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Eight-year-old Victoria North is dreading boarding school, and it turns out to be worse than she expected. If her paralyzing homesickness weren't enough, a stern, whistle-blowing housemother and unforgiving schoolgirls unlock a faucet of tears that just keeps coming. Partly because Victoria hates the Coburn Home School so much, her quirky and opinionated classmate Martha Sherman takes a liking to the shy new girl. And that's when things start looking up. In Martha's world, the word for wonderful is "leebossa" and sickeningly sweet is "ick-en-spick." Midnight feasts are plotted behind closed doors, a fabulous secret hut springs from old scraps, and a hidden world of tiny dolls emerges in a dresser drawer. Victoria's homesickness and Martha's general obstreperousness gradually evaporate as their friendship cements. Acclaimed children's book editor Ursula Nordstrom adeptly captures the anxious, earnest, mysterious world of the young girl, the wondrous "secret language" of childhood friendships, and the quirky 8-year-old logic that makes lavender a girl color and orange a boy color. Young readers will delight in finding a book that's written just for them, and adults will appreciate a strangely vivid trip back in time. (Ages 8 to 11)

Short Desription

At first, Victoria North is miserable at the Coburn Home School. Her housemother is very strict, she's terribly homesick and the other girls don't seem to have any time for a shy new girl.

Then Vicky meets Martha Sherman, and everything changes. Martha introduces Vicky to pie-beds, midnight feasts and all the other wonderful things about boarding school. She even teaches Vicky a secret language that only the two of them share. Soon, with Martha's help, Vicky finds herself thinking of Coburn Home School as home....

Written by acclaimed children's book editor Ursula Nordstrom, this is an enchanting story about two young girls who share a special friendship while away at school.Originally published in 1960, this enchanting story of two young girls who develop a special friendship—and a secret language—while away at school is the only novel ever written by renowned children’s book editor Ursula Nordstrom. ‘Nordstrom’s gentle, acutely observed picture of the boarding-school world catches the essential fascination of that special community and at the same time, deals with certain problems common to any little girl adjusting to a new school.’ —The New York Times

Mary Chalmers is the illustrator of many books for young readers, including the I Can Read Book Marigold and Grandma on the Town by Stephanie Calmenson, and Easter Parade, which she also wrote. She lives with her three cats in Greenbelt, MD.

An ALA Notable Children’s Book of 1960

An ALA Notable Children’s Book of 1960Originally published in 1960, this enchanting story of two young girls who develop a special friendship—and a secret language—while away at school is the only novel ever written by renowned children’s book editor Ursula Nordstrom. ‘Nordstrom’s gentle, acutely observed picture of the boarding-school world catches the essential fascination of that special community and at the same time, deals with certain problems common to any little girl adjusting to a new school.’ —The New York Times

Mary Chalmers is the illustrator of many books for young readers, including the I Can Read Book Marigold and Grandma on the Town by Stephanie Calmenson, and Easter Parade, which she also wrote. She lives with her three cats in Greenbelt, MD.

An ALA Notable Children’s Book of 1960

An ALA Notable Children’s Book of 1960


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