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The 18th Nanny
The seven Brown children—Simon, Tora, Eric, Lily, Christianna, Sebastian and Baby Aggy—may well be the naughtiest children in the history of the world. Their beleaguered father, Mr. Brown, has his hands full taking care of his troublesome offspring and working long days at the local funeral parlor. The children's mother died only a year ago, but Mr. Brown's imperious Aunt Adelaide, who supplements his inadequate wages, has threatened to cut off her allowance to the family unless he remarries within a month. Debtor's prison awaits him if he doesn't comply, and the fate of the children would be unimaginable.

Mr. Brown decides not to tell his children that he's looking for a wife, but they find out and assume he doesn't care enough about them to tell them they're about to have a new stepmother. As a result, their behavior worsens, and their acts of outrageous mischief send yet another nanny screaming from the house. Simon (the oldest boy and the leader of the pack) keeps a chart showing the amount of time it's taken to drive away each of their 17 nannies.

Mr. Brown keeps hearing that the nanny he needs is Nanny McPhee, but unfortunately, he has no idea who she is or how to find her. "There will be snow in August before this family is straightened out,” grouses their weary cook, Mrs. Blatherwick, to their scullery maid, Evangeline, who adores the children in spite of their behavior. What the Brown family needs is a miracle. What they get is Nanny McPhee.

One night, as the children are wreaking havoc in Mrs. Blatherwick's definitely-off-limits kitchen, there appears at the front door the legendary Nanny McPhee—a stern and comically ugly little woman whose features include a bulbous nose, a single repulsive eyebrow, a pair of hairy warts, and a particularly unsightly snaggle tooth. Mr. Brown has doubts about this person he supposedly needs, but finds himself unable to give satisfactory answers to her questions about his children. "Do they say ‘please' and ‘thank you'?” she asks him. "In what context?” is his weak reply. Nanny McPhee makes her assessment—"Your children need me”—and finds her way to the kitchen where she encounters for the first time the dreadful behavior of the Brown children. They are disturbed by this creature with the alarming appearance, but they pretend not to see or hear her and defiantly resolve "to play in the kitchen all night long.”

One bang of Nanny McPhee's magic stick changes everything. Suddenly the children's antics are sped up beyond their control, and they realize they'll have to play in the kitchen all night long—whether they want to or not—unless they ask Nanny McPhee for permission to stop. A battle of wills takes over between Simon and Nanny McPhee as to whether or not he will say "please,” but when it looks as though he's on the verge of getting "Cook blown up and Aggy boiled,” Simon relents and says the word he never says. And says it politely.

In an instant, the kitchen is neat as a pin, and neither Cook nor Evangeline have any memory of the havoc, or the magic, they just witnessed. But the children remember, and the younger ones worry they may have met their match.

When Nanny McPhee appears in their bedroom later that evening, they give her a series of rude names instead of their real names to show that she can't scare them. But Nanny McPhee somehow knows all their names already, and before she leaves the bedroom she gives them her credo: "When you need me but do not want me… then I must stay. When you want me, but no longer need me… then I have to go.” "We will never want you,” says Simon, as defiant as ever. "Then I will never go,” Nanny McPhee replies serenely, and disappears down the stairs.

In the days that follow, the children find that any mischief they make will be used against them by Nanny McPhee, who seems to enjoy giving them a taste of their own medicine. Meanwhile, a new complication arises for Mr. Brown whe

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