I recently moved away from home and had to leave the majority of my library behind, except for a few of my favorite books. One day, I was browsing Amazon and I came across a book in my cart that I absolutely loved as a child. I received Mandy by the incomparable Julie Andrews for my 8th birthday, and read and reread the book dozens of times throughout my childhood. On this dreary fall day last year, I was suddenly filled with the urge to read the book immediately. So instead of waiting a few weeks to go home for the holidays and read my much-loved copy, I decided to buy another copy on Amazon. In my defense, it was on sale for less than $5 and I had a gift card!
Mandy is the story of a ten-year-old orphan who dreams of a place and a family to call her own. Mandy lives in an orphanage in England and because she’s one of the oldest children in the home, she has special privileges, like sharing an attic bedroom with her friend, Sue, and working part-time at the local grocery store. One day, she is exploring over the stone wall that borders the orphanage and happens upon a small, deserted cottage in the woods; she makes up her mind that the cottage is now hers, and she works hard to make it a place she can call her own.
The book is split into the four seasons; in the spring and summer, Mandy is as happy as can be, relishing in the beauty of her flourishing garden and her woodland friends that surround the cottage. In the fall and winter, the people in Mandy’s life become more suspicious of her activities and threaten to cut her off from her beloved cottage. In the last section of the book, Mandy becomes very ill and is found in the cottage by a secret admirer, and the owner of the cottage, who brings her to convalesce at his family home. Mandy fits seamlessly into family life, is allowed to stay with the Fitzgerald family for the holidays, and ends up finding the family and home that she’s always wanted.
After receiving my new copy in the mail and tearing through it, I was pleasantly surprised at just how great of a read it really was. Chock full of colorful details, imagery and poetic language, this will forever be one of my absolute favorite childhood books. The only issue with my new copy is that they had changed the cover art, and it was different to the one that I grew up with, which you can find at the top of this post.
Both copies of the book include a note from Julie Andrews, who talks about the inspiration behind her very first children’s book:
“In the summer of 1968, my husband and I were making a film on an old estate in Ireland. The great manor house was enclosed within thick walls and had its own stables, kennels, dairy, cemetery, vegetable gardens, and bird sanctuary, plus a lake with a weir and glorious beech woods with abundant wildlife. There were also several small cottages on the property, including one decorated entirely with seashells. The moment I saw it, the seed of a story lodged in my mind. Sometime later, I was playing a game with our children. I lost and had to pay a forfeit to our eldest daughter, Jennifer. “What should my forfeit be?” “Easy! Write me a story,” Jenny replied. I thought to dash off a couple of paragraphs, but the image of that shell cottage came back to haunt me, and thus Mandy began. Two years later it became my first published work. It’s hard to believe that Mandy is now celebrating its 35th anniversary. I enjoyed writing it so much, never imagining the rewards that would come from that one magical summer.”
If you haven’t already read Mandy, it’s a very quick read and I would absolutely encourage it. Mandy’s emotional journey in the book is very special to read about, and will definitely make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Happy reading!
Girl Museum Inc.