When I was in probably third or fourth grade, my parents bought my stepsister a book to read. This wasn't that unusual. My sister and I were both avid readers, but my stepsister was less into reading. She would do it if she found something she loved, but she didn't enjoy the act of reading itself like my sister and I. She might have tried to read this book, I'm not sure. What I do know is that I saw it on her dresser and asked if I could borrow it. And to be honest, I'm not sure I ever gave it back.
That book was Mandy by Julie Edwards. Now it's more likely to be found under the name of Julie Andrews Edwards. Because it's written by Julie Andrews who most people know from her roles as Mary Poppins, Maria, or Queen Clarisse Renaldi.
Of course, I didn't know that at the time. (In fact, I didn't realize it until a few months ago, when the bookstore I was working at got copies in with the Julie Andrews Edwards author name. I thought Julie Edwards was just a writer. I was totally oblivious.)
Julie Andrews Edwards, for those of you who aren't aware, is actually a fairly prolific author. She writes primarily picture books and middle grade books. Mandy is the only book of hers which I've read. But I loved it.
Mandy was my Matilda before I saw (and read) Matilda. There's no magic in this book. And while I think Mandy does read, she's not a child prodigy like Matilda. Mandy is an orphan. And one day, she goes over the orphanage wall, and she finds a little deserted cottage. And painstakingly she makes that cottage her own. She decorates it and cleans it and plants and tends a garden outside.
While I can't quite remember every bit and piece of this book, I remember how it made me feel. It made me feel entirely self-sufficient. I felt like I too could go find a cottage and fix it up and create a garden. In fact, I'm pretty sure I made my mom give me a little spot of yard to try gardening in because of this book. (I was a terrible gardener.)
Although it's been years and years since I've read Mandy, I still find myself thinking about it at the oddest times. It'll pop into my head and make me smile.
I would recommend this book to readers who prefer little adventures and realistic narratives. It's an old-fashioned book (it was published in 1971), so there are no cell phones, and I can't even remember there being regular phones or TVs, although they might make minor appearances. It's just a great, charming novel with a happy ending.