I’ve been blogging lately about poems which have impacted on me, and there are more of these to come, but today I want to talk about a book which did the same. Of course there are many many books which have stayed with me long after I read them. Often I don’t remember all the details of such a book – just the way it left me feeling, especially if I read it a long time ago.
I remember a lot about Mandy which I first read when I was about seven years old. The book wasn’t mine. It belonged to one of my sisters, and I don’t know if it was recommended to me or if I just picked it from the shelf. I’m pretty sure the first thing which attracted me was the title. Mandy was, along with Wendy and Melissa, one of my favourite names. These were names I considered pretty, and secretly longed to be called. Now that I’m older, I can’t see what I didn’t like about my own name, but back then, I longed for a prettier name.
Anyway, that’s by the by. I read Mandy, and I loved it. It was a book that I wanted to hug. It had a character I wanted to hug. It had sad bits – Mandy was an orphan, stuck in an orphanage, and seemingly without hope of being adopted. It also had happy bits – most especially a happy ending. And it had a secret place: Mandy discovered an abandoned cottage in the woods next door to the orphanage and decided it would be hers.
So I loved this book, and secretly wished the book was mine and, more importantly, that I had written it. I wanted so much to have created that world, that character, that happy ending. So, I got myself an old exercise book and I rewrote that story, in a very thinly described take-off. My version was called Tereasa (my main character as named after my best friend – though I misspelt Teresa). Of course, I was 7 and my version was not as good as the original, but I was very proud of that book, which was my first ever novel. So proud that I wrapped it up and gave it to my mum for Christmas, who was equally as proud that her little girl had written a book, and so kept that book for thirty years, before very kindly giving it back to me after I became a published author, so that I could show it off.
One of the things about books you have loved is that sometimes, when you reread them, they don’t live up to your memories. However, I’m pleased to say that a few years ago I tracked down a copy of Mandy on eBay, and finally owned my own copy. A funny thing happened when it arrived in the mail, though: I was scared to read it, in case I was disappointed and it no longer had that magic. It took me a couple of years before I finally took it from the bookshelf and reread it. And the magic was still there. I still wanted to hug both Mandy the character and Mandy the book.
Incidentally, when I first loved Mandy I didn’t realise that the Julie Edwards who wrote it was also Julie Andrews who I adored in movies such as Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. What a clever lady to have managed both a phenomenally successful acting career and to create beautiful children’s books.
I still kind of wish that I’d written Mandy but now what I hope and wish more is that one or more of my books might be making other kids feel the same way I did when I read that one. I hope there’s a reader somewhere hugging one of my books, or wanting to hug my characters, or a writer somewhere wishing that they had written Pearl Verses the World or Roses are Blue, and starting on the path to one day being a published author.
Thank you Mandy, and Julie Edwards, for inspiring me then and now.