One of the most beloved books in my personal book collection is a young adult book called "Mandy". It is written by an author named Julie Edwards-- an author that you may think you never heard of, until you look at the book jacket to see that Julie Edwards is really the award winning actress Julie Andrews (of 'Mary Poppins' and 'The Sound of Music' fame). Recent editions of the book have her author's name as Julie Andrews Edwards.
The book is a beautifully written account of a lonely child named Mandy. Mandy lives at an orphanage called St. Ann's and although there are dozens of other children that live there, Mandy prefers to surround herself with animals and nature. She is a creative little girl-- and also a little bit adventurous.
Mandy works at a small local grocery store every Saturday-- presumably to earn pocket change to buy art supplies like paints and paper. Because Mandy is one of the older children at the orphanage, she attends school at a local school outside of the orphanage. On her trips back and forth to school, as she walks through the beautiful country, Mandy dreams of what it would be like to live out there. Although the orphanage is a pleasant place and the head matron and all of the staff are very kind to her, Mandy longs for a real family and a life outside of the orphanage.
Mandy was fascinated by the big stone wall that surrounded the orphanage. She often wondered what was on the other side--and one day her curiosity gets the best of her. She carefully climbs the stone wall and breathlessly looks at what lay before her: hundreds of trees, and a little path that led to who knew where. Mandy decides to follow the path to see where it will take her.
It is then that she stumbles upon a run down little cottage. Mandy is enthralled with her find and even though the cottage is old and the windows are broken, she decides to take it under her wing and make it her own. She begins using her grocery store earnings to buy supplies to take care of her little house--a broom, cleaning supplies, some tea and food. She also begins taking small items from the orphanage, telling herself that it really wasn't stealing and that she was just borrowing the items. She stocks the tiny cupboards with tea cups, dishes, and other essential items. She decides to plant and tend to her own little garden over at the cottage property. And when it's time to trim the hedges at the cottage, Mandy even "borrows" some heavy garden shears from the orphanage gardener.
It is hard for Mandy to keep her cottage a secret. She finds herself lying to the head matron about her whereabouts. She also has to keep her secret from her best friend sand roommate at the orphanage, Sue, because even though she loves Sue dearly, Sue would never be able to keep such a big secret to herself. It is hard for Mandy as she lives her "double life".
It is after a while that Mandy notices another presence around her secret cottage. It is apparent that someone else has been visiting her little cottage when she is not there. And one day she comes to find a note from a secret admirer.
It becomes somewhat of a mystery this point, as Mandy (and the reader) tries to figure out who the anonymous admirer is. When Mandy is confined to the orphanage after the head matron questions where she has been going all the time, Mandy decides to sneak over one last time to leave a note for her admirer. It is then that her life changes forever.
I love the way Julie Andrews Edwards writes. She writes in such an endearing way that you can't help but feel for Mandy. Although this book is geared for the young adult set, I have re-read it many, many times since I first received it as a gift years ago. I can't wait to share this book with my young daughter in a few years and I may even buy her a new edition of the book as my copy is rather dog-eared after years of reading it. This book is a timeless tale of a hopeful young girl and it is a great read for any young girl who dares to dream.