Joyce Lankester Brisley
Price: I picked up my copy at a secondhand book sale
Publisher: Puffin Books
Once upon a time there was a little girl.
She had a Father, and a Mother, and a Grandpa, and a Grandma, and an Uncle, and an Aunty; and they all lived together in a nice white cottage with a thatched roof.
This little girl had short hair, and short legs, and short frocks (pink-and-white-striped cotton in summer, and red serge in winter). But her name wasn’t short at all. It was Millicent Margaret Amanda. But Father and Mother and Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle and Aunty couldn’t very well call out ‘Millicent Margaret Amanda!’ every time they wanted her, so they shortened it to ‘Milly-Molly-Mandy,’ which is quite easy to say.
And thus starts the book starring the immensely likable Milly-Molly-Mandy who had so many stories written about her.
The Adventures of Milly-Molly-Mandy contains a series of four books, published together in a single volume – Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories, More of Milly-Molly-Mandy, Further Doings of Milly-Molly-Mandy, and Milly-Molly-Mandy Again.
These stories come straight out of the 1920s, and I wish I had discovered them as a child. I can just imagine myself recreating Milly-Molly-Mandy’s life in the village in my small corner of the city.
Each of the four books in the series has a line-drawing of a map in the beginning. The map depicts Milly-Molly-Mandy’s village with key landmarks that make an appearance in the stories in that book. For example, The Blackberry Patch (where M-M-M and little-friend Susan did not go blackberrying, and The Tree (which M-M-M climbed). Each book contains about thirteen stories, each of which doesn’t go over more than a few pages. With nothing else to compare them to, to me the stories are reminiscent of Enid Blyton without all the magic and criminals.
The stories are gentle and contained in the village and the lives of its people. They belong to an era and culture that is wholly alien to me, precisely why they are such a pleasure to read. The plot of each story is simple – no evil wizards, no fate-of-the-world at stake, not even a foiled kidnapping plot. Instead you have Milly-Molly-Mandy in charge of a shop for one afternoon (and feeling very proud) or climbing up a tree (and getting stuck there) or you have her writing letters (because she wants some letters of her own) or dealing with a village gang (who knock hats and lunches to the ground).
The simple rhythm of the writing and Milly-Molly-Mandy’s village goings-on makes me nostalgic for a life I was never a part of. I don’t know how much the book would appeal to children used to instant gratification and information at their fingertips but me, I can’t wait to lose myself in the stories all over again.