I was recently asked what’s my favourite book. A really, really hard question. I don’t have one favourite – I have lots that I like for different reasons. A cop-out? Perhaps. So I rephrased the ‘favourite’ question for the person who asked me and said “I may not be able to tell you my single favourite book but I can tell you the book that made me a ‘reader’.”
Yes, there is one book that dominates my early reading memories. It’s a book that was read aloud to me and a book that I then read alone. It’s the first book I was caught reading under the covers with a torch. And without question, it’s the book that made me love, love, love reading.
That book is Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley.
Are you familiar with Milly-Molly-Mandy? She’s a little girl who lives in a tiny village in the heart of the English countryside. She is always busy doing things – blackberry-picking with little-friend-Susan, keeping shop for Miss Muggins, running errands for Mother (‘Muvver’) and having tea-parties. The stories were first published over eighty years ago and in my opinion, retain all their charm to this day.
So what do I love about Milly-Molly-Mandy? Firstly, the map. Anyone who has read these stories will know about the map – I needn’t say any more. I traced every adventure on the map. I suspect this was also the beginning of my love of maps.
Secondly, the gloriously quaint language – from buying new ‘stuff’ (material) for a new ‘frock’ to ‘Milly-Molly-Mandy Helps Thatch a Roof’, the text is charming.
Thirdly, her ‘adventures’ are so sweet and hold true for little kids to this day. A handful of story titles demonstrates this –
- Milly-Molly-Mandy Goes to a Fete
- Milly-Molly-Mandy Gets to Know Teacher
- Milly-Molly-Mandy Spends a Penny
- Milly-Molly-Mandy Minds a Baby
- Milly-Molly-Mandy Writes Letters
- Milly-Molly-Mandy Learns to Ride
- Milly-Molly-Mandy and the Blacksmith’s Wedding
- Milly-Molly-Mandy Goes on an Expedition
Lastly, the illustrations. Simple ink drawings scattered throughout the text.
I have recently started reading Milly-Molly-Mandy stories to my five-year-old daughter and she is enjoying them immensely (almost as much as me!). She is thrilled by the stories about writing letters, having tea-parties and gardening. It’s the simple things…
I bought a new set of books for my daughter and my husband asked why, given that we had a set on the bookshelf – “But they’re mine!” I said. I still treasure the copies that were bought for me (see the picture at the top). There are a number of different cover designs for the newer editions – find a huge range here.
What book made you a ‘reader’?