Tuesday, December 13, 2011
A Place to Belong
No one need lecture moi about the literary theme of belonging. I understand better than most the need for, and the difficulty in finding, a place to belong. Everyone should feel that there is a special place where s/he may always go and be accepted, without judgment or condition.
That is a common theme in children's literature. Fans of The Secret Garden and The Velvet Room will be pleased with Mandy. First published 40 years ago, this novel, written by Julie Andrews Edwards (yes, the famous actress of stage and screen), explores the feelings of alienation that most young people experience during their preteen and teenage years. Let's be fair: adult people continue experiencing these emotions, too.
Mandy has discovered a private sanctuary that is entirely her own domain. There she is not just another among the hordes of children at St. Martin's Orphanage; instead, she has a special place she can nurture, and which, symbiotically, nurtures her. It is the home she has dreamed about--the home where she truly belongs. Only those who have felt this acute loneliness amongst masses of people can fully appreciate the attraction of this sanctuary for Mandy. It becomes her obsession. As with most obsessions, there is a downside. For Mandy, it is inevitable illness due to the strain she places upon herself. Her isolation then becomes a real danger, but, fortunately, there is someone who has been watching her--a secret friend--who will be there for her in her moment of great need.
The moral, of course, is the old John Donne poem that "no [person] is an island, entire of itself." When you live with people, you have to learn to depend upon them, and they upon you, for many of life's little adventures, like three square meals daily, cheek rubs, back scratches, playing games with laser meeses, etc. As long as your special place is rooted inside your heart, you are always someplace safe. That, my friends, is pretty solid philosophy. Works for us felines.
This is a charming, well-written, and emotionally expressive book. Readers will understand Mandy's feelings and experiences as familiar territory. I certainly did, and empathy is not one of my strong suits, let's be honest here.
Is the book available in our Evergreen Indiana catalog? A quick search will reveal that little secret.
Doing the Readers' Advisory Thing Makes Me Hungry,
Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Children's Books News Beat
P.S. "Mandy," from the LP Barry Manilow II (1974), was Barry Manilow's first number one hit single, although he allegedly didn't want to record it. He apparently thought that the song, which was originally titled "Brandy," would be confused with "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" (1972), which had been released by the group Looking Glass. Hence the spelling change. It must have worked; the song soared to top the Billboard pop charts and was one of Manilow's ten number one singles between 1974-1979. He must have been doing something right.