Recently Daughter read The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak which is set in Nazi Germany and narrated by 'Death'. The story of little Liesl and her foster family on Himmel Street, is both gripping and harrowing.
After she'd finished reading it, unsurprisingly, Daughter felt her next book needed to be something light. We had a couple of visits to the library trying to find something that would fit the bill. If you're in the habit of browsing the teen readers section of your library, you'll know it's full of vampires, teenage love, and teenage angst. Well, ours is anyway. 'Grim stuff', pronounced the teen.
We gave up and went home.
Eventually I found Daughter had gone back to an old familiar.
Originally written in 1928 by Joyce Lankester Brisley, the Milly-Molly-Mandy stories have been popular ever since.
I adored them and re-read them many times in my childhood. Comfort reading at its best.
And so much simple living inspiration.
Although Milly-Molly-Mandy lives with "a Father, and a Mother, and a Grandpa, and a Grandma, and an Uncle, and an Aunty" who, for the most part, fulfill the gender expectations of the era, Milly-Molly-Mandy herself will turn her hand to anything, be it knitting, baking, gardening, fishing or helping out with thatching.
The family are thrifty, self reliant and environmentally aware. When Milly-Molly-Mandy gets invited to a party, Mother and Aunty upcycle a party dress out of a silk scarf and a lace handkerchief.
Milly-Molly-Mandy is not just a pretty face in her stripy dress - she's entrepreneurial. My favourite Milly-Molly-Mandy story is 'Milly Molly Mandy spends a penny' where she finds a penny in an old coat and gathers suggestions about what to do with it from all the family. By growing and selling some mustard and cress and careful saving, she manages to achieve everything the family suggests from growing seeds, baking, learning to knit, buying sweets through to finally saving three pennies to buy a duckling.
She enjoys simple pleasures such as going blackberrying, having her friend (little-friend-Susan) to stay, going fishing with Billy Blunt and splashing in the sea.
An early exponent of the positive psychology movement, Milly Molly Mandy turns a failed blackberrying expedition (all the blackberries are in a Trespassers Will be Prosecuted area) on its head by having just as much fun watching and stroking a baby bunny instead. When her friend Billy Blunt is somewhat begrudgingly weeding the family garden, Milly Molly Mandy joins him and it becomes an exercise in mindfulness, "Doesn't the earth smell nice when you turn it up?" Before you know it, Billy and Milly have not only weeded the garden but tidied the lawn, and painted the water butt and garden-roller.
Interwoven throughout the book are the gentle and warm relationships Milly-Molly-Many has with her family, peers and local community (such as Mr Rudge, the Blacksmith, Miss Muggins in the shop and Teacher, who is referred to throughout as just Teacher).
Best of all, the books have a wonderful map inside the front and back covers so that you can track the whereabouts of all the events in the book, see where everyone lives, and spot the difference between Milly-Molly-Mandy's summer and winter routes to school.
For me, Milly-Molly-Mandy, despite never putting a foot wrong, somehow manages not to be too twee. I think the ordinariness and hands-on-ness of all the everyday activities she participates in keep her grounded. All in all, a good choice for an uplifting read after The Book Thief and a charming must-read for anyone interested in frugal and simple living!
How about you: Who's your simple living guru or what's your inspirational book? Any suggestions for light reads for teenage girls?