Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mandie and the Secret Tunnel

I just finished reading Mandie and the Secret Tunnel, on my daughter's recommendation. The first in Lois Gladys Leppard's extensive series, Mandie and the Secret Tunnel is loosely based on the life of Leppard's mother. Set in North Carolina in 1900, Mandie struggles to find her own place in the world. When her father dies, she feels she has lost the only person who cared for her. Mandie wonders whether God is punishing her. When she is handed over from her uncaring mother to live as a nanny in an home where she is treated little better than a slave, she fears this is true. Thankfully, her father's Native American friend, "Uncle Ned," is always watching out for Mandie, and helps her escape.

Uncle Ned and his family travel with Mandie through the woods to find her father's estranged brother. Although Mandie's uncle is in Europe, she is welcomed by the house staff, and given a room of her own. Mandie has never seen such wealth, eaten so well, or had clothes made especially for her. When Mandie's uncle dies in Europe, her fate depends on the contents of a missing will. The house manager allows Mandie to stay in the home until the will is found, and Mandie makes friends with the next-door neighbor, Polly. Joe, a friend from home, also comes to visit her.

The three children decide to look for the will themselves and stumble upon secret tunnels, stairways and rooms in the ancient house. Their search gets more complicated when several people turn up on the doorstep claiming to be long-lost heirs of Mandie's uncle. Uncle Ned continues to watch over Mandie as the adventure unfolds, and the happy, surprise ending makes us realize God is not punishing Mandie after all.

Each chapter is prefaced by a verse from the 23rd Psalm, and the verses occur in order through the end of the book.

What I Like: I liked this book, but my eight-year-old daughter's reasons might be more interesting. First, she thought it was neat Mandie decided to trust God even though she was afraid He was punishing her by allowing her father to die. Mandie says, "Dear God, I still love you, even if you don't love me anymore."

My daughter also liked the surprising connections between Mandie and Uncle Ned, the Cherokee Indian who watches out for her. Uncle Ned is a very likable character, and his presence in Mandie's life shows us God has not forgotten her, and gives us hope everything will turn out alright.

A lover of mysteries, my daughter also liked the mysterious, old house and the drama and suspense surrounding the missing will. The plot takes many unpredictable turns and certainly keeps readers wondering what will happen next. The happy ending, where Mandie finds herself a member of a real family was definitely the highlight of the book for both my daughter and me.

What I Dislike: There was a bit of romantic interest between Mandie and her friend Joe. Since Mandie turned twelve half-way through the book, I thought this was a bit misplaced. Leppard writes of jealousy between Mandie and Polly because of Joe, and there are several instances of hand-holding. At the end of the book, Joe even asked Mandie to marry him when they grow up. Although he was a couple of years older than Mandie, this is still quite young to be talking about marriage. Mandie refuses to answer him right away, but the next day he is still pressing her for an answer. Mandie finally agrees to marry him if he will get back her father's house. Even though her answer shows her youth, I don't think one should put conditions on a marriage proposal. However, in my daughter's words, "That was just kind of cozy, but it wasn't nearly as exciting as when Mandie found out the truth about her family."

Overall Rating: Very good

Age Appeal: 8-12

Publisher Info: Bethany House Publishers, 1985; ISBN: 9-780871-233202; Paperback, $5.99

Buy it Now at for $4.99

OR Buy it at for $5.99.

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Shirley Ann said...

Wow! What a blast from the past! I have a huge collection of the Mandie books, and I was absolutely obsessed with them while growing up. I adored reading all about her adventures. I wouldn't worry about a romantic undertone in the book. I can guarantee that I never picked up on it while I was reading her stories. Also I am not sure about this but I thought I remembered Leppard being a syndicate name... I don't think she is the writer behind all the stories.

Anyway great review and thank you for reminding me of something I used to love!


Tanya said...

I LOVED the Mandie series when I was a kid!! I remember this title in particular. Like Shirley (the previous commenter) I don't think the romantic element is a big deal mostly because I didn't even remember that aspect of the book. Also, my five year old talks regularly about who she will or won't marry, so I think the relevance of that discussion will be determined individually by the readers.

Thanks, Erin, for the review! I'm glad to know these are still in print. I look forward to sharing them with my daughter when she reaches that reading level.

Erin said...

Hi Ladies,

Thanks for your responses to the Mandie review! I am so glad you don't think the romantic element is anything to worry about, because my daughter really loved the book and would like to read more. I will feel lots better about her reading the rest of them without having to preview them. Thanks for reading our reviews and God Bless!


Ticia said...

I think I had about 12 of those books growing up. And I'll echo the not much in the romantic department. I vaguely remember occasional bits, but mainly I remember the stories. I do know I eventually got a little annoyed at the "kinfolk" that she always used, but that's a minor detail.

Shirley Ann said...

Erin, I just wanted to stop back by and put your mind at peace a little more for your daughter. I have a collection of over forty Mandie books, which I read over and over again when I was growing up. I plan to hand them down to my daughter(s) if and when God decides to give me children and they begin to read. I hope that your daughter enjoys them as much as I have!