What I have learnt from Milly Molly Mandy.

We have, once again,  just finished reading Milly Molly Mandy, the children’s book about a little girl and her family, which was first published in 1925. I love reading these books to my children, as I get as much pleasure as they do (maybe more?) hearing about life in the English countryside in the 1920′s, learning about how they lived their lives, what was important to them, how they grew their own food and sewed their own clothes.

When I am feeling particularly stressed at the end of the day, I like reading about how Mother baked apple turnovers and made jam from the blackberries that Milly Molly Mandy collected. I find it soothing. It seems a long way away from paying the phone bill, updating policy manuals and doing my tax return.

I have also learnt a thing or two from these books:-

Children do not need much to be happy.

Milly Molly Mandy and her friends spend long days fishing for tadpoles, planting pumpkin seeds, making dolls, and picking blackberries.  Their parents are too busy running their farms and shops to be setting up guided play experiences for them.  They do not get driven to ballet lessons and soccer practice; they don’t have playrooms full of the latest toys or wardrobes bursting with fashionable clothes.

When they are not helping with chores or at school, they are free to explore, to learn from and to be entertained by the world around them.

They are also given a lot more responsibilities than children are nowadays. While I am not advocating a return to the work-houses, I do know that children relish being given ‘grown-up’ jobs to do. The children in Milly Molly Mandy cook onions, paint  fences, and polish the brass. These tasks all present challenges, adventures and good deal of fun.

Different generations can live quite happily and productively together.

Milly Molly Mandy lives with her Mother, Father, Uncle, Auntie, Grandmother and Grandfather in their nice white cottage with the thatched roof and “everybody…had some particular job to do-even Milly Molly Mandy”. For example, Mother cooked the dinners and washed the clothes, Grandma did the knitting, Grandpa took the vegetables to market in his pony-cart and Milly Molly Many ran errands.

While I know that this is an exaggerated version of family life in the 1920′s, it was certainly more common then than it is now. Indeed, there are many cultures today where nursing homes are unheard of, and the elderly live with their families, contributing where they can to the running of the household.

Although this is often not a viable or preferable option for many people, it would be nice to see it being encouraged and facilitated by governments through programs such as home visits by healthcare professionals and adequate carer allowances for family members.

‘Make do and mend’ is a sensible and sustainable approach to living.

In the chapter where Milly Molly Mandy is given her own bedroom, her mother and father do not drive to the nearest Ikea and pick up a brand-new, cheaply made and imported bedroom suite that is likely to fall apart within the next five years.

Instead, she keeps the bed she already has, and her Mother dyes the bedspread green “so she has a nice new bedspread”. She also dyes the curtains while she is at it. Grandpa buys a little chest of drawers from the second-hand market, which Uncle paints apple-green. He also paints the frame of an old mirror, to hang on the wall. Finally, Grandma embroiders little birds onto a linen cloth to go on top of the dresser.

Milly Molly Mandy’s bedroom is made all the more special by the love and care that has gone into creating it. Now that it is so cheap and easy to buy everything brand-new, we seem to have lost this ability to repair and refurbish. This book reminds me to think twice before I throw something away and replace it with something new – Can it be fixed? Do I already have something that I can use instead? Do I really need to replace it? If so, can I find one second-hand?

I love being able to share the stories of Milly Molly Mandy with my children, just as my own mother did with me when I was a child. Even she read them when she was young! The stories are as entertaining and relevant today as they were nearly 90 years ago.

Did you read these stories when you were young? Are there any children’s books that have taught you important life lessons? What was your favourite book as a child?

Comments

  1. I absolutely loved this post and completely agree with you – definitely a good reminder of what we can learn from previous generations! Its really got me thinking… So thank you :-)

  2. Hi. I haven’t heard of this book before. It suggests that maybe we have different reading experiences on the various continents. A few years ago I was collecting ‘Nancy Drew Mysteries’ and got one volume from Australia. The story was a bit different from the American version and ‘a trivial thing’ – the size of the book was slightly larger. I like the line drawings in the Millie Molly Mandy book. Jane

  3. Hi. I came across this post tonight as I’ve just started reading Milly Molly Mandy yet again – to my third child (and the others have had it read to them more then once). I love these stories and completely agree with your lessons. I often think about how full our wardrobes are, and quote from Milly Molly Mandy how few dresses she needed.

  4. Oh Stephanie! You’re a woman after my own heart. I LOVE Milly Molly Mandy. I grew up with these books. I wanted to be her and wanted to have a ‘little friend Susan’ of my own. I remember going over that village map (at the back of the books?) over and over and pretending to go on adventures in my imagination.

    You’re absolutely right – there’s so much to learn from them. You’ve articulated these points so well. I loved how MMM grew up with her extended family in her house. And yes, her mother’s resourcefulness was wonderful. Thank you for reminding me.

    I’ve got some MMM books (my own from when I was a kid) stored away in a safe place and waiting for when my 4 year old girl will be ready to read them. I can’t wait. x

    • I loved the map at the back when I was little, and now my daughters pore over it. I think it’s because it makes it all seem so real. You can imagine all those things really happening.
      It’s always great to come across another MMM fan! I also kept my own books to share with my children. I’m sure you’ll have hours of reading pleasure with your daughter. X

  5. I love Milly Molly Mandy books. Wish the life is so simple.

  6. I also love Milly Molly Mandy books :) my Grandmother used to read them to my Mum and my Mum read them to me now I’m reading them to my kids we love the stories, even my son enjoys them :)

  7. Now I realize why all of my dolls were called Susie, Suzette and Suzanne ~they were all little-friend-Susan!

  8. I have my 1st Milly -Molly- Mandy book I was bought as a child-I am 61 on the 1st May. The adventures of Milly-Molly-Mandy. I wouldn’t part with it ! it was the love of this book that set me on the path to be the big reader that I am today. I bought my granddaughter, whom is called Georgia Milly, the Milly-Molly-Mandy books a couple of year ago for her 10th birthday……she loves them.

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