I have long said that one of the books that influenced me most as a child was Harriet The Spy. In Harriet, I found a kindred spirit-- another little girl who was compelled to write down what she observed all around her. Like Harriet, I carried a notebook with me everywhere I went, frantically scribbling what I saw. Of course, I learned from Harriet and never ever wrote down bad stuff that could come back to haunt me.
But if you asked me what my favorite book as a child was, it was not Harriet The Spy. It was a book I rarely hear mentioned when people cite their favorites, which I think is a shame. I was introduced to it by my fifth grade teacher, who read aloud to us faithfully and further cemented my love of great stories. When she read Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards, I was swept into the story of a little orphan girl who discovered an abandoned cottage in the woods and made it hers. I loved the idea of finding a home and making it mine. While I remember feeling sorry for Mandy being an orphan, mostly I just remember envying her for having a place of her own. To a ten year old, the idea of that much autonomy and freedom was very appealing.
But it it just ten year olds? I think that we all long for a place of our own. Whether to a country far away, a mailbox on the coast, a world where time travel is possible, or a land where it's always winter and never Christmas, we all want to escape from the ordinary. One of my favorite things about writing fiction is that I have the power to create those worlds, their citizens, and the characteristics that make them unique. I am not held to the limits of my own reality. My inner ten year old giggles, and keeps typing.
Mandy made me aware that there are many places still to go. The best writers will always take me there.