In the Mandie books, author Lois Gladys Leppard commits one of the great crimes of fiction-writing: set around 1900 in the American South, the series chronicles the adventures of a young part-Cherokee named Mandie....who thinks and acts like a late-20th century American teen. Ethnic minorities who make their way into the stories are grossly stereotyped (especially Native and African Americans), and though Mandie's unkind adoptive family are racist, they seem not to care that she mingles freely with the non-white help.
The fact that Mandie is a Christian who does her best to live a virtuous life actually makes these anachronisms more annoying. In each of the forty books, Mandie and her friends Joe and Celia solve mysteries using their wits and gumption—a perfectly fine hobby for children, except that Mandie breaks rules frequently in its pursuit. Authority figures in the book are frequently mean, and we're given to believe that Mandie's disregard for their wishes is acceptable given their cruelty. Is that really Christian virtue?
Leppard penned the series between 1983 and 2006, so these don't really have the virtue of being classics. They're not very well written, the mysteries soon become repetitive, and the characters are fairly static. If you just want your kids to be quiet and read a book for awhile, these will do; you could also do a lot better. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder evidence a true commitment to character, and have the benefit of being real-life accounts rather than fiction. For boys, we recommend the Little Britches memoirs by Ralph Moody.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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