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Book Review

Mandie and the Secret Tunnel by Lois Gladys Leppard has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the "Mandie" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In 1900, the newly widowed Etta Shaw sends 11-year old Mandie to live with strangers after Mandie's father, Jim, dies. Unhappy and mistreated, Mandie runs away to find her wealthy Uncle John with the help of her father's Cherokee friend, Uncle Ned.

After a difficult journey, Mandie arrives at her uncle's large home only to discover he recently died while traveling in Europe. Immediately, two sets of cousins arrive at the mansion demanding their share of Uncle John's estate and refusing to leave the house until the will is found.

Polly Cornwallis, a neighbor girl, befriends Mandie and promises to help her search the house for the will. While hunting the mansion's mysterious third floor, the girls discover a maze of hallways with hidden panels that lead to a secret tunnel. Although the girls look for days, they cannot find the will. Mandie decides to make one final effort. As they search a hidden office, they catch an intruder who turns out to be Mandie's Uncle John.

John Shaw faked his death so he could discover the truth about his friends and relatives. United with her uncle at last, Mandie learns that her father and uncle had not seen each other since arguing over Elizabeth Taft, a young girl both brothers loved, and Mandie's father married.

Uncle John brings Elizabeth to his house and explains to Mandie and Elizabeth that Elizabeth's parents lied to everyone in their attempt to separate Jim and Elizabeth. They told Elizabeth that her newborn baby was dead, when in fact they sent Mandie to live with her father, told her that Jim had abandoned her and told her that the marriage was annulled. Mandie is overjoyed that she has a loving mother and suggests that Uncle John and Elizabeth marry so they can be a family. Uncle John professes his love for Elizabeth, and they are married.

Christian Beliefs

In the funeral for Mandie's father, the minister observes that Jim Shaw died talking to God and is resting in peace, but that those in the church might end up in h---fire and brimstone. Mandie is told that her father cannot hear her in heaven.

Throughout the story, Mandie struggles with how to understand her father's death in light of a loving God. She interprets Preacher DeHart's eulogy to mean that God no longer loves her and took her father as His punishment on Mandie.

When Preacher DeHart discovers Mandie is not allowed to attend church services, he visits her to remind her that she must not work on the Sabbath. He does not question why Mr. and Mrs. Bryson keep Mandie from worship.

Mandie and other characters pray throughout the story. Mandie responds to a trial by saying that she loves God even if He no longer loves her. Trials are said to be necessary in life.

Scripture is used to teach, and Mandie tries to follow its teachings, such as honoring parents and keeping the Sabbath holy. Sections of Psalm 23 appear at the beginning of each chapter. Mandie regularly offers thanks to God even during her bleakest moments.

Other Belief Systems

While Mandie is trying to solve the mystery, she thinks there might be a ghost in the house, as things mysteriously disappear and lamps blow out.

Authority Roles

Mandie tries to love and honor her father and mother, even though she struggles to connect with her mother. Although there is no physical abuse, the mother's harshness could be seen as emotionally abusive. Mandie's father apparently loved Mandie, but there's no indication that he stepped in to protect his daughter from his second wife's actions or when she showed favoritism to her other daughter.

Her mother does not grieve for her husband. Instead, she flirts with Zach Hughes on the return trip from the gravesite and sends Mandie to live with strangers as soon as she marries Zach. Mandie later discovers that this woman is her stepmother and attributes her difficulties with her to that. She honors her biological mother, as well as her Uncle John.

Uncle Ned loves the Lord and cares for Mandie, protecting her because of a promise he made to her father. He watches over her and takes her to her Uncle John's house.

Elizabeth's parents lied to her to separate her from her husband and child because her husband was from a lower class.

Uncle Ned encourages Mandie to be obedient to Etta and the Brysons. However, Uncle Ned knows there is a large search party looking for Mandie after she runs away and does not tell the men that Mandie is safe.

Doctor Woodard is kind, yet overlooks the harshness of Mandie's surroundings. He tells Etta where Mandie is although he knows she is frightened Etta will force her to return. Even when Mandie learns that her maternal grandparents have lied to her mother, Elizabeth, and kept her parents separated, Mandie is willing to forgive them. However, her grandmother shows no remorse for her lies or any affection toward Mandie.


Preacher DeHart warns of h---fire and being d--ned to h--- in his eulogy, but these words are used in context.


Dr. Woodward's son, Joe, kisses Mandie on the cheek. They are good friends. He wants her to marry him when they are older. He tells her that he will buy her father's house for her if she will promise to marry him.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Indians are stereotyped in the area of language. They either do not speak English or speak it in a broken "Indian" English.

A video of Mandie and the Secret Tunnel was released in 2009.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

9 to 12


Lois Gladys Leppard






Record Label



Bethany House Publishers


On Video

Year Published



Winner of the Gold Book Award from Bethany House when it sold 500,000 copies


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