I first met Dandi Daley Mackall around 2003 at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in California. She taught a class on children’s writing. The thought of writing for children had never entered my mind, even though I had read (and been read to) hundreds of books with my kids.
But the famous writing advice repeated often was ‘Write What You Know.’ So, I thought as long as I had an accomplished author like Ms. Mackall teaching the class, I should listen and learn, just in case. She was a great teacher with hand-outs which I kept and pored over.
That was 16 children’s books ago (middle grade non-fiction). Here are a few Title I wrote with Mitchell Lane and Purple Toad Publishers.
Today, Dandi & I correspond about World War II, due to her parents’ involvement. Her mother was a nurse and her father a doctor.
The pair had written and saved a cache of letters written after they met and married during the war. What a treasure trove!
The letters couldn’t have been in better hands as Dandi used the material to produce a wonderful love-story novel based on their stories.
The book, WITH LOVE, WHEREVER YOU ARE (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2017) is a wartime novel that will keep male and female readers captivated (it’s not too mushy for men!). I’ve read it twice and marvel at the details she included – much was due to her own research.
That novel has become one of hundreds – yes, hundreds! – of books Dandi has written. In fact, she recently published her 502nd book!
Talk about a hard-working talented author. She has won many awards, including the Helen Keating Ott Award for Contributions to Children’s Literature. I’ve read many of her books, including those for children as I was a middle-school librarian. Back then, I ordered many of her books so students had access to them – especially her horse books!
It’s a pleasure for me to introduce you to Dandi Daley Mackall in the month of June when many people celebrate weddings with this reflection on her parents’ love affair during World War II.
Read WITH LOVE, WHEREVER YOU ARE, then ask your local library to purchase it for their shelves. You won’t regret it!
by Dandi Daley Mackall
I grew up on my parents’ amazing, true WWII stories. Determined Nurse Helen Eberhart joined the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and fun-loving Dr. Frank Daley only enlisted so he could finish his medical degree before being drafted. They met in Army boot camp, fell madly in love, married after a couple of weeks, and were soon shipped overseas . . . to different countries.
My parents had to fight to survive the war, risking battlefield rescues, caring for Allied amputees, survivors of slave labor camps, and even German POWs. And they had to fight to keep their marriage from becoming one more casualty of war.
Even as a kid, I could tell my friends those stories, from the whirlwind romance to the challenges of being newlyweds surrounded by war, separated, dependent on letters to keep in touch.
I especially loved stories about Dad going A.W.O.L. (absent without leave) to meet my mother in a war-torn village, or the time they had a rendezvous in Marseille under the barn of a French member of the Resistance, who hid resistance fighters beneath a trapdoor covered with hay.
I thought I knew all about Mom and Dad, but it wasn’t until they died that I really met Helen and Frank and was given a window into their emotional and spiritual struggles as young people in love.
They left me an Army trunk filled with their letters, tied in boot laces, signed “With Love Wherever You Are,” and untouched since 1945. They had written over 600 letters, detailing their work, worries, and yearnings, writing 2-3 times a day until the war ended.
It was only after reading those letters that I realized how little I knew about “young Helen” and “young Frank.”
I hadn’t known that my father agonized over every soldier pronounced dead, or that he thought constantly about his love for my mother.
My mom wasn’t sentimental, or so I thought. Dad had hidden the Army trunk in our attic because he knew Mom would burn the letters so no one could read mushy words of love.
But as I read her letters, she showed me thoughts she hadn’t shared: My dear Frankie, Have I told you lately how much I miss you and love you? I’m looking forward to a more permanent location (though, of course, I can’t tell you where that will be).
On one V-mail, mostly blacked out, Dad wrote: My darling Helen, Thanksgiving was lonely. I can’t imagine Christmas without you. But I feel blessed to be able to miss someone as wonderful as you.
After the war, they shared over 50 Christmases, and the love they’d earned during the war grew deeper and more joyful. They never forgot what it was like to be wartime newlyweds, separated for months at a time, with only their letters to keep them together.
What a privilege for me to have peered into their love and sacrifice!
Publishers Weekly Starred Review
WITH LOVE, WHEREVER YOU ARE, A NOVEL
“Mackall provides a fictionalized
account of her parents’ World War II marriage in this
well-researched page-turner. . . . Mackall has . . .
crafted memorable, complex characters who courageously
face the tragedy of war and the difficulties of cultivating
a bond while separated.
While the real people behind the
characters pack additional punch, Mackall’s heartbreaking
narrative and precise prose alone will stay with readers
long after the final page.” (Mar.)
Reviewed on 01/20/2017
Booklist Starred Review
Mackall’s tale of love in the European theater during WWII
makes readers feel as though they’re there with Helen and
Frank. . . No detail is too small, and no emotion is untapped. . .
The no-holds-barred depictions of war, in-depth characterizations,
and suspense make Mackall’s historical novel an excellent choice for libraries of all types.
The Story Behind the Story: With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall – Book Trailer – YouTube: https://youtu.be/LJL59-UsAyo?t=17