Christmas and the winter season are coming. So here is a Mandy picture story library with a winter setting and plenty of snow, skating, toboggans, skiing and snowmen (but regrettably, no Christmas).
Published: Mandy Picture Story Library #116
Artist: cover – unknown; story – Ana Rodriguez
A heavy spell of snow has brought out the winter sports at St Catherine’s (boarding) School for Girls (St Kit’s for short) of Harbury. Among the winter sports players is Kerry Richards, a promising skater whose mother was an amateur champion. Kerry’s talent is spotted and she is advised to enter the skating contest at the Winter Garden in town.
Unfortunately, the headmistress puts the town out of bounds to all junior school after the unpleasant Hilda Stark and her gang go there without permission, which is the latest in a series of abusing town privileges. There will be no exceptions, she says, so it looks like Kerry is out of the contest. However, Kerry’s friend Maureen Tait comes up with the idea of Kerry donning a disguise and using a false name, Sonia Dalton, in order to enter the contest in secret. Under the guise of Sonia Dalton, Kerry is soon soaring high in the contest heats. But if she is discovered she will be expelled for breaking bounds.
Moreover, they have to constantly find dodges to get past Hilda as much as the school authorities in order to get to the contest and back. From the beginning Hilda suspects something is going on here, and as she is jealous of Kerry she is determined to get to the bottom of it. There are some hijinks as they strive to stay one head of her, such as Kerry skiing while disguised as a snowman. However, Hilda is too sharp and soon suspects a link between Kerry and Sonia. This mysterious skater, Sonia Dalton is also raising intrigue and suspicion from others, including the press. They comment on how secretive she seems to be, which draws even more attention to Kerry that jeopardises her secret.
By the time Kerry has made it to the semi-final, Hilda has completely discovered her secret. But she has to prove it. She lets Kerry and Maureen think she has given up the ghost while she tries to decide what to do next. On the day of the semi-final, Hilda sees Kerry sneak off to the contest. While Kerry skates so brilliantly she makes it to the finals, Hilda goes to the headmistress about it. The headmistress is unavailable, so she reports the matter to a prefect, Deacon.
Deacon sets off on skis to check the matter out, but when she tries to catch up with Kerry she has a bad accident. Kerry cannot leave her, and the school has brought out search parties for them as they have both been reported missing. Eventually an injured Deacon is brought in on a toboggan with Kerry’s help.
Kerry and Maureen have now been found out, of course. They are on tenterhooks while the school decides what to do with them. Complicating things is that the press have gotten hold of Kerry’s secret as well, and it’s made a news sensation. Fortunately the school governors take it all in good part and are quite pleased with the publicity for the school too. Going back for Deacon also counts in Kerry’s favour. So in the end they let Kerry and Maureen off the hook. But the headmistress says that Kerry better win the contest or she might reconsider.
Kerry is still wearing the disguise as she skates in the finals. Nobody says anything about her entering under false pretences (maybe they decided to overlook it considering the circumstances?). The whole school is allowed to come and cheer her on. Even Hilda applauds when Kerry wins the contest, as she has admitted defeat.
The enchanting winter setting and the beautiful skating rendered by Ana Rodriguez add to the charm of the picture library. The story itself follows the common format of a girl trying to compete in a contest against obstacles of some sort (cruel guardians, jealous rivals etc). In this case it is being forced to break bounds after the school issues the harsh ban on town visits, and she risks expulsion if discovered. Added to that, Kerry is up against the jealous Hilda who is responsible for that ban in the first place and is now out to destroy her with it. We are not sure if Kerry is going to get away with it, especially as she does not even realise how close Hilda is on her the whole time. Hilda is way too clever to be thrown off the scent and Kerry and Maureen’s efforts to fool her only serve to reinforce her suspicions. Hilda’s motive for destroying Kerry is that she is simply jealous of her talent. Hilda does not have any of her own and therefore can hardly a serious skating rival, which must add to her jealousy. It is to Hilda’s credit, though, that she accepts defeat gracefully: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”
In the end it comes down to the old format of extenuating circumstances (rescuing the prefect). Plus the school would not want egg on their faces once the press get hold of the story. After all, it would look very bad for them if they did expel Kerry. We really laud the school governors for taking it in good part and looking on it all as pluck and good publicity for the school. One gets the suspicion that the governors are taking it better than the headmistress is.
Ironically, the double life and the publicity generated once it is discovered would really catapult Kerry’s career as a skater far more than if she had simply competed in the contest and won. There is nothing like a huge sensation to jump-start your career.