First Modern Classics
Dimanch Diller trilogy
Pages: 127 pages
Finished: June 3, 2010
First Published: 1994, (FMC edition, 2010)
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Dimanche was three years old when Polly Pugh arrived at Hilton Hall, the house her parents had lived in before they were lost at sea when she was just a baby.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.
Reason for Reading: Specifically I was intrigued with the publisher's new list under the title of "First Modern Classics" aimed at younger readers. Originating from the UK house the titles on this list, which started last year (2009) are a unique selection for North American readers. The plot of this title intrigued me
A delightful story with a plot that has become somewhat overdone since this book was written especially in the form of Lemony Snicket who wrote his first book five years after this book was written. However, I still found this story to be fresh and fun, reading it in hindsight. This was my first time reading the book and to tell the truth had never heard of the author previously. Even though she has a large backlist of books, has a British Children's fiction award named after her, and this book specifically won, at the time, a prestigious UK children's award The Smarties Book Prize, which, however, is now defunct.
The story features Dimanche, an orphan, raised in a very small nunnery until at three years old a letter arrives from a supposed aunt, a fellow Sister from a French order of Nuns. She has been given a reprieve to look after her niece while she grows up and they move into the family home. The reader is shown right from the start that this is not really Dimanche's aunt but the horrible Valburger Vilemile who has found out about Dimanche and is impersonating the aunt so she can collect the millions of pounds when Dimanche reaches the age of consent. Of course, if she were to die sooner .... that could only make V.V.'s life simpler since she can't stand even the sight of children. Dimanche goes through a series of nannies who just can't stand the treatment of Dimanche or themselves until her beloved Polly Pugh arrives as nanny and Polly is determined that this child shall be seen to properly and loved.
A delightful romp! All sorts of shenanigans going on with Valburger Vilemile's attempts to put Dimanche in harm's way. Then when her trickery is discovered Polly and Dimanche come up with clever schemes to outwit the villain. It is pure delicious, rollicking fun all the way. I truly loved this one. Fortunately there are a couple of sequels as I'd like to see how Dimanche gets on now. The book is illustrated with chapter heading drawings. These were added in 2002, but I cannot find any earlier illustrator listed. The drawings are cute and a welcome addition to the story. While most of them are original, there does come a point when several illustrations do start to repeat themselves which is a bit of a cop-out. If you are going to add illustrations to an already published book, then do it 100%.
Naturally enough, I expected this to be a girl's book. There are no male character's except for the police chief whose part is not very major. But the whole time I was reading I kept thinking how much my son would enjoy this book. Throughout the book one never really thinks about whether Dimanche is a boy or a girl and I think the author did a splendid job in creating a female character that boy readers are going to be drawn to just as much as girls. I shall definitely be moving this book over to his bedside table pile.
Finally, an aspect of the "First Modern Classics" series I really like is first at the beginning there is a short paragraph by a famous author called "Why You'll Love this Book" which Vivian French provides in this instance. Then at the back there is "More Than a Story" section with its own Table of Contents. This one includes information on real famous orphans, two limericks about aunties and uncles, a magic trick, plenty of jokes and puzzles (and these do have a connection to the story you'll find after reading) and a recipe for a Traveler's Tart (this relates to one of their disguises) . Not quite as impressive as I found this section in "I, Houdini" but still worthy of inclusion. The late Henrietta Brandford is a delightful find as a new author for me, a shame she didn't make a name for herself in North America. Hopefully, this book will have others this side of the pond searching out her other titles along with me.