Review also includes:
Dimanche Diller in Danger, ****, 96pp, 978-0007141654
Dimanche Diller at Sea, ****, 96pp, 978-0007141661
The Dimanche Diller trilogy by the late and much missed Henrietta Branford is again available. The first book won the Smarties prize in 1994, for the 6-8 years old category although I feel its plot twists, a multitude of bizarrely named characters and language may be more suitable for a slightly older audience. All three books are pacy fairy tale reads. The first and lengthier book introduces our heroine, orphan Dimanche Diller. It tells of the wicked Valburga Vilemile’s attempts to swindle poor Dimanche out of her inheritance by pretending to be her long lost aunt. Help comes in the form of Dimache’s nanny, Polly Pugh, who becomes her guardian angel. In Dimanche Diller in Danger, Valburga’s rather dim, but ultimately likeable nephew, Wolfie T Volfango, is introduced. He flies over from America, having been summoned by his evil aunt, to conduct a mission to kidnap Dimanche and demand a ransom, whilst Valburga is detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure. This time there’s no Polly Pugh to help out. Dimanche Diller at Sea finds plucky little Dimanche being pursued by a new enemy, Professor Verdigris. Dimanche has to find the one person who can help her get back the stolen deeds to her ancestral home, Hilton Hall.
Just one quibble; my class of 1994 were the Young Judges of the Smarties Prize, when Dimanche Diller was one of the winners. One of the many reasons they liked the book was for its illustrations by Lesley Harker, scattered throughout the book. These have been replaced by ‘Clarice Bean’ look-alikes who do not suit the stories as well. Harker’s illustrations had humour and warmth which is rather lacking in these more modern pictures. In the new versions, the illustrations are restricted to the beginning of each chapter.