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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Nobody's Child: The Adventures of Remy
by Hector Malot
Age Range: 9-11
Found mysteriously abandoned as a baby in Paris by Barberin, the stonemason, Remy lives with his foster mother in the village of Chavenon, France. Although they are poor Remy is well-loved and cared for by Mother Barberin while her husband is away working in Paris. After an accident forces Barberin to return home, he sells the eight-year-old Remy to Vitalis, a travelling street musician. Vitalis becomes a father-figure and guide to Remy; he teaches him to play the harp and become part of his troupe along with Joli-Coeur, a monkey and three dogs called Capi, Zerbino and Dolce as they perform in market places throughout France.
Tragedy and hardship is never far away as Remy works as a street musician, a gardener and down a mine. Along the way he meets people of great kindness: Vitalis, the Milligan and Acquin families as well as those who want to take advantage of him. He forms a great friendship with Mattia, a boy he meets in Paris, and together they travel across France making a living from playing their music. Remy almost discovers too late who he really is, but finally uncovers the secret of his birth and why he had been abandoned as a foundling.
Nobody’s Child is a French children’s classic by Hector Malot (1830-1907), first published as Sans Famille in 1878. The story has been a favourite for generations and has been filmed and adapted for television many times. This English version from Hawthorn Press has been abridged and translated by Beatrys Lockie.
In many ways Nobody’s Child has similarities to Dickens, Oliver Twist written in 1838 forty years before; particularly ‘Garofoli’ whose ‘Fagin-like’ den where children are forced to steal for him is reminiscent of the cruelty of Bill Sikes. Similarly, when the story moves to London and Remy becomes acquainted with his new family, their unlawful way of life, the pick-pocketing of his siblings together with the description of abject poverty and dismal smog-ridden streets.
A very readable classic adventure that now available in a new English translation for a whole new generation to enjoy.