Mary Cadogan rediscovers the well-known character's 'lost' cousin Richmal Crompton's Just William books, now nearly 80 years old, are set for classic status despite some critics' questioning of their social attitudes and modern relevance when they were re-launched in the 1980s.
Now Crompton's Jimmy stories, pitched younger than her William books, are also back in print (Just Jimmy, Macmillan Pounds 9.99). They are funny, spiced with lively dialogue, and are extremely effective when read aloud.
Like William, Jimmy also leads a gang of boys and has a girl "hanger-on", Araminta, who is almost as formidable as Violet Elizabeth Bott. But, at seven, Jimmy is more limited as a hero-adventurer. His fantasies lack the imaginative sweep of William's but they do express aspirations and frustrations children will identify with.
Both Jimmy and Araminta have slight speech defects and Crompton uses these amusingly while giving a satisfying picture of children who become leaders despite their disabilities.
The new Jimmy book has a cover (left) by Colin Backhouse, but inside Macmillan has reproduced Thomas Henry's illustrations, used in the old London evening paper The Star (where the stories first appeared in 1947) but not in the original collections of stories in book form (Jimmy and Jimmy Again, published by Newnes in 1949 and 1951). Crompton's William books are published by Macmillan (Pounds 3.99 each).