The Diddakoi (aka Gypsy Girl)
1972, The Viking Press
Kezia - Kizzy - Lovell is a half-gypsy orphan being raised by her grandmother in a horse-drawn wagon. But Gran is old and they've stopped travelling, camping permanently in an orchard owned by the reclusive Admiral Cunningham Twiss. When Gran dies and Kizzy's remaining relatives plan to sell her old horse, Joe, to the knacker, she appeals to the Admiral for help. With Joe taken care of, however, Kizzy is in need of a home. She reluctantly agrees to go live with Miss Brooke, but battles between them, and between Kizzy and her suspicious schoolmates, throw her future into question.
Kizzy did not have toys, except an old skipping rope that Gran had bought with some jumbler - travellers are forever buying and selling things. Kizzy did not need toys when she had Joe. She combed him with an old curry comb and brushed his mane and tail; she would sit beside him in the grass, giving him buttercups, of which he was fond; if she lay down beside him he would sometimes push her with his nose; the breath from his nostrils was warm and now and again he would gently lick her face. A horse's lick is clean to a traveller.
Rumer Godden had a unique writing style, one where sentences wend onward until you'd think it was impossible for them to sustain their own weight. But they do. Her simultaneously romantic and practical view of childhood is also unique; her children are both brutal and pragmatic, in a way I do not find completely believable or appealing, but which is a refreshing change from the "What's wrong with poor little Devon that he stuck a pencil through his classmate's head?" approach.
The Diddakoi was re-issued in 2008 by Macmillan, which has also re-issued several other Godden books for children.
The Diddakoi was made into a TV-movie called Kizzi for the BBC.
About The Author
Other Children's Books by Godden
Godden wrote several books about dolls and doll houses.
The Doll's House
The Fairy Doll
The Story of Holly and Ivy
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower
Home is a Sailor
The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle
Mr McFadden's Hallowe'en
The Rocking Horse Secret
The Kindle of Kittens
The Dragon Og
The Valiant Chatti-Maker
The Little Chair
Listen to the Nightingale
The Kitchen Madonna