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*A Boy Called Dickens* by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by John Hendrix
Also by Deborah Hopkinson:

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend)

Into the Firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco, 1906
A Boy Called Dickens
by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by John Hendrix
Ages 5-8 40 pages Schwartz and Wade JaNuary 2012 Hardcover    

Based on the childhood events of Charles Dickens, A Boy Called Dickens was published in 2012 celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth.

The story focuses on the difficult time in his life when Dickens was 12 years old, his family lived in debtor’s prison, and he worked 10 hour days in a shoe polish factory. He is depicted as a small, thin boy with a brilliant imagination and ability to tell stories.

As he works in the factory, he begins to tell co-worker Bob Fagin the story of David Copperfield. Dickens is surrounded by the characters of old-world London, some real, others more spirits or ghosts: an oppressive boss, street vendors, a proud girl, convicts, wealthy men and women, and poor people dressed in rags and soot.

The setting includes horses pulling wagons, small shops, dismal factories, rats in the schoolhouse, and smoke from the chimneys. All these firsthand experiences, sights and sounds permeated his writing and stories. It is when Dickens is finally home in the evenings, writing, that he is most content. An author’s note completes the book.

Deborah Hopkinson writes from an omniscient narrator’s point of view–looking down on the world of Dickens as she tells his story. The extraordinary ink and watercolor illustrations extend the story, depicting not only the unique setting but also the personalities of the characters with remarkable depth and detail.

Adults will enjoy this story on a different level than the children for whom it is intended. Nevertheless, familiarity with Dickens and his work is not critical to understand the story. In fact, the book serves as is an excellent introduction to the author, albeit fictionalized.

Teachers can use this book to initiate a comparison between life today and two hundred years ago–perhaps discussion pollution, child labor, school, etc. Highly recommended.

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  Kristine Wildner/2012 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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