Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Review - A Boy Called Dickens

A Boy Called Dickens
by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by John Hendrix
Date: 2012
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: hardcover
Source: library

For years Dickens kept the story of his own childhood a secret. Yet it is a story worth telling. For it helps us remember how much we all might lose when a child's dreams don't come true...

As a child, Dickens was forced to live on his own and work long hours in a rat-infested blacking factory. Readers will be drawn into the winding streets of London, where they will learn how Dickens got the inspiration for many of his characters. The 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth was February 7, 2012, and this tale of his little-known boyhood is the perfect way to introduce kids to the great author. This Booklist Best Children's Book of the Year is historical fiction at its ingenious best.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This somewhat fictionalized biography of a young Charles Dickens is interesting, although I'm not sure I was ever that fascinated with this author in the first place. I've never managed to get through one of his books (even though I was supposed to read Great Expectations in high school). While it's kind of neat to see the inspiration for some of his characters and storylines, there was nothing here that really engaged me and made me feel anything for poor Charles... and he had such a crappy early life that I feel like I should've felt something.

A lot of blame is put on his parents, which is fair... today. But sending your 12-year-old out to work back in those days wasn't unusual. It feels like the author is trying to project 21st-century ethics onto a 19th-century situation, and it comes off as really judgmental.

Also, at one point, Dickens is using his slate and pencil... together. To me, this just screams lack of research. (Slates were used with chalk. And a pencil would've required paper of some sort if you wanted to write with it.)

Overall, I wasn't that impressed with this. It might have more appeal to Dickens fans... although I'm not sure how many of those there are in the picture-book set.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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