Monday, June 24, 2013
A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson
A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson. Illus. by John Hendrix, 2012.
In this brief fictionalized biography of Dickens' childhood, Hopkinson takes us to Old London to follow Charles through his typical day. Readers learn that at age twelve, Dickens had a love for books and a fertile mind that was not nurtured by his family or society. His father was in debtor's prison and most of the family lived there with him. Charles was not able to go to school and instead worked ten hour days in a blacking factory. When his father is released, Dickens continues to work six days a week until his father visits the factory and as a result of hurt pride, returns Charles to school.
Hopkinson uses descriptive, poetic language to tell the boy's bleak story, and follows it up with an author's note that gives greater detail about her subject. In her tale, she shows Dickens as a natural storyteller who entertains his fellow factory workers with exciting stories and is already cooking up what will become David Copperfield. This quiet book will be great to introduce kids to Dickens and give them insight into the origin of many of his characters.
Hendrix's graphite, pen-and-ink and acrylic illustrations show us the grimy poverty, but also bring Dickens' dreams to life, letting readers see the happiness on the boy's face as he tells his stories, makes up his plots and finally returns to school.