*Starred Review* Looking for a picture-book biography of Dickens to celebrate his 200th birthday in 2012? Look elsewhere, as this isn’t so much a biography as it is a slice of life, and a revealing one at that. This fictionalized account is set during the time 12-year-old Dickens toiled away in a blacking factory while the rest of his family lived in debtors’ prison. To help ease the boredom and stave off hunger, the boy dreams up stories, including a rudimentary seedling of a tale that would become David Copperfield. Even when his family pays off its debt and returns home, the boy who loves books and reading toils away for six shillings a day until shame prompts his father to finally send the boy back to school. Any story of Charles Dickens is also the story of one of the great atmospheres in literary history, and a central spread of the boy walking home after a grueling work day could well serve as a visual definition of the word Dickensian. In this bustling, grimy scene, Dickens threads his way through “pickpockets; ladies with shattered hopes; a miserly old man; a young gentleman with great expectations; a proud, heartless girl; and keepers of old curiosity shops.” Dancing through wide-angled perspectives and tight close-ups, Hendrix’s cleanly inked figures are aptly set against cityscapes covered in sooty charcoals. A fine introduction to the writer, and a terrific, completely unpreachy departure point for discussions of child labor and social reform. Grades 3-5. --Ian Chipman
Booklist Best Children's Book of 2012
Starred Review, School Library Journal, January 1, 2012:
“Hopkinson’s engaging text invites readers to experience the story with her…. full of well-crafted description and detail.”
Starred Review, Booklist, December 15, 2011:
“A fine introduction to the writer, and a terrific, completely un-preachy departure point for discussions of child labor and social reform.”
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2011:
"Both accessible and rich in simile and metaphor, this fictionalized biography concerns the budding novelist’s coming of age, as he ekes out a living (during his family’s stint in debtors’ prison) and pursues his dream."