From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 5-8–Opening with Dickens's touring life and final London performance, Rosen then turns to the writer's humble beginnings and nomadic childhood, paying particular attention to the people he met, the sights he saw, and the situations he endured–all of which were to find their way into his writings. The author looks at 1800s London, pointing out the societal changes that were to influence Dickens's progressive thinking. He investigates the writer's best-known works: A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield
, and Great Expectations
. For the first three, Rosen retells the basic plots and clarifies the major characters; he covers the fourth work in greater depth, giving a fairly detailed yet age-appropriate analysis of the characters and of the meaning behind some of Dickens's literary choices. The author excerpts relevant sections from the novels and explores the writer's legacy. Ingpen's marvelous acrylic illustrations, whether small inserts or color spreads, lend a sense of realism to the prose, particularly in the details of period dress. The full-page portraits of some of the major characters give clear insight into their physical attributes and emotional realities. Though geared to a similar audience as that of Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema's excellent Charles Dickens
(HarperCollins, 1993), this title has merit for elucidating some of the literary devices for which Dickens is known. It will be a welcome addition to libraries looking for new ways to promote his classics, particularly as Christmas approaches and a new film version of Oliver Twist
is released.–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
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*Starred Review* Gr. 4-7. The worlds of Charles Dickens, both his personal one and the ones he created, come alive in this terrific book, which will entice readers to his works. After a dramatic introduction that depicts Dickens' last performance onstage, the savvy Rosen moves to a lengthy retelling of Dickens' growing up, a tale as gripping as any of his stories. With children now hooked, he discusses important influences on Dickens--London life, political and social upheavals, the revolution in publishing--and follows with concise retellings of some of Dickens' works, with emphasis on Great Expectations.
Adults will be familiar with that story and with A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist,
and David Copperfield,
but it's difficult to tell the extent to which Rosen's plot digests will intrigue children. That said, it's hard to resist his narratives, especially when he inserts himself and his opinions ("I won't say how this all works out in the end"). In fact, the personal writing style, which draws readers close, is as appealing as any other aspect of the work. Ingpen's handsome paintings range from lavish two-page spreads to spot art decorating the oversize format. The landscapes sometimes trump the portraits, as in the case of Miss Havisham's, which doesn't quite capture the character's spirit. Even so, the art adds to the richness of a volume designed and written with care. A time line is appended. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved