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Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London Hardcover – November 29, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Note from the Author

Dear Amazon Readers:

You know me as the author of nonfiction books for young readers about remarkable children living through dramatic historical events. I’ve written about orphan train riders, pioneer children, orphans escaping the Vietnam War, young people enduring the horrors of the Civil War, and a boy who survived the Nazi death camps. All were ordinary children who became extraordinary when events in their lives demanded it. Why would I write about someone as famous as Charles Dickens?

He too faced difficult odds as a child. When his father was imprisoned for debt, twelve-year-old Dickens had to work in a factory and care for himself. He knew he could become one of the hungry street children he saw every day in London. He had been taught that the poor deserved their miserable fate, but as one of them, he realized that they were held down by the upper classes, who exploited them for their cheap labor.

As an adult, Dickens used his literary gifts to become a champion of the poor. He wrote vividly and feelingly about the lower classes, including poor children like Oliver Twist. With calculated skill, Dickens engaged readers’ emotions, inspiring them to work for changes to better the lives of the lower classes.

Charles Dickens was one of history’s great social reformers. Once you understand how he accomplished this, you’ll read his books in a whole new way.

I hope you find his story as inspiring as I did.

Yours in good reading,

Andrea Warren



* "Making no assumptions about her readers’ prior knowledge of Dickens, his novels, or the period, Warren writes in a clear, direct, vivid manner that brings it all to life."
Booklist, starred review

"A well-researched biography explores how Charles Dickens used his stories to effect social change for London’s most destitute children... A lively biography and an interesting lens through which to see a venerated author."
Kirkus Reviews

* "The author adeptly makes connections between Dickens’s own experiences and key events and characters in some of his greatest novels... Readers will come away with a real sense of Dickens’s immense influence in both literature and society as well as an appreciation for the compassionate, tireless man who championed Victorian England’s most vulnerable citizens."
School Library Journal, starred review


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1160L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (November 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547395744
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547395746
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By marigold TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a homeschooling Mom, I was eager to receive this book to read with my two children, 8 and 10. Both love literature, and my 10 year old in particular is a fan of biographies and history. As we often read and discuss books together, strict age levels are not a major concern.

When it first arrived, a cursory glance led me to think it might be too disturbing for them. I know something of the plight of children in Dickens' time, and one photo of a ragged homeless boy trying to sleep on a doorstep led me to put the book on a high shelf. I thought: this may be a little too graphic for young children to handle.

But it nagged at me, and I looked again, and am now completely convicted that this book will be very meaningful for my children. Psychologists have written about the paradoxically comforting nature of the Grimm brothers' eerie fairy tales. The child sees what evils might happen, but are NOT happening to them. The child feels secure in the safety of their world, while at the same time, becoming aware of dangers that lurk. Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London has a similar feel. There is, at first, the jarring disequilibrium that results from an awareness of how cruelly children were treated in Victorian England. But with Dickens as their champion, the feeling of having these evils exposed is akin to the relief one experiences in a fairy tale when a spell is broken and the deceptively beautiful stepmother is exposed as an ugly hag.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Charles Dickens is the most well-known English writer of the 19th century. His books like Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations are still assigned reading in schools, and A Christmas Carol is performed in countless theaters every year and innumerable groups gather at Christmastime to spend an evening reading it together. He has become such a part of our culture that his name sometimes replaces that of the Queen when referring to the Victorian Age. And he was such an effective agent of social change that we think he must be exaggerating in his depiction of the poor in his stories. But Dickens had a secret he kept even from his wife and children until after his death: he was once one of those poor and hungry working children and saw their struggles first hand.

Social class in 19th century Britain was the accepted custom and the poor were seen as deserving their lot in life and frequently even unworthy of charity. But through his own experience, Dickens came to know them as real and sympathetic human beings with hopes and dreams, and deserving of pity and help. He was especially concerned for the children, who toiled long hours in unhealthy and dangerous jobs and suffered neglect and abuse while spending their nights huddled together on the cold streets. And Dickens used his growing popularity as a writer to draw attention to their plight, to make others see them as *human* and even likable. His writing is sometimes criticized as "commercial," but he knew how to reach his audiences and soften their hearts.

Let's be clear about one thing - this is a *children's* book. It is not written as a serious biography for an adult audience. The writing is probably aimed at a 9 to 13 year old reading level and is sometimes repetitious.
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Format: Hardcover
In the middle of Charles Dickens's most famous work, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Scrooge encounters two children revealed to him by the Spirit of Christmas Present. They are "yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish." Appalled by their appearance, Scrooge asks, "Spirit are they yours?"

"They are Man's," replies the Spirit. "The boy is Ignorance. The girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing is erased."

"Have they no refuge or resource?" Scrooge asks.

The Spirit responds by turning Scrooge's own words from earlier in the book against him. "Are there no prisons?" he asks. "Are there no workhouses?"

By the end of the book, Scrooge undergoes a change of heart, better understanding the causes and consequences of poverty as well as his obligations to the poor. He could easily stand in for Dickens's well-to-do readers and their indifference to the plight of many of their fellow citizens.

At the time that Dickens was born in 1812, the average lifespan of a Londoner was 27 years; for the poor, 22. Life, even for the wealthy, could be brutal and short, but for the poor it was a misery most of us cannot even imagine. Among the working poor, parents worked up to 16 hours a day for six or seven days a week in jobs that were poorly paid, physically grueling and often dangerous. Half of the children died before reaching their fifth birthday, and for those who survived, they could expect to begin working beside their parents in factories by age 10.

Charles John Huffman Dickens was lucky enough to be born to a middle-class family in a country town.
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