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.
Though Charles Dickens s canon includes more stories about rather than for children, this intimate, fictionalized account of the writer s boyhood, from the creators of Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, suggests how his budding literary imagination foreshadowed his future achievements. Hopkinson s conversational prose immediately lands readers on the foggy streets of Victorian London: Come along, now. We are here to search for a boy called Dickens. The 12-year-old boy tells stories to entertain his colleagues at the factory where he works while his family is stuck in debtors prison; one tale features an orphan named David who tries to persuade his Aunt Betsey to take him in. As readers follow Dickens through the streets, where he s surrounded by pickpockets; ladies with shattered hopes; a miserly old man; a young gentleman with great expectations, his inspiration is palpable. Dominated by grays and browns, Hendrix s mixed-media illustrations picture a grim, coal-dusted London, one in which the characters taking shape in Dickens s mind sweep through the streets as blue specters; yet Hendrix also conveys the boy s optimism and creativity during a difficult chapter in his childhood. Ages 4 9. Author s and illustrator s agent: Writers House.