Deborah Hopkinson, author
John Hendrix, illustrator
Schwartz & Wade Books, Historical Fiction, 2012
Suitable for: Ages 5 and up
Themes: Young life of Charles Dickens, Child Labor, History, Imagination
Opening/Synopsis: “This is old London, on a winter morning long ago. Come along, now. We are here to search for a boy called Dickens. He won’t be easy to find.” Standing in a doorway is a 12-year-old Dickens, dressed in a worn jacket. He’s skinny and cold and watching schoolboys carrying their books to class. Instead of joining the boys, Dickens heads to a blacking factory, where he packages polish for gentlemen’s boots 10 hours a day. To deal with the bitter cold and boredom a friend asks Dickens to tell a story. Dickens is an imaginative boy who loves to spin a story and misses his books that were sold to pay a family debt. His most prized possessions are a pencil and slate. He begins to sketch out the story of an orphan boy named David. eventually his father is able to send Dickens back to school and Dickens becomes a writer. His dream did come true.
Why I like this book: Little was known about novelist Charles Dickens (1812-1870) as a child. Deborah Hopkinson sheds light on his boyhood and his struggles and dreams as it is easy to see that his books are a window on his own life. His youth left him with an ambitious drive to pursue those dreams at all cost. That’s why this is such an important story for young people — to never let go of their dreams. John Hendrix’s illustrations are rich in detail, expressive and beautifully capture the time period. You can see glimpses of Dickens in some of his characters.
Resources: What better way to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth than to introduce this famous author. It is the holiday season and a perfect time to read A Christmas Carol or Oliver Twist at home or in the classroom. Talk about London in around 1825 and child labor. Talk about the child labor that still exists in the world. There is a Note about the book at the end which has information. Check out Deborah Hopkinson’s website for more information.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.