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Please Sir, I Want More
Debbie Glade reviews a very special middle grade book today.
Candlewick Press publishes a series of phenomenal historical notebooks through its Templar Books imprint. I had the pleasure of reviewing Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure a while back, and today I am reviewing Charles Dickens: England’s Most Captivating Storyteller by Catherine Wells-Cole ($19.99, Templar Books, Ages 8-12) with a great deal of awe.
I must begin by saying that titles such as these are reason enough to keep printing books the old-fashioned way. The sturdy, meaty volumes are superior in quality in every way. There are envelopes to opens, flaps to flip, sidebars to read and gloriously detailed old-world illustrations to study. The experience a middle grade reader (or middle aged reader, like yours truly) gets from holding this physical book and savoring its contents simply cannot be obtained on a computer. And no one can talk me into believing it can.
As an English major myself who once visited Dickens’ home in England and who played the small role of Charlotte at age 10, in the play Oliver Twist, I can totally appreciate learning about the author’s life and struggles and how that inspired his writing. Dickens is known for his portrayals of difficult Victorian family life, and writes with a great deal of honesty and insight. His writing was so prolific, that at one time, he was considered the most successful novelist in the world. He often worked on numerous novels at a time.
Several fulfilling hours are needed to read Charles Dickens: England’s Most Captivating Storyteller, open all the letters and flaps and delight in all the tidbits and illustrations. Readers will discover facts about Dicken’s: family life; rise to fame; education; interest in writing about crime; fixation on workhouses; orphan characters; settings for his books; interest in changing industry and technology; love of theater; Christmas themes; social life, visits to America and his legacy.
Did you know that Charles Dickens had 10 children with his wife, Catherine, but that they separated in 1858? Separation was practically unheard of during the Victorian era.
This biography celebrates the bicentennial of Dickens’ birth. And with the holidays coming up, I cannot think of a better gift for a middle grade reader or any child who enjoys reading, writing or history. I only wish books like these were available when I was growing up. This one is indeed a keeper.