Charles Dickens

Overview

Charles Dickens is one of the world's greatest and best loved writers. To read Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, or Nicholas Nickleby is to be drawn into a society that still seems fresh and real today: nineteenth-century London with its extraordinary extremes of wealth, progress, poverty, and despair. Dickens captures it all in plots that are by turns wildly comical, wonderfully melodramatic, and tragic to the point of tears. In his writing and later, in his dramatic readings, Charles Dickens was a master ...

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Overview

Charles Dickens is one of the world's greatest and best loved writers. To read Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, or Nicholas Nickleby is to be drawn into a society that still seems fresh and real today: nineteenth-century London with its extraordinary extremes of wealth, progress, poverty, and despair. Dickens captures it all in plots that are by turns wildly comical, wonderfully melodramatic, and tragic to the point of tears. In his writing and later, in his dramatic readings, Charles Dickens was a master showman, mesmerizing the whole world.

His novels are stuffed to bursting with unforgettable characters like Mr. Micawber, Ebineezer Scrooge, and Little Nell. Most affecting are his portraits of children abused and abandoned by the Industrial Age. David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and Tiny Tim are mirrors that reflect the twisted values of their time.

The twists of Dickens's own life encompassed childhood suffering as well as international acclaim. When he was twelve, his father was consigned to debtors' prison and Charles to working in a blacking factory. Not twelve years later The Pickwick Papers would propel him toward literary stardom.

In their lovingly researched, incisively written biography, illustrated with a lushness and attention to period detail of which Dickens would have approved, Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema illuminate his inspirations, his impact on nations of readers, and his gleaming genius that has only brightened with time.A "handsome book on the beloved novelist. Dickens's troubled, well-documented life has plenty to interest children....Lucid, accessible....A lively, entertaining story for children who enjoy A ChristmasCarol in its various guises....A must."—Kirkus Reviews. Bibliography.

Author Biography:

Diane Stanley is the recipient of the 2000 Washington Post/Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award for the body of her work. "There is no one like Diane Stanley...for picture-book biography — she brings to the genre an uncanny ability to clarify and compress dense and tricky historical matter, scrupulous attention to visual and verbal nuances, and a self-fulfilling faith in her readers' intelligence" (Publishers Weekly). Diane Stanley and her husband, Peter Vennema, have worked together on other books in Diane's award-winning biography series, including Shaka: King Of The Zulus, Bard Of Avon: The Story Of William Shakespeare, and Charles Dickens: The Man Who Had Great Expectations.

Diane has also illustrated The Last Princess: The Story Of Princess Ka'iulani Of Hawaii, by Fay Stanley, and she has written and illustrated Michelangelo, Peter The Great, Joan Of Arc, Leonardo Da Vinci, Cleopatra and Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter. Her first novel, A Time Apart, was selected as one of 1999's Top 10 First Novels by ALA Booklist. Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema live in Houston, Texas.

Follows the life and writing career of the popular nineteenth-century English novelist.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As in their previous collaborations ( Good Queen Bess ; Bard of Avon ), Stanley and Vennema bring to life another vital historical figure in their newest, spirited volume. Stanley's typically meticulous gouache art offers accurate portrayals of 19th-century fashions, architecture and interior design. With the exception of a jarring opening sentence (``All his life Charles Dickens would remember a particular day when he was nine years old, and something his father said''), the authors' informal yet authoritative narrative unfolds smoothly. Due to his father's spendthrift ways, Dickens was forced to drop out of school at an early age, work in a blacking factory and lodge in a boardinghouse. Stanley and Vennema point out how these and other experiences provided the settings, plots and characters for the author's oeuvre. Such insights make this biography especially rich. The authors' closing lines (referring to Dickens's novels) easily apply to their own volume: ``When at last you put down the book, it will be regretfully, like saying good-bye to a friend after an exciting adventure together. But you will also know that you can go back again anytime you want, and he will be there, waiting.'' Ages 7-up. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Beverly Kobrin
This literate, beautifully illustrated and designed volume exemplifies biography for young readers at its very best.
Children's Literature - Deborah Zink Roffino
Told with warmth and humor, the adventures of Charles Dickens are fascinating for those who have read or seen a Dickens work, or those who plan to do so. The shadowy nightmares that mark the lives of so many Dickens characters were created from real people and events in the writer's own life. Here is the story of a truly gifted man with boundless energy and countless talents; an inspiration for all young writers.
Bill Ott
Writing literary biography for children is no picnic. Authors, after all, don't usually lead very exciting lives, at least on the surface, especially when compared to the sports heroes, pop-music idols, and other contemporary celebrities who capture most kids' imaginations. Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema recognize the demands of their audience as well as any authors in their specialized field. In "Bard of Avon", "Booklist"'s 1992 Top of the List winner for nonfiction, and now in "Charles Dickens", they have picked their subjects carefully: Shakespeare offered the opportunity for an engaging history lesson on the early days of theater, and Dickens, already familiar to many kids through "A Christmas Carol", boasts a life almost as melodramatic as his novels. Stanley and Vennema make the most of their material, telling Dickens' story succinctly but with a flair for the dramatic, emphasizing the happy childhood turned nightmare when young Charles' father was sent to debtors prison, and Charles was forced to quit school and toil in a blacking factory Stanley's illustrations are every bit as striking here as they were in "Bard". The full-color, full-bleed gouache paintings are rich with Victorian detail, whether it's a pub full of well-fed, fancily dressed gentlemen chuckling as they read "Pickwick Papers", or the solitary Dickens making his melancholy way through the moonlit streets of London. Though her colors are soft, almost muted, Stanley's renderings of busy street scenes or crowded drawing rooms still capture the sense of unbridled energy that Dickens felt so keenly in Victorian England. The attempt to incorporate Dickens' characters, his imaginary children, into the artwork, though a daring experiment, is only partially successful. Stanley should be applauded for the concept, as it effectively mimics the way Dickens' creations became a vivid part of their author's life, often more real than many of the people around him. On the page, however, the characters, drawn in hazy silvers or pale blues, look like the kind of cliched ghosts who haunt Mrs. Muir or Topper--hardly an appropriate fate for Fagin or Uriah Heep In general, it's only when Stanley or Vennema bump up against Dickens' dark side that they stumble. Writing about Shakespeare, of whom we know relatively little, the problem of what to say and what not to say was rarely an issue. With Dickens, about whom we know much, the problem is thorny indeed. Stanley and Vennema mention Dickens' failed marriage and his seeming preference for his wife's sister (concluding only that things might have been better if Mrs. Dickens had been a more accomplished housekeeper), but they ignore altogether the presence in Dickens' life of actress Ellen Ternan, with whom the novelist shared a strange, secret, possibly asexual relationship that lasted nearly 15 years. Why expunge Ternan from Dickens' life in the same way that propriety-conscious adult biographers banished her from their work for generations? Not, surely, to spare impressionable minds the "ugliness" of an extramarital relationship--not in an era when children's fiction routinely deals with sexual issues and with "alternative" families of every kind. Whatever the motive, the effect of ignoring the most important person in the second half of Dickens' life is to distort the emotional reality of that life. For example, Dickens' last years at Gad's Hill Place, portrayed here as the final realization of young Charles' great expectations, were in fact a stressful, crazed period of jumping between lives, of secret train rides between Gad's Hill and Ternan's home in London. Certainly one doesn't expect a nuanced exploration of complex relationships in a 48-page biography for children, but one doesn't expect a sanitized life either Meshing the subject with the audience is perhaps the trickiest part of all writing, and it's never more tricky than in children's biography. Stanley and Vennema err by locking Ellen Ternan in the closet, a very Victorian fate, incidentally, right out of "Jane Eyre", but they succeed in making of Dickens' life a legitimate contender for the attention of kids with Michael Jordan on their minds.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765472847
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/7/1998
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 48

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