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Friday, August 17, 2012

Charles Dickens, written by Catherine Wells-Cole. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2011. $23.00 ages 10 and up

"Dickens wrote very directly about family life, with detailed observations of the comedy and tragedy of the home, often featuring a warmth and tenderness that was missing from his own experiences. His well-drawn portrayals of family life made his work extremely popular in its own age and have also helped it stand the test of time."

This is another of those books that will captivate and intrigue readers as they pore over its pages. As with all nonfiction, it can be read in any way chosen...front to back, hop around, most interesting parts first. That is what makes it fun and so interesting to those who want to know more about Charles Dickens.

As I have mentioned many times before in this blog, we are blessed to be able to share an amazing number of picture book biographies with children of all ages. I am not afraid to date myself when I tell you that biography reading for me was a long and often boring chore. More than likely I was reading about someone I didn't even have a passing interest in, and the biography didn't help to engage me further. Today, however, there is a plethora of books written to engage our children and to heighten their interest in people who made a difference in our world.

When the design of such books is as enjoyable as this one, Charles Dickens is sure to gain new fans for his works. The many flaps, envelopes and fold-out pages attract attention and provide charming information to all who read it. It reads like a tableau of scenes and memories of the writer's life. In reading about Dickens, they will also learn much about Victorian times. The author ensures expert knowledge about London, the industry that encouraged growth and development, the conditions under which the Dickens family lived, even Christmas of the time.

There are maps, book covers, an occasional letter. Readers will be delighted to spend time opening those flaps, poring over maps and plans, reading what is included in this well-researched and exquisitely designed biography. Once begun, anyone who reads this book will find it difficult to leave.  There is much to smile about as it captures the very heart of the man we have come to know for his often harsh and uniquely familiar stories of his life and times.        

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