Thursday, February 7, 2013

Happy Birthday Charles Dickens!

If he were alive today, Dickens would be turning 201. So, in honor of him, here are some books about him, by him, inspired by him, or take place in a time and place we now call "Dickensian."


Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London by Andrea Warren. Growing up, Dickens brushed with poverty. Stricken by what he lived through then, and what he witnessed strolling through London's most notorious areas, he decided to use his writing to raise awareness of the plight of the poor. Beyond that, he used his wealth and fame to exact real change. In this lushly illustrated biography, Warren shows what real events in Dickens's life show up in his books and makes a compelling case as to why he was, and remains, such an important literary icon.

The Complete Charles Dickens Collection by Charles Dickens. Is this cheating? Yes. Do I care? No. Personally, I'd start teens with A Christmas Carol (they already know the story), Oliver Twist (theater nerds will know it), Great Expectations, or David Copperfield.

Dodger by Terry Prachett.Oliver Twist's Artful Dodger stars in this tale, as he survives in London, befriending Charles Dickens and dealing with Sweeney Todd, among others.


Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde. In addition to being a Literary Detective in the Real World, Thursday is starting as part of Jurisfiction--the force the polices books from within. Her mentor/partner is the man-hating Miss Havisham, a bad break for Thursday who needs to get Landen un-eradicated. This is the book that made me want to read Great Expectations. Fforde's Miss Havisham is wonderful, especially when she races with Toad from Wind in the Willows or crosses wits with the Red Queen from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The second in a series published for adults, teens who've had to slog through the Western Canon for advanced lit classes will love this one. Start with The Eyre Affair.

The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee. When her brother goes missing, Meg goes out and looks for him. She's surprised to run into Charles Dickens-- plagued by writer's block and insomnia. Orion is not the only child to go missing in London lately and Meg and Dickens are determined to get to the bottom disappearances.

Outrunning the Darkness by Anne E. Schraff. Jarvis's father is having a rough time and taking to drinking. His grandmother is meddling in their business, and the girl he likes has a date with a jerk. The only good thing going on right now is the new play at school, a stage adaptation of Tale of Two Cities. Sydney Carton comes to mean a lot of Jarvis and acts as a way to relate to his father. A good pick for reluctant or struggling readers.


Search of the Moon King's Daughter by Linda Holeman. Emmaline and her family have to leave their middle class life in an English village when her father dies. They start in Manchester, working in the mills, but when her mother crushes her hand in a factor accident, she quickly becomes addicted to laudanum. To keep her in opium, she sells Emmaline's deaf and mute brother to be a chimney sweep in London. An almost certain death sentence, Emmaline follows him, to find a way to save him.

The Agency 1: A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee. Sentenced to hang at the age of 12, Mary is rescued by Miss Scrimshaw's school for girls. Upon graduation, she's recruited into their secret-- a spy ring made of women, because in Victorian London, a woman who knows her place is in the perfect place to learn everything. Lee's a master at working in the details of daily life and the city, without it ever overwhelming the story. The first in a series, follow it with The Body at the Tower.

Folly by Marthe Jocelyn. This story alternates between two main voices, Mary, unwed and pregnant, and James, a young boy at the Foundling hospital. Mary's story tells us how James got there, James tells us what happens next as he uses his wits to survive in the brutal world of the Foundling Hospital.

I think of many retellings of Dickens on FILM, (Especially Christmas Carol) but had a hard time for BOOKS. What am I missing? What's your favorite Dickens story?

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  1. One book that was published in 2011 is The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy.

  2. Oooo. I didn't know about that one! Thanks!


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