Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Best of times: The Story of Charles Dickens

Best of times: The Story of Charles Dickens

Peggy Caravantes
For ages 10 to 14
Morgan Reynolds, 2005   ISBN: 978-1931798686

It is hard to imagine a world in which there is no Oliver Twist, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Mr. Pickwick. These characters and the many others which Charles Dickens created are practically a part of our lives and certainly the books that they inhabit have had a profound effect on English literature as a whole.

Charles Dickens’s childhood was a hard one. His father John had no financial sense whatsoever and was often in debt. Indeed when Charles was only twelve years old his father was sent to debtor’s prison and the rest of the family went with him. Charles however remained apart from the family and worked in a blacking factory, living in a room by himself and surviving on the little food he could afford. It was an experience that he never forgot and one which greatly affected his writing later in life.

Charles did not have much a formal education but he made up for it by reading and by observing the world around him. He began working in a legal office when he was fifteen but it was his job working for a newspaper which really got his career off the ground. It soon became clear that Charles was best suited to writing fiction and he began to write stories for newspapers and magazines. Serialized stories were very popular at this time and it wasn’t long before the public were clamoring for Charles’ stories. His tales were funny, witty, often poignant, and they touched on issues which Charles felt strongly about. He was not afraid to attack the establishment in his writings and his words got the attention of the public. His stories were even read by Queen Victoria and they were popular throughout the English speaking world.

Readers who have read, heard on audio, or seen Dickens’ tales performed on stage or on the big screen will be astonished to find out how much hardship Dickens suffered as a young person. They will also learn that he was a very difficult man to get along with and he often fought with those closest to him. Always driven, a perfectionist, and a man who was easily disappointed when reality did not meet up with his expectations, Charles Dickens was as human and as flawed as the characters which he created.