By Deborah Hopkinson and John Hendrix
Schwartz & Wade Books, $17.99, 32 pages
A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson and John Hendrix tells the story of a poor twelve year old boy who works ten hours per day in a blackening factory and passes the time by telling little Bob Fagan stories to keep him awake and retain some semblance of childhood. Young Dickens lives alone as his family is in debtor’s prison. With no means to pay for school, Dickens leaves work and travels through the dark and gloomy streets of whimsically illustrated Old London, followed by the characters of his future stories. These ghostly figures illustrate the ever-lingering presence of a young boy’s dream and destiny, for this young boy will one day become the famous writer, Charles Dickens.
In their uplifting children’s book, Hopkinson and Hendrix tell a fictional tale based on a true story. As they explain in their afterword, “For years Dickens kept the story of his own childhood a secret. Yet it is a story worth telling. For it helps us remember how much we all might lose when a child’s dreams don’t come true.”
Reviewed by Emily Davis