Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A World Full of Dickens Stories

Charles Dickens. The author everyone has heard of, but few have read. Many make it an annual tradition to watch "A Christmas Carol" and can probably quote some of Tiny Tim's lines but not many have the fortitude to slog through the full version of that Christmas tale or any other of Dickens' works. 

Offering an abridgement of classic works is nothing new. Many may be familiar with Illustrated Classics still in print today. For many years, the books have made classics accessible to children with their signature style that included one page of [large] print following by a black and white picture on the facing page. They were a staple in our own home library but I was disappointed that some stories were completely altered. And all too soon, as my children's reading skills increased, they soon considered those abridged classics too "babyish."  

A World Full of Dickens Stories is the perfect alternative. While the book is profusely illustrated, it retains a decidely grown-up feel with very dense portions of text. I was pleasantly surprised at the length of each retelling--they expertly captured the essence of not only characters, but also setting and plot. The pictures are a wonderful distraction for younger children being read to. And older readers will find the illustrations a wonderful complement to the story, bringing details more vividly to life. The title page of each story offers a selection of the images within the story. Children can be on the lookout in the story for those illustrations.

Admittedly, Dickens often had some darker elements in his writing, but I felt that those were tastefully handled by the author and would not cause younger readers too much worry. The illustrations are somewhat quirky (almost everyone has a red, pointed nose), and sometimes odd (not exactly sure what that Ghost of Christmas Past is supposed to be--all I could think of was a conehead--which I guess does represent days gone by!), but overall, they were a delightful part of the retellings.  The child-like quality of the illustrations would make a great study for a budding artist to try to replicate.

I closed the book with deep satisfaction; I had read many of the originals in younger years and this was a wonderful way to relive those stories. This wonderful collection provides an excellent rendering of the essential elements of each story and would provide an excellent way to familiarize oneself with characters before indulging in the movie. If a love for a story is kindled in a child, hopefully they will consider reading the original when they are older.

As I read the last paragraph, I wished that more of Dickens works had been included. I certainly hope the author will consider a second volume of Dickens and then branch out to other authors; I would love to see similar retellings of works by Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, and Robert Louis Stevenson. 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of A World Full of Dickens Stories from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.

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