A Boy Called Dickens

January 21, 2015 at 12:56 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

* A Weekly Low Down on Kids Books *

P1000704Title: A Boy Called Dickens

Author: Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrator: John Hendrix

As a homeschool family, we’re suckers for the educational picture book.  Especially biographies.

A Boy Called Dickens tells the life of Charles Dickens.  Obviously there are some creative liberties taken with Dickens’ boyhood thoughts and how he might have come to write certain stories, but that happens with any piece of biographical fiction.

As an adult Dickens fan, you recognize characters peeking around corners and haunting the boy’s subconscious as he works at the factory, tells stories to his friend, helps get his family out of debtor’s prison, and finally returns to school.

When I finished read the book, kiddo said, “Let’s read it again.”

I was out of breath from my strained fake British accent.  I’m not an actress, but I like to make story time fun.  It takes more effort than I’d care to admit.  “No, I’m not reading it again right now.”

“Well, I think we should do the same thing with this one – let other kids read it!”

“You mean you recommend it?”

“Yes.” She gave it a literal thumbs up, with a tongue half sticking out the side of her mouth in thought.

Any biographical picture books you can find are great teaching tools, and you might as well fill them with as much information as you can while they’re sponges.  History is easiest to remember as a tale, Dickens world and era becomes one you can touch and taste.  Telling it from his boyhood makes it more relatable to a tiny one.  Whether you’re a homeschool mom, or just someone who reads to your kids when you can, this book is a great resource; it’s colorful, factual, and engrossing.

(If you’re a seasonal reader, this one is perfectly wintery.)

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Madrigal Choir to Perform at HPB Humble

December 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , )

Madrigals at HPB

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Old Curiosity Shop – A Curious Book

December 5, 2012 at 4:09 am (Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , )

the-old-curiosity-shop-movie-poster-1976-1010384193Title: The Old Curiosity Shop

Author: Charles Dickens

Length: The Reader’s Digest version is 523 pages

Chosen for the Half Price Books Humble Book Club for the December discussion to get in the spirit of winter without the over kill of A Christmas Carol, I was incredibly excited about finally getting to this particular Dickens title. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my great expectations (pun intended) and failed to become my new favorite Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby still reigns supreme in my eyes.

With a villainous dwarf, a troupe of dancing dogs, and then some, The Old Curiosity Shop was less about a cozy antique shop (which is what I wanted) and more of a Don Quixote style adventure occurs within a Les Miserables themed tale of woes for an old man/ young girl  runaway team.  Spectacular! Spectacular! from The Moulin Rouge comes to mind: bright colors, forced marriages, evil characters who resemble carnies… it was a bit much for me, but allegorical novels usually are.

Nell was too perfect and met too tragic an end.  Quilp was too disturbing, too evil.  Who makes their wife stand in a corner all night and not move for the sheer pleasure of mental torment?  Not to mention, he’s a dwarf! Give him a good, hard kick and go on your merry way if he’s evil!

Master Humphreys ClockDespite my lack of love for this novel, I think it a great selection for a book club.  There was so much to talk about, so many things worth speculating.  First, the merits of reading it as it was initially released, which was in serial.  I think reading Dickens’ work in weekly installments instead of all at once as a novel brings back a level of magic to his stories that was lost after they were printed and bound in one volume.  Second, at the book club meeting, we had a lengthy discussion of the use of names and archetypes.  Third, the ties to Master Humphrey’s Clock, Dickens’ Wife’s Sister, and a number of other seemingly random connections that bring new light to the book.

The most interesting to me currently is that of Master Humphrey’s Clock, because I own the book and have not yet read it.  Master Humphrey’s Clock was a periodical of short stories about the ‘curiosity shop’ I actually wanted to read about when I began the story of Little Nell.  Master Humphrey is actually the narrator of the first few chapters of The Old Curiosity Shop and then steps out of the picture.

There aren’t many members in our little book club at Half Price Books, and it seems to be on the verge of becoming a gentleman’s [book] club run by a non-gentleman [I’m a lady], but the meetings are open to anyone and everyone the first Monday on the Month at 8 pm.  Snacks are provided and the book discussions so far have been pretty awesome.  Up for discussion in January is Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life.  See you there.

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Dickens on the Strand is Coming Up!

November 24, 2012 at 2:54 am (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Do you have tickets yet?  If not, win some at Half Price Books in Humble!

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How I Waste My Time

November 14, 2012 at 8:13 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I am supposed to be reading The Old Curiosity Shop for HPB Humble’s December Book Club meeting.  I love and adore Dickens so I’m actually very excited about this.  Plus, the weather is perfect for it.  But every time I sit down I find something else has made it into my hands and reading time.  Yesterday I breezed through Unrecounted by W.G. Sebald and Jan Peter Tripp before starting and completing Sarah N. Harvey’s The Lit Report.  Both were short, breezy books, but neither were on my immediate TBR pile.

Unrecounted is a coffee table book shrunk down to the size of a trade paper back, in my opinion.  Housed in poetry, yet I find myself more captivated by the art.  The book is a series of Tripp’s art and Sebald’s verse married together very simply in a manner you might see at an art gallery rather than in a poetry book.  I enjoyed it immensely, but I would have preferred to walk through a perfectly lit hall with the images taking up half the wall, the verse on a plaque nearby, rather than flip through the pages of a book.  Although it would be far less accessible that way, the emotional impact would be far greater.

The Lit Report is a fabulous young adult piece for older teens.  In the style of So Many Books, So Little Time, the story follows a year in the life of Julia questioning the beliefs of those around her and defining her own world view while reading and walking her best friend through a secret teen pregnancy.  Christians are not shown in the greatest light.  In fact I doubt that the ‘Christians’ presented in this book actually are Christians as they tend to be people more focused on beating religion into others or attempting to save themselves from the wrath of God by burying themselves into activities of a highly questionable church, instead of simply believing in the Truth and love of Jesus Christ.  The book is also pretty consistent with how most modern teens live and has its fair share of swearing , misbehavior, and (obviously) sexual activity (after all, one girl is pregnant).  But the novel rings true as a supposed memoir of a girl’s life… while reading it you feel as though this could be someone’s experience somewhere – this could happen.

The Lit Report is something I wouldn’t mind re-reading with the kiddo when she is older and we can discuss the thoughts and opinions of the girls, their actions, and the actions of their parents.  It has valid and necessary topics to discuss: the cruel dogmatic ways of some people who call themselves ‘Christians’ and how they influence the public’s view on what being a Christian means, sexual activity as a teenager, and of course how literature can be a part of your daily life.  It is important to see what someone who ‘walks the walk’ looks like in comparison to somewhat who has hardened their heart and spouts biblical references at people out of context.  It is important to know where you stand as a sexual being and what your expectations and standards are, and finally, how your decisions affect those around you.  The novel really makes you stop to think what the author’s own life experiences with so-called Christians have been.

As for The Old Curiosity Shop, I am a few chapters in and it waits patiently for me on my night stand.  Maybe tonight will be the night… or, maybe I’ll find myself wasting more time.

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Coming This Fall…

August 7, 2012 at 10:28 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

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Exposure is Everything

November 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My whole life I have been enthralled by the world of books.  As a child, I was an avid reader the school librarian could not keep appeased.  I lived in the worlds of Laura Ingalls, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and more.  Although I went to college to study business, as soon as I was out I sought a position in a bookstore; my dream was to run the literature section, and I did.  I worked there for some years, fully stocked up my home collection, became the inventory manager, but then had a baby and so left the company.

We have 17 overflowing bookshelves in our house and books stacked on every available end table in between.  I have been gathering up children’s titles throughout my pregnancy until now for my daughter, preparing for a lust of the written word comparable to mine.

People keep warning me that she may not want to read, she may not like it like I do.  They keep telling me I cannot force my child to enjoy my hobbies.

I am not forcing her.  I am making the written word available.  She sees books everywhere, she sees people enjoying books everywhere.  In addition to our own collection that we read from every day, we visit the public library for group readings and she sees people outside her family unit gathering to enjoy a book.

My daughter is one year old, and already she often chooses Eric Carle over a stuffed animal.  She brings me Rainbow Fish and expects me to read it aloud while she sorts her blocks.  It seems sometimes as though she is not actually listening, just sorting her belongings, until I stop reading and she looks up and points at the book.  My daughter sorts through her picture books and flips through the pages, she even has her own little cushioned rocking chair she climbs into to do it.  She rocks and pretends to read while I lounge and read in our library in our house.

My daughter loves books, and I am both amazed and proud.  I implore the world to make books available to their children from a young age.  Read aloud to them, they cannot help but be interested and thirsty for stories and knowledge.

Get Your Kid Started!

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