cover image Charles Dickens: The Man Who Had Great Expectations

Charles Dickens: The Man Who Had Great Expectations

Diane Stanley. HarperCollins, $17.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-688-09110-1

As in their previous collaborations ( Good Queen Bess ; Bard of Avon ), Stanley and Vennema bring to life another vital historical figure in their newest, spirited volume. Stanley's typically meticulous gouache art offers accurate portrayals of 19th-century fashions, architecture and interior design. With the exception of a jarring opening sentence (``All his life Charles Dickens would remember a particular day when he was nine years old, and something his father said''), the authors' informal yet authoritative narrative unfolds smoothly. Due to his father's spendthrift ways, Dickens was forced to drop out of school at an early age, work in a blacking factory and lodge in a boardinghouse. Stanley and Vennema point out how these and other experiences provided the settings, plots and characters for the author's oeuvre. Such insights make this biography especially rich. The authors' closing lines (referring to Dickens's novels) easily apply to their own volume: ``When at last you put down the book, it will be regretfully, like saying good-bye to a friend after an exciting adventure together. But you will also know that you can go back again anytime you want, and he will be there, waiting.'' Ages 7-up. (Aug.)