cover image The Child's Story

The Child's Story

Charles Dickens. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83482-0

Rendered in oil pastels, Chan's (Music for the Tsar of the Sea) softly focused, shadowy paintings at once capture a Victorian sensibility and the ethereal, romantic tenor of Dickens's lyrical parable about the cycle of life. Marked by a verbal economy not usually associated with this novelist, the narrative describes a traveler who sets out upon a ""magic journey [that] was to seem very long when he began it, and very short when he got halfway through."" Along the way he makes several stops: he spends time with a beautiful child who ""is always at play""; a handsome boy who is ""always learning"" (but finds time to partake in ""the merriest games that ever were played""); and later a young man who announces, ""I am always in love."" Chan's illustrations hint at the story's outcome as he charts the resemblance between the boy, the young man and finally the old man who is ""always remembering. Come and remember with me!"" On a final spread, all the traveler's friends reappear and bring the tale full circle. Though youngsters may need shepherding through this unabashedly sentimental journey, readers young and old will appreciate Dickens's vision and honesty, as well as Chan's evocative artwork. All ages. (Oct.)