A Boy Called Dickens
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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 . . . As a child, Dickens was forced to live on his own and work long hours in a rat-infested blacking factory. Readers will be drawn into the winding streets of London, where they will learn how Dickens got the inspiration for many of his characters. The 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth was February 7, 2012, and this tale of his little-known boyhood is the perfect way to introduce kids to the great author. This Booklist Best Children's Book of the Year is historical fiction at its ingenious best.
Inside are his cot, a washbasin, and the shelf to hold half of his loaf of bread for morning. Dickens carefully lights a candle and reaches under the thin blanket for his most prized possessions—a pencil and slate. For the first time, he smiles. Soon his drab room disappears. All day long, the story of the runaway boy called David has filled his thoughts. Now he begins to scratch out David’s journey—as the runaway trudges day after day, stopping to sell his jacket for a few pennies to buy
when a child’s dreams don’t come true. A Boy Called Dickens is based on incidents in the life of the novelist Charles Dickens (1812 to 1870). Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England, one of eight children. (Two had died before this story takes place, and the youngest had not yet been born.) Charles Dickens loved books and reading, and in Portsmouth, his parents could afford to send him to school. But when Dickens was ten, the family moved to London and began to struggle financially. Shortly
stories to life. —D.H. For my children, Jack and Annie—remember that stories matter. With gratitude to C.S., J.R.R., and J.K., my favorite British storytellers. — J.H. Title Page Copyright Dedication First Page THIS IS OLD LONDON, on a winter morning long ago. Come along, now. We are here to search for a boy called Dickens. He won’t be easy to find. The fog has crept in, silent as a ghost, to fold the city in cold, gray arms. Maybe the boy is down by the river—the thick,
his own books, which he loved so well, were lugged to the pawnshop long ago. Suddenly Dickens is gone. Hurry! Let’s not lose him in the twisting, turning alleys. There he is, running to that run-down, rickety house by the river. Are we brave enough to follow him? The boy steps inside and coughs in the bitter cold. He tries not to hear the squeaking of the rats that live in the rafters. This is Warren’s, a blacking factory, which makes polish for gentlemen’s boots. Dickens ties on a
ragged apron and climbs onto his stool. Before him is a table crowded with little pots of polish, sheets of paper, string, scissors, and a paste pot. This is what he does: He clips everything close and neat. He dabs paste on the back of a label and sticks it on. Done. He covers one pot of polish with a piece of oilpaper. He adds a piece of blue paper. He cuts some string to tie the papers snugly around the top. Then he starts all over again with the next, and the next, and the next, and