Sunday, November 07, 2010
Book Review: The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee
The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee
(Feiwel & Friend 2010)
Sometimes there are stories that float around in my mind that I want to read, but know not within what pages they lie. As soon as I began this book, I knew it was one of those stories I'd been searching out for a long time.
This book is so wonderful on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin praising it. But I'll start with what is always the make or break for me and that is character. The main character, twelve-year-old Meg, is one of those characters you don't want to leave off and who keeps you reading. She's smart, courageous, and altogether real. I love when the child characters are real heroes in middle grade novels. And though set in Victorian London, Meg is not unlike a modern character. After all, a twelve-year-old is a twelve-year-old no matter what scenario you drag them through.
The story moves at great pace, always leaving the reader wanting to push ahead. The central mystery is full of adventure that unravels perfectly. And the book doesn't talk down to the reader. Even at its most complicated, it's direct but never condescending. This is something that I think young readers will really respond to.
The themes of this book are incredibly relevant to our world. In many ways, I think our world has reverted to the industrial and corporate greed of Dickens's time. Child labor is as much a problem today as it was in Victorian times. Just because it's not happening in the streets of Western Civilization's shining cities, it shouldn't be ignored. It's important for children today to be reminded of the cruelty that comes with this practice, especially when the very same practice is partially responsible for enabling most of us to have cheap electronics and clothing.
There isn't anybody I wouldn't recommend this book to. It's one of those rare stories that can transport you into it's world and make it so you want to stay. I can't imagine any reader not cheering Meg on and feeling proud of her each time she succeeds.