So, according to Claire Tomalin, today’s children don’t have the attention span for Dickens? The television’s on in the corner so we can’t really concentrate on the argument other than to say that Dickens himself, who objected to both memorialisation and cruelty to children, would not have condoned force feeding his dense prose to young readers. The truth is that some children will take to Dickens, and others won’t; it was probably exactly the same when Tomalin was at school. In the meantime, here’s our selection of titles to help them on their way.
Oliver Twisted by J D Sharpe (Electric Monkey) - the boy who asked for gore, set amidst zombies, vampires and ghouls.
Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver (Hodder & Stoughton )- tragic orphan, wicked stepmother, metaphysics - this lovely story for younger children has it all.
Six Days by Philip Webb (Chickenhouse) - a dystopian novel set in a richly evoked post-apocalyptic London
The Eddie Dickens Trilogy by Philip Ardagh (Faber) - ah, Mad Uncle Jack and Even-Madder Aunt Maud, Malcolm the stuffed stoat; Mrs Cruel Streak and St Horrid’s Home for Grateful Orphans. This was the book that launched a thousand imitators and it’s still the best.
The Black Book of Secrets by F E Higgins (Macmillan). Ludlow Fitch, Jeremiah Ratchett and Joe Zabbidou - Higgins out-Dickens Dickens when it comes to names in this stylish Gothic fairy tale about a pawnbroker who buys guilty secrets.