In this engaging and eloquent biography, Andrea Warren takes her young readers on a journey through the streets of London through the lens of Charles Dickens. A world in which children could literally be dropped on the streets and left to die, where poor mothers delivered newborns to workhouses and orphanages in desperate attempts to survive, and where the upper class lacked any kind of charity or compassion.
Full of details that are meant to draw in the young readers, to help them empathize and sympathize with children of Dickens' day, Warren paints a vivid and often horrifying picture that is sure to stay with her readers. Although Charles Dickens is the main throughline for the book, there is also mini-biographies concerning Fredrick Handel, William Hogarth, and Thomas Coram all of which were advocates for the poor and needy. I was pleasantly surprised to learn of Handel's history with the Foundling Hospital in London and Coram's seventeen year journey to open a children's shelter.
Warren is never afraid to speak of issues such as alcoholism, death, starvation, and pregnancy, but any fan of Dicken's will quickly realize that she was not so concerned with the negative aspects of Dicken's character, always quick to gloss over his flaws like abandoning his heartbroken wife although never divorcing her and treating the characters of his books with more affinity than his own progeny.
Most important, Warren finishes the book with an explanation of where our world is today in regards to children and poverty, pulling the reader back into this century and encouraging all to take a hard look at themselves and what they can do to help those less fortunate.