A lively biography and an interesting lens through which to see a venerated author.

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CHARLES DICKENS AND THE STREET CHILDREN OF LONDON

A well-researched biography explores how Charles Dickens used his stories to effect social change for London’s most destitute children.

Warren explores how Dickens’ personal experience with poverty and his astute observations of the poor informed his writing. He then used his stories to advocate for improvements in the lives of the most wretched of London’s street and institutionalized children. Dickens’ determination to overcome his family difficulties through perseverance and talent are on display. The author further develops the theme of artist as reformer/activist by including the stories of composer George Frederic Handel and painter William Hogarth and their support for the Foundling Hospital, a charity that years later would benefit from Dickens’ attention. Warren’s account is full of detail regarding the desperate plight of London’s children during the 19th century and makes clear how little help was available. She uses examples from Dickens’ work and the awareness created by his compelling storytelling as factors that opened the eyes of many and resulted in societal changes. In addition, she connects this history to current problems in many places in the world. “What Charles Dickens wrote 170 years ago remains true today: life is difficult for the poor—and is most difficult of all for poor children.”

A lively biography and an interesting lens through which to see a venerated author. (source notes, bibliography, author's note, index) (Nonfiction 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-39574-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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A loud, cynical cash grab—far from amazing.

THE AMAZING BOOK IS NOT ON FIRE

THE WORLD OF DAN AND PHIL

A couple more YouTube stars write a book.

Howell, who goes by "danisnotonfire," and "AmazingPhil" Lester are the latest YouTube stars hoping to cross over to the world of books. Instead of crafting a memoir or adapting their videos into a fictional series, the duo have filled these 225 pages with bold graphics, scatological humor, and quirky how tos that may entice their fan base but will leave everyone else out in the cold. It contains a wide variety of nonsense, ranging from Phil's chat logs to information on breeding hamsters. There's an emoji-only interview and some Dan/Phil fanfiction (by Howell rather than a fan) and even a full double-page spread of the pair's unsuccessful selfies. All this miscellany is shoveled in without much rhyme or reason following introductory pages that clearly introduce the pair as children, leaving readers who aren't in on the joke completely out of the loop. The authors make no attempt to bring in those on the outside, but in all honesty, why should they? The only people buying this book are kids who already love everything Dan and Phil do or clueless relatives in desperate search of a gift for the awkward teens in their lives. The book's biggest fault is its apparent laziness. It feels like something slapped together over a weekend, with no heart or soul.   

A loud, cynical cash grab—far from amazing. (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-93984-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2015

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FIVE THOUSAND YEARS OF SLAVERY

Sandwiched between telling lines from the epic of Gilgamesh (“…the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride, / he uses her, no one dares to oppose him”) and the exposure of a migrant worker–trafficking ring in Florida in the mid-1990s, this survey methodically presents both a history of the slave trade and what involuntary servitude was and is like in a broad range of times and climes. Though occasionally guilty of overgeneralizing, the authors weave their narrative around contemporary accounts and documented incidents, supplemented by period images or photos and frequent sidebar essays. Also, though their accounts of slavery in North America and the abolition movement in Britain are more detailed than the other chapters, the practice’s past and present in Africa, Asia and the Pacific—including the modern “recruitment” of child soldiers and conditions in the Chinese laogai (forced labor camps)—do come in for broad overviews. For timeliness, international focus and, particularly, accuracy, this leaves Richard Watkins’ Slavery: Bondage Throughout History (2001) in the dust as a first look at a terrible topic. (timeline, index; notes and sources on an associated website) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-88776-914-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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