Monday, April 5, 2010

hunting for hunter

Okay. Hello this morning from wonderful, spectacular New York City.

Dare I say, I think they got rid of the recent spate of foul weather just for our arrival.

But, speaking of weather, last Wednesday we had an unusually brisk cold snap. It even snowed a bit at my house. It's not completely uncommon for a bit of snow at the beginning of April, but the nice thing about it was that it was probably one of my last opportunities for a while to light a blazing fire and sit beside it, reading a book.

And the book I read was The Haunting of Charles Dickens, by my friend, Lewis Buzbee, which is about as perfect a fireside book as you can get. I mean, what could possibly be better than reading Dickens, sitting by a fire, while snow is falling on the other side of your window?

And the book is so much like reading Dickens, too, in the quirkiness of situation and character, the distinct rhythm and pattern of the voice. It made me remember how much I loved reading Dickens when I was young.

But it kind of made me sad, too. Kids just do not read Charles Dickens in school these days. A big part of the explanation lies in the fact that so few teachers (especially newer teachers) had ever been required -- or expected -- to read Dickens during their schooling.

And that's a sad thing.

And the book is all things Dickensian: it is funny and sad, it has a whacking good adventure with mysterious and unpredictable turns, and, naturally, disguises. It is the story of Meg Pickel as she attempts to unravel the mystery of her fifteen-year-old brother's abduction with the assistance of Charles Dickens, a family friend who is also on a hunt of his own.

In the same way that Lewis's Steinbeck's Ghost created opportunities for young readers to discover and connect with John Steinbeck, The Haunting of Charles Dickens accomplishes these same objectives... but -- allow me to say -- even better than Lewis's preceding MG/YA novel did. So, this is really something else.

Congratulations, Lewis.

So, here's my plan (and I will remind you all of this in about six months, because The Haunting of Charles Dickens will be released during the chilly month of November):

Dads and Moms: start a fire in the fireplace. Ask your children to sit nearby. Then, read aloud to them from Charles Dickens. It might be the right time of year to read A Christmas Carol, but, as Meg Pickel would likely agree, Great Expectations would be possibly better. Or, maybe you should consider reading them The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee.

I'll just bet they'll want to hear something else from the Great Man if you do.