Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (published serially from 1838-1839) meets the Dickensian stereotype of a very long book. I began reading it when my daughter was newborn and I finally finished it, now that she’s three and half.

Nicholas Nickleby is definitely not my favorite Dickens novel. In some respects it’s obvious that its a early novel by the master of complex plots. It has many different plots and subplots and an abundance of clever characters, and yet there’s something that seems to be missing to tie the whole novel together. It simply was not an enjoyable read for me after the first few hundred pages.

That’s not to say I regret reading it. I’m always glad to read another Dickens novel, I really do enjoy both the complex and the superficial and stereotypical characters that are presented in a Dickens’ novel.

Nicholas Nickleby is about the once wealthy Nickleby family, which upon the death of the father of the family is left impoverished due to his unwise investments. Mrs. Nickleby is a ridiculous woman. Nicholas is of course the eldest, and since he is college educated and the new “man of the family”, he must find a way to support his mother and sister. Nicholas’s beautiful and innocent sister, named Kate, also needs taking care of. Upon the reversal of their fortunes, the Nicklebys first turns to their estranged uncle, Ralph Nickleby, in London, who is wealthy, in hopes that he will help them become established in some way with their new, less stable, future.Continue Reading

Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas

Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas is an appropriate book for reading just before our country’s Independence Day. It focuses on a Japanese American family during the early part of World War II, when thousands of people of Japanese descent were relocated to special “camps”. It is about the discrimination against Japanese, but even more, the main character must come to terms with what it means to be American and if she is happy with her place and the opportunities before her.Continue Reading

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan is a powerful story about a rich and spoiled Mexican girl whose sudden impoverishment in the 1930s takes her in to the migrant worker camps of California. It teaches much about the Great Depression as well as discrimination during that period. Continue Reading

Two Chapter Books about Africa by Atinuke

Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke is a series of short chapter books (actually related short stories) about a young girl’s lifestyle in Africa and her family.  I really enjoyed Anna’s playful and delightful personality. She is a character to enjoy. Her large family living in an African city is quite different from those of children in the USA, and I think that is a fabulous way for kids to get to know another culture. Even Anna herself must earn about her own privilege in the course of this first book: she decides to make money selling the oranges from her family’s tree, only to learn that the street children have become even more impoverished because she has taken away their own livelihood. Anna Hibiscus is the first in a series of four books. Others include Hooray for Anna Hibiscus!; Good Luck, Anna Hibiscusand Have Fun, Anna HibiscusPicture book stories have also been written for the youngest of children as well, including Anna Hibiscus’ Song; Splash, Anna Hibiscus; and a new release, Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus.

The No. 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke places a young boy in a rural African setting. Once again, I love how the life he lives is so different and eye-opening to the American child. The boy, known as No. 1 Car-Spotter, spends his free time watching for cars on the main road by his town. He is so good at spotting cars that he can often name the car only by hearing the engine! In this first volume, No. 1 saves the day when the family’s wagon breaks and they need to get their goods to the market. My son is eager to read The No. 1 Car Spotter and the Firebird, a sequel to this volume.

I am a new independent consultant for Usborne Books and More, which provides these books for those in the USA! If you are interested in these books, send me a note at books at rebeccareid.com and I will send you a free copy of one of these when you book a qualifying book party (on Facebook!).