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

The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron

The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron (originally published 1987) is a clever early chapter book about a boy and his younger brother, along with the crazy stories Julian makes up to explain the world around him.

When seven-year-old Julian does not know the answer to his three-year-old brother Huey’s questions, he makes up stories! For example, he tells his brother that a catalog is a book to order cats from, and they are sent through the mail. His imagination is ripe and the stories crafted in to his adventures are fun for the young reader. In the first chapter, I was concerned when the kids hid from Dad, afraid of the punishment, but the “beating” and “whipping” in store for the pudding-eating boys was just the right kind!

I was delighted to see such a clever and obviously enduring story (it’s almost 30 years old) for the early chapter book crowd. Although my son reads at a high reading level, sometimes he just needs something short and sweet, about a boy just his age. He read this one quickly and found it quite funny. I look forward to checking out the sequels to Julian’s crazy stories as well!

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