Aunt Gertrude has come to visit for the Christmas holiday, bringing 10-year-old Liz and her little brother Charlie a set of magical books. Each book in the set is a classic; when Liz and Charlie open the cover, they become drawn inside and live the story along with the author’s own characters.
As Two Cities begins, Liz and Charlie are pulled all the way back to the year 1775 and into the pages of a retelling of A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens greets them at their arrival and explains that their assignment is to ensure that Lucie, the story’s protagonist, and all of the people she loves, are safe. Once they’ve done so, Liz and Charlie can return to their own home.
This is a simplified version of Dickens’ classic, set in Paris and London in the years just before and during the French Revolution. Intended for young readers ages 7 to 10, it is an abbreviated tale, and much of the brutality portrayed in the original has been removed. But the author doesn’t talk down to her readers. Liz and Charlie become aware of the anger and resentment brewing in the streets of Paris and are confronted with the terrible contrast between the desperate, difficult lives of the peasants and the aristocrats’ excesses and sense of entitlement.
In Paris, the children meet Doctor Manette, who has just been released from a wrongful 18-year imprisonment in the Bastille. Thin and frail, he seems only able to make shoes, a craft he learned in prison. The children witness as Lucie, accompanied by a banker from London, sees her broken father for the first time since she was a young child. Lucie takes Dr. Manette—and Liz and Charlie—back to London. There, they meet Charles Darnay, a French aristocrat, and barrister Sydney Carton, both of whom are in love with Lucie. Darnay is on trial for treason against the British Crown. But, thanks to his striking resemblance to Carton and a little help from young Charlie, the eyewitness’ testimony is discredited and Darnay is freed. Lucie, Darnay, Carton, Liz and Charlie return to Paris as the French Revolution begins. They meet Madame Defarge; from her, Liz and Charlie begin to understand the great passion for vengeance among the peasant class. And, as the story reaches its climactic end, the children watch as Carton makes the ultimate sacrifice for love and Lucie.
Liz and Charlie are likeable, engaging kids, and accompany young readers on a compelling introduction to A Tale of Two Cities. (This adult reader was more than happy to travel along with them.) Two Cities is author Dare DeLano’s second book in her Book Keeper series, in which she retells literary classics for young readers. Her first book, Odus and the Long Way Home, a retelling of The Odyssey, won the 2015 San Diego Book Award.
|Page Count||119 pages|
|Publisher||Pink Chicken Press|
|Bookshop.org||Buy this Book|