Gr. 5^-7. Let's face it, there are dreary passages in Dickens and convoluted sentences that are impenetrable for young readers and that put them off a great story. This retelling works well: it gets rid of a lot of the padding while keeping the narrative tension of the original. Oliver's stark request, "Please, sir, I want some more," will thrill kids today as it always has, and the story of the street boy on the run, who lives with outlaws and then finds a safe home, is an archetypal adventure. The problem here is the illustrations. Dickens' novel is scary. Cruickshank's original pictures were true to the terror as well as the comic absurdity of the story, but Birmingham's large, soft pastel pictures are sunny and sweet and angelic, with no hint of darkness and grime. Yes, Dickens' story does end in sentimental togetherness, but the terror is always there. Fagin's crowd was never this cute. Hazel Rochman
From Library Journal
Oliver Twist was Dickens's second novel and one of his darkest, dealing with burglary, kidnapping, child abuse, prostitution, and murder. Alongside this gallery of horrors are the corrupt and incompetent institutions of 19th-century England set up to address social problems and instead making them worse. The author's moral indignation drives the creation of some of his most memorably grotesque characters: squirming, vile Fagin; brutal Bill Sykes; the brooding, sickly Monks; and Bumble, the pompous and incorrigibly dense beadle. Clearly, a reading of this work must carry the author's passionate narrative voice while being flexible and broad enough to define the wide range of character voices suggested by the text. John Wells's capable but bland reading only suggests the rich possibilities of the material. Restraint and Dickens simply don't go together. The abridgment deftly and seamlessly manages to deliver all major characters and plot lines, but there are many superior audiobook versions of this material, both abridged and unabridged. Not recommended.-John Owen, Advanced Micro Devices, Sunnyvale, CA
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