Free Dickens book for every one of you – to mark year of reading

DICKENSIAN From left, Barnaby Holland, 12, Angus McIntosh, 12, Gaia Osborne, 11, Phoebe Van Eker, 12, and Nick Leeming, 12.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (121655-3)
DICKENSIAN From left, Barnaby Holland, 12, Angus McIntosh, 12, Gaia Osborne, 11, Phoebe Van Eker, 12, and Nick Leeming, 12. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (121655-3)
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THIS is the year of reading in Portsmouth – the birthplace of one of the greatest story-tellers of all time, Charles Dickens.

To honour this unique literary legacy, we want everyone to enjoy his gripping plots that have given us some of our most memorable heroes and villains.

On February 7, Dickens’ 200th birthday, The News launched a major campaign Read All About It, to boost literacy by creating a buzz around books.

So in this spirit, on Saturday we will be giving away a beautifully illustrated, abridged version of A Tale of Two Cities for all ages to enjoy and treasure – FREE with copies of The News.

This high quality book, which retains much of Dickens’ original vocabulary and style, will be the first of 15 re-tellings of classics by writing legends who made Portsmouth their home including HG Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Mark Waldron, editor of The News, said: ‘The books are fantastic, I could have used a few copies of them when I was a schoolboy in Cowplain!

‘But even people who have read the originals can sit back and enjoy a refresher of classic stories about Tiny Tim, Sherlock Holmes, time travel and many more – or share them with their children and grandchildren.’

Youngsters at St John’s College in Southsea are already in the mood for Dickens. They showed their commitment to our campaign by spending a whole day interpreting Oliver Twist – with a twist.

JD Sharp, author of the dramatic and gory teen thriller Oliver Twisted, launched the event with a talk about creative writing.

Then groups of 10 to 12-year-olds were set a ‘Dickens mash-up’ play-writing competition where they weaved Oliver Twist with other classic tales.

Winning team members Emily Calkin, Jasmine Searle, Jordan Bailey, and Ollie Wilson, all 12, came up with a Cinderella spin-off with Oliver at the mercy of his ugly step-sisters.

He wishes for food, but when the nibbles disappear at 8pm he is left pleading: ‘Please Sir, I want some more’.

Ollie, who played his namesake, said: ‘Coming up with a new plot was fun, especially as we had great stories to work with.

‘I’ve watched the film of Oliver Twist and it’s packed with ideas – we’re lucky to have such an inspirational writer as part of our heritage.’

Emily Calkin, 12, played an ugly step-sister. She said: ‘I really like the story of Oliver Twist, because I can relate to a book about someone my age.

‘It’s about a boy who’s in a bad situation and he’s trying to get out.

‘It’s set in a different time, but it still makes a lot of sense.’

Alex Lowe, head of English, said: ‘It was a fantastic day – JD Sharp inspired the children to be incredibly creative with Dickens.

‘There was a real buzz.’