Unexpected Twist: An Oliver Twisted Tale

Publisher: Scholastic

Shona has just started at a new school, and although it’s OK as far as schools go, life is pretty hard at home: her dad’s benefits have been cut and her nan is ill. There definitely isn’t much money to go around.

In Miss Cavani’s English class, everyone is reading Oliver Twist, and Shona finds that there is quite a lot of similarity between her situation and Oliver’s. When one of the older boys at school offers her a free phone in detention, Shona really wants it – she can’t afford a phone otherwise. But what will she have to do to get it?

In this rather innovative book, Rosen tells the tale of a modern-day Oliver Twist – Shona – alongside the original text of the story, which the reader reads alongside Shona and her English class. Along the way, teacher Miss Cavani helps Shona through her difficulties but also aids the class in discussing Dickens’ themes of family, illness, poverty, social care, crime and antisemitism, which – as you might expect from Rosen, a frequent and knowledgeable commentator on antisemitism and the holocaust as well as other modern-day social issues – is handled very well indeed.

Shona’s story is completely relatable and well-drawn, demonstrating Dickens’ grasp of the human condition and will demonstrate to children that the themes he wrote about in Victorian times are still – sadly – very much with us. A brilliant read for Year 6s or 7s studying the Victorians, and a great read for more mature readers, too.

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