A thoughtful novella with a classic feel by my favourite writer of historical fiction for children this is a perfect Christmas treat. Set in Victorian England it is a story of families, love, loss and ultimately of hope.
It is Christmas Eve and for Pearl the preparations are tinged with sadness as she thinks of her sister Agnes who died three years previously. Each year to try to ease the pain she builds a snow person outside her home, her own snow sister. This year the figure is dressed in her sister’s shawl but Pearl knows that it won’t bring her sister back. But a snow sister is better, she thinks, than no sister at all.
Pearl’s family don’t have much money and already owe money to the local shopkeeper and Christmas will be difficult for them. Then the postman brings a letter for Pearl’s father and it brings unexpected news of an inheritance following the death his estranged brother. As her husband sets off to find out the details Pearl’s mother sends her to town for the ingredients of a Christmas pudding. Can the family dare to hope that this Christmas will be a happy one for them all? When Pearl is refused more credit by Mr Noble the greengrocer she acts rashly and events that then unfold ensure that there is plenty of drama and tension in this short story.
This is a perfect read for the Christmas season. I think the combination of snow, adventure, family, love and mention of ghostly events in the night work extremely well. Yet again Emma Carroll ensures that with the use of historical detail she conveys beautifully a sense of time and place. The setting, the characters and the themes covered are almost Dickensian and this adds to the appeal of the story for me. The wonderful illustrations by Julian de Narvaez add to the enjoyment of the book. Once or twice I was reminded of the Little Match Girl and there is a poignancy to the writing too.
Finally, the importance of appreciating what really matters in life, not just at Christmas, is captured with sensitivity and care. Without being didactic in tone Emma Carroll makes this a thoughtful and inspiring story with an important message for children.
My copy has the original cover, which I love. However the book has since been reissued with a new cover that is even more appropriate for the Christmas season. I think this would be a wonderful stocking filler for booklovers of about 8+. It would be a treat to read aloud in schools too and at just 100 pages would be a perfect quick read. Just lovely!