The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig and Chris Mould
|The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig and Chris Mould|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: While this book will only have a short selling season, it will last – it's almost good enough to become a piece of family heritage, just as only the greatest Christmas tales can.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: November 2016|
|Publisher: Canongate Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Meet Amelia. She is not the character that invented Christmas, but someone who certainly helped create it – it was her magic, her dreams and her concern that reached across the miles to Father Christmas and got his spirit (and reindeer) up enough for it all to work. But now, things are a lot worse for her – she is stuck in the nightmare job of chimney sweep in Victorian London to help feed and pay for medicine for her dying mother. Elsewhere things are taking a turn for the worse, too – Elfhelm is under threat from a nasty, underground source, and with it being Christmas Eve it looks like the glimmer of light that would normally be Christmas itself is a dim prospect. As it works both ways – Elfhelm helping lift the human world, which in turn inspires the elvish festivity and work – what could be the consequence when both sides begin to lose the most vital aspect of life, the one called hope?
With so many stories set in the background to Christmas, you really do seek something a little bit extra to make them stand out. Luckily, this has it in spades. It's an adventure book, but it's about things – emotions and that which makes us human (or, at a pinch, elf), as well as dramas and their characters. Grounding everything in the dearth of hope for Amelia, and Captain Soot her loyal but pesky cat, means there is A Lesson to be had from these pages, but it's not forced on you. You see hope as a tangible concept, and it's not in just the rarefied world of Victorian London that it shows itself as a scarce thing to be cherished and held tight.
This is in the same series as A Boy Called Christmas, a book which nobody has failed to love, as far as I'm aware. It's perfectly self-contained, however, and bears just another example of Chris Mould's illustrative powers. If my proof copy is anything to go by, it'll come at you with a lovely, glittery production value, but beyond such frippery you also get the power of the writing. True, Haig makes some decisions that seem to be a little unusual – the intervention of a real-life character seems to be the source of a furrowed brow as much as it does some light yucks, before a second cameo proves to be just brilliant, but on the whole the readability is so high you don't worry where you're taken. The passage of time in the novel is perfectly handled, and we see the events of the book as a story that really acts as a saga – a saga with heart.
I was reminded a little, of all things, of Doctor Who Christmas specials – the conjunction of the supernatural with an embodiment of earthly goodwill spirit, the juxtaposition of human emotions with the drama of fantasy, but, needless to say, this is better. It acts as a clarion call for dream, fantasy and hope – much as the first book in this series apparently proposed, but does it with a deftness and drama that will make it inherently readable for many an age group. It's a book you won't be buying for the beach (unless you're Australian, perhaps) – but this will be bought, shared and well-read in many a festive season.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
I can't let the chance pass to nod you in the direction of the author's earlier youth titles, such as The Runaway Troll.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig and Chris Mould at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig and Chris Mould at Amazon.com.
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