Monday, November 27, 2017

The Girl Who Saved Christmas ~ Matt Haig (earc) review [@matthaig1 @randomhousekids @chrismouldink]

The Girl Who Saved Christmas
illustrated by Chris Mould
Alfred A Knopf Books for Young Readers
October 31, 2017
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

From the bestselling author of A Boy Called Christmas comes a hilarious and heartwarming holiday tale for fans of Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol that imagines the story of the first child to ever receive a Christmas present.

"Matt Haig has an empathy for the human condition, the light and the dark of it, and he uses the full palette to build his excellent stories." --Neil Gaiman, Newbery-winning author of The Graveyard Book

Amelia Wishart was the first child ever to receive a Christmas present. It was her Christmas spirit that gave Santa the extra boost of magic he needed to make his first trip around the world. But now Amelia is in trouble.

When her mother falls ill, she is sent to the workhouse to toil under cruel Mr. Creeper. For a whole year, Amelia scrubs the floors and eats watery gruel, without a whiff of kindness to keep her going. It's not long before her hope begins to drain away.

Meanwhile, up at the North Pole, magic levels dip dangerously low as Christmas approaches, and Santa knows that something is gravely wrong. With the help of his trusty reindeer, a curious cat, and Charles Dickens, he sets out to find Amelia, the only girl who might be able to save Christmas. But first Amelia must learn to believe again. . . .

""With a little bit of naughty and a lot of nice, this Christmastime yarn is a veritable sugarplum." --Kirkus Reviews

"Do you know how magic works? . . . Hope. That's how. Without hope, there would be no magic."
(pg 1)

The Girl Who Saved Christmas was such an enjoyable read. I did not realize that it was the second book when I read it, so even if you haven't yet read A Boy Called Christmas, you can absolutely read this one. The story is sweet and charming and magical while still showing some of the darker, more painful parts of Victorian life, while still being appropriate for its intended readers.

 The ideas at the heart of this story, about Amelia and Christmas and magic and hope make the story applicable beyond the holiday season. Of course, it's much more fun to read about reindeer and (kind of weird) elves making toys during the holidays, but this book isn't only good around or because it's about Christmas.

Heig's portrayal of Amelia's life as a chimney sweep and then in the workhouse shows us more of the harsh reality of life then for someone poor, and not the romanticized version we often get. It's not just honest, it also makes Amelia's hope - or lack thereof - that much easier to understand and powerful.

The story stays hopeful and sweet and charming, though, thanks to the author's writing. This is an incredibly funny, witty novel. From things like elf time, "It's a quarter past Very Early Indeed," (pg 33) and the descriptions of people or sounds, there is a great balance between the despair of Amelia's situation the worry in Elfhelm and the humor present in character's reactions or seen around them.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas is a fantastic mix of despair and hope, harsh realities and magical possibilities and should, thanks to wonderful writing, appeal to readers of all ages.

Books 1, 2, 3 in Matt Haig's Christmas Series

digital review copy received from publisher, via NetGalley

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