The Little Match Girl Strikes Back

 
4.3 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
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The Little Match Girl Strikes Back
Author(s)
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Publisher
Age Range
8+
Release Date
September 05, 2023
ISBN
978-1536233353
Buy This Book
      
It only takes one strike . . . A powerful, beautifully illustrated feminist reworking of the classic fairy tale, from award-winning creators Emma Carroll and Lauren Child

"You’ve got a lot to say for a little match girl."

On the streets of Victorian London, Bridie uses her wit selling matches to help feed her family—but no matter how hard she works, it’s never enough to stave off hunger or keep her ailing mother safe from the factory’s toxins. When a street-side accident leaves Bridie with only three matches, the strike of each one sends her magically tumbling into visions of a brighter, more hopeful future. Realizing she has the power to change her own fortune, Bridie urges the ill-treated factory workers to protest and strike, achieving something remarkable through unity and courage. A far cry from the doomed little girl in Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale, Emma Carroll’s spirited heroine brings new life to this empowering retelling, inspired by historical events and featuring Lauren Child’s bold, stylish black-and-white artwork with vivid spots of red. Author and illustrator notes, along with vintage photographs, offer enlightening context for readers at the end.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Updated classic with a twist
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
5.0
I'm not sure how many of my students will know Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl story, but this book makes me want to trot out all of the Aesop, Andersen, and other Classic tales that my students really should know and probably don't. Andersen's influence is vastly underrated, and even if my students know the tale, they probably think it is a folk tale and not the work of a specific writer.

If you're familiar with Child's Ruby Reford books, the format of this reimaging will not be surprising. The font is very large, and the illustrations and words work together to create a very distinctive visual experience. I really want to see a physical copy of this to get a better feel for the overall presentation.

The retelling is fairy straight forward, with some notable changes. The Match Girl gets a name (Bridie Sweeney), a family (mam, who works in a match factory, and younger brother Fergal), and more purpose and power than in the original, giving this a more modern feel and a social justice perspective. Bridie knows her family works hard, and doesn't think it fair that Mr. Bryant, the factory owner, can profit off the misery of others. After a disastrous episode where Bridie is almost run over by a carriage, her stock is ruined, her borrowed slippers lost, and much of her hope gone. She has long touted her matches as a magical way to see the future, and when she lights one herself, out of desperation, she is transported into the vision of a better life for herself. When her mother also runs into problems, getting fired when her production is down because she is ill from exposure to the phosphorus used in making the matches, Bridie wants to take action. She's run into Annie Besant in a shop and also in one of her visions, and the young activist is appalled by the conditions of the working poor. Along with the other workers, a strike takes place, and Bridie is encouraged that others care enough to help out her mother and her associates to hold on until progress is made. Based on real events, and with notes and pictures about the history of a similar strike in the 1880s, The Little Match Girl Strikes Back is an intriguing look at history, poverty and personal empowerment.
Good Points
My favorite horrible historical event (everyone has one, right?) is the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, so it isn't a surprise that I found this fascinating. It often felt a little too modern to me, but this will be a huge asset for younger readers. The illustrations will definitely add to the appeal. For the right reader, this will be a fascinating choice, and it's a great springboard to some other topics.
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Fighting against injustice
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The author artfully crafts a setting in the streets of Victorian England sometime during the late 1800’s. Bridie Sweeney must deal with wet underclothes and nibbling rats at night and she wears her mother’s tattered slippers into the streets. She hawks boxes of Lucifer matches in the mud and slush hoping to make enough money for a decent supper and a warm fire for her mother and little brother. Her mother works in the match factory where she dips the tips of matches into a toxic liquid, inhaling poisonous phosphorous fumes all day long. There’s a stark contrast between the poor families sharing a stale loaf of bread and the wealthy citizens dining on roast meats and tea only a few blocks away.
Bridie’s personality and sales pitches are especially entertaining as she uses her imagination and humor to attract customers. She paints pictures of beautiful lands where people can dream and let their worries float away. Bridie’s customers appreciate her enthusiasm and stories and some expect her performance before they’ll purchase the matches. Her energy is needed later in the book when the situation becomes more dire and the oppressed women are in need of inspiration and direction. Bridie refuses to succumb to threats and setbacks as she gets ideas and inspiration from her match dreams.
The author bases this historical fiction on actual events as she gives names and families of people who sacrificed for human rights. The end pages share notes from the author and illustrator about the actual history of Victorian England and the match factory’s squalid conditions and heartless owner. The plot doesn’t end with a happily-ever-after climax because that’s not how reality works. At least this book’s resolution is a little bit happier than the Hans Christian Anderson story it’s based on.
What didn’t work as well:
Because the plot recounts a real story, there aren’t any surprises or twists to spice things up. There are some parts of the book that sound more historical and factual than others. The dream wishes are interesting but they act as motivation for Bridie to take action. The book still presents an important narrative about a transitional moment in England’s history.
The final verdict:
This book will appeal to lovers of historical fiction, especially from England, with the match dreams offering small pieces of fantasy. The original and real conflict between factory workers and the cruel, greedy owner drives the story with Bridie’s character providing a human, emotional connection with readers. Overall, I recommend you give this book a shot!
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