Review of The Little Match Girl Strikes Back

The Little Match Girl Strikes Back The Little Match Girl Strikes Back
by Emma Carroll; illus. by Lauren Child
Intermediate    Candlewick    208 pp.
9/23    9781536233353    $19.99

In July 1888, women and girls working at a match factory in East London went on strike to protest dangerous working conditions and poor pay. Carroll takes the story of this significant event in labor history and uses it as the armature for her own version of Hans Christian Andersen’s weeper “The Little Match Girl.” Carroll’s little match-seller has a name, Bridie, and a strong voice, luring customers with stories and outrageous patter. Her whole family is in the match trade, her mother in the factory, herself on the frigid streets selling, and her small brother at home fashioning match boxes. Like her nameless original, Bridie experiences visions, but unlike her predecessor she turns these visions into social action and survives to tell her tale. The mash-up of history and Andersen-tale works beautifully, especially on the metaphorical level with light, enlightenment, warmth, and energy battling it out against darkness, ignorance, chill, and despair. Child’s illustrations, collages in black, gray, and red with a rich use of pattern, incorporate text at certain points to create an arresting, graphically dynamic page. Serve this up with Pinkney’s lushly illustrated picture-book edition of the Andersen and with Maguire’s Matchless for a feast of Victoriana and an invitation to discuss child poverty, capitalism, and the power of organized labor.

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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