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The Girl Who Saved Christmas

Charming and funny homage to festive Victoriana and the power of hope

Once upon a time in Victorian London, very few children believed in magic. As we all know, magic blossoms from hope, and there was very little of that in those bleak times. Little Amelia Wishart is the exception. Plucky and spirited, with hope in her heart, Amelia is called upon to save the very magic of Christmas. She rises to the challenge, along with a stellar cast, comprised of Father Christmas, Queen Victoria, and the very embodiment of Victorian Yuletide himself, Mr Charles Dickens.

Being 1841, the reader isn’t surprised to discover that Amelia is a chimney sweep, in a wintry London where ‘Nothing smelled of gingerbread. Just smoke and dirt and horse poo.’ She lives with her mother, who in the best tradition of Victorian literature, is fading fast from consumption. With Mrs Wishart dispatched in ‘quite a short but very sad chapter’, Amelia is bound for Mr Creeper’s Workhouse.

Meanwhile, at Father Christmas’ Arctic workshop, big trouble is brewing, in the shape of malicious trolls. And not just your common or garden troll, but über trolls, intent on sabotaging Christmas itself. A series of shocking events prompts the newspaper headline ‘TROLL TERROR STOPS CHRISTMAS’. Urgent magical help is required, the kind that children put into the very air, simply by believing in impossibility.

How Father Christmas and Amelia summon the forces of good magic, makes for a cracking read. This book is such fun. Riotous, silly, and yet with real pearls of wisdom, as Amelia learns to navigate life without her mother. Chris Mould’s gothic illustrations are a delight, and worth the price of the book alone. I also loved the cameo roles awarded to a somewhat feisty Queen Victoria, and then Charles Dickens, dapper in purple, with a voice ‘as rich as Christmas pudding’, lending his largest pair of trousers to Father Christmas. Parental warning: Includes pixie swear words, such as ‘mudfungle’!

Sheer festive fabulousness.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas is published by Canongate Books, 352 pages.

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