Published by Faber & Faber in 2015
Pages: 100 with full-page illustrations.
Word count: 11,000
Ages 6 – 12
What a delightful short book. In an interview, Emma Carroll said that she loves snow and wanted to capture her love for it in a book. Actually, The Snow Sister is already her second snow book. The first was the novel Frost Hollow Hall, which I haven’t read yet. While I’m not as keen on snow as she is, I’m partial to a story that captures the spirit of snowy winter days and Christmas.
The book opens with little Pearl making a snow sister. We learn she’s lost her beloved older sister a few years ago, and every winter, she makes a snow figure, drapes her sister’s shawl around its shoulders and believes, for a very brief moment, her sister’s still alive.
It is Christmas eve and Pearl and her family are very poor. They can’t even afford to make a Christmas pudding. When a letter arrives, informing them that Pearl’s father’s rich brother has died and left him his most important legacy, they rejoice. Maybe they will be granted another credit at the grocer’s and there will be a Christmas pudding after all. And, maybe, they will soon be very rich.
While Pearl’s pa goes to Bath for the opening of the will, little Pearl goes grocery shopping. Both are surprised by a heavy snow fall and when Pearl injures her ankle in the street, she’s brought to a stately home. She’s never been to a place like this; the people who live in this house are so rich. Rich but loveless. The kids quarrel; the grownups are sour.
The plot centers on the question whether or not Pearl and her family will get rich as well and what they will do so, should this happen. I’ll let you find out for yourself.
What I liked a great deal about this story, is how wonderfully evocative it is and that it’s set in the 19th Century. As far as I know, Emma Carroll is drawn to that era. Thanks to her interest I got introduced to a special Victorian Christmas treat – sugar plums. That description alone was worth reading the story.
The Snow Sister is firmly set in a long tradition of Christmas stories. It is reminiscent of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and the Russian fairy tale The Snow Child. I was also reminded of Andersen’s The Little Match Girl, even though this story isn’t tragic.
Lovely descriptions, a heartfelt story, and historical details make this a perfect read for a snowy afternoon. Even in February.