Two short-ish winter tales by the historical children’s novelist and self-confessed snow obsessive, Emma Carroll, who transports readers to a late 19th century frost fair and a family mystery on the streets of a Victorian town near Bath.
Carroll’s debut novel Frost Hollow Hall was a superbly creepy winter ghost story, and in the Snow Sister she returns to the theme of deceased children with a hold over those left behind. We begin with the poignant scene of Pearl Granger building and dressing a snow girl to replace her much missed sibling.
What follows is infused with many of the hallmarks of a Dickensian Christmas tale; a wealthy benefactor, a greedy family of industrialists and a heart-warming Christmas day surprise.
There is a generous serving of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Match Girl too, as poor raggedy Pearl finds herself trudging through the streets in snow that is ‘top-of-boot deep in places.’ The reader will worry about her chances of survival in places, as she turns accidental thief and is chased through the streets by a pair of self-appointed security guards and later finds herself in the haunted attic room of the ghastly Lockwood family.
Carroll’s skill is in conjuring up a believable Victorian Christmas setting with a heightened sense of the fantastical. Her eye for historical detail adds depth and her characters are both timeless and believable.
A Night at the Frost Fair, published in Abi Elphinstone’s Winter Magic collection is a time slip adventure that places a contemporary heroine in a famous 1788 Frost fair on the Thames. A good element of mystery is added to the mix as young Maya explores her own family history while stopping off along the way to sample the sights and sounds of the frozen fair.
I’m surprised there aren’t dozens of children’s adventures that make use of this amazing setting which combines this (now) barely believable natural marvel with the excitement and threat which comes with the fair. For now, this will do very nicely.
The Snow Sister by Emma Carroll, illustrated by Julian de Narvaez is published by Faber. Winter Magic is Published by Simon and Schuster