The Little Match Girl Strikes Back

Candlewick. Sept. 2023. 208p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781536233353.
Gr 3-5–Bridie (short for Brigid) sets out to set the record straight: to tell the real story of girls who sold matches on frigid 19th-century city streets. Hans Christian Andersen, whose books sold in posh shops, probably never met a real match girl nor learned that they only wanted fair wages. With a touch of magic from very special matches, Bridie gains insight into the greed of the match factory owner, actions that can achieve change, and what a better life might look like for her and her family. Eventually, Bridie inspires a protest which leads to the exposure of inhumane working conditions and the toxic effects of phosphorus on the women who use it making matches. The conclusion is not only more satisfying than the original, but more authentic. Stylized black-and-white illustrations use accents of red to punctuate the action, creating an open and accessible format for a surprisingly timely look at workers’ actions. An author’s note accompanied by period photographs is provided.
VERDICT This sophisticated tale is likely to generate conversation in school and public libraries about 19th-century factory working conditions. Recommended.

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