Maguire, Gregory. Matchless: A Christmas Story. William Morrow, 2009. ISBN 978-0061913013 112 pp. $14.99
This retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl takes place at Christmas, instead of the New Year’s, and is as bleak as the original. Maguire invents a secondary character to frame the story, a poor boy named Frederik who is the thief of one of the match seller’s shoes, and devises a slightly happier ending where his mother and her father form a family of their own, and Frederik connects a second time with the step-sister he never knew.
The storytelling is deceptively simple, considering the themes of death, salvation and the disenfranchised, and the tale is clearly meant to be read aloud, carefully paced. The illustrations have a scratchy look to them, and contain clever allusions to Scandanavian life.
The author’s note pays homage to Andersen and explains what he was going for; I get it, but don’t love it.