Well, the summer’s over and so it’s that time of year when advent calendars and baubles start to appear in shop windows. To celebrate the fact that there are only 110 more sleeps to go until Christmas, today I’m going to be looking at The Snow Sister by Emma Carroll. This short novella is due for release in October and is a stand-alone story, so you don’t need to read any of Carroll’s other novels to fully appreciate it.
It’s been three years since Pearl’s sister, Agnes, passed away and she’s never really had a chance to mourn. Her parents simply put all of her things into storage and have continued by seemingly ignoring the fact that they ever had two daughters. However, Pearl has never forgotten and every winter she dresses a snowman in one of Agnes’s shawls to pretend that her sister is still with her.
Everything changes on Christmas Eve when her father gets a letter. Her Uncle Silas has died and named her father as the sole beneficiary of his will. Her excited mother sends Pearl to town to buy the ingredients for Christmas pudding to celebrate the change in their luck.
Pearl’s trip is riddled with disaster as she is accused of a thief and then caught in an accident. Unable to walk, she winds up spending the night with the rich Lockwood family. While observing the behaviour of the Lockwood’s spoiled children, Pearl gradually learns that perhaps money isn’t the most important thing in life.
This is probably going to be another quick review, as The Snow Sister is only a short novella (my copy is only 100 pages long). I should also probably note that this story is definitely one for middle grade readers. While I don’t deny that older readers may also enjoy it, it’s definitely targeted at children between the age of eight and twelve.
The Snow Sister is a heart-warming story that definitely puts the reader in the mood for the festive season. The book is written in a simple way that makes it easy for a young reader to understand, yet still contains the gorgeous descriptions and bittersweet tone that characterised In Darkling Wood. I should also note that the novel is illustrated by several beautiful full-page drawings in the same style as the cover which really compliment the story. In fact, this book is probably the nicest advanced copy that I’ve ever received. With the illustrations and the silver filigree on the cover it would make a lovely addition to any child’s book collection.
While the story is set at Christmas time, it doesn’t completely revolve around the holiday. It more embodies the true meaning of the season through the importance of family over material gain. At the start of the story, Pearl fantasises about everything that her family will be able to buy when they’re rich, starting out with simple things (such as not being denied credit at the bakery) and gradually expanding this to include carriages and sprawling estates. Yet she soon learns that this isn’t what’s important. As she watches the constant bickering of the Lockwood children, she compares it to her own experiences with her deceased sister and realises that money has not made them better people. It’s far more important to have family who care for you than any number of material goods.
The Snow Sister is also a story about coping with loss, which is always an important topic for children’s books to touch upon. I’ve mentioned in other reviews, such as my first look at A Series of Unfortunate Events, about how it’s important to show loss in children’s literature in order to help them to learn how to come to terms with tragedies that may unfortunately befall them (as well as to learn how to empathise with people who are less fortunate than they are).
Over the course of the story, we see Pearl gradually come to terms with Agnes’s death. Although she starts out reluctant to forget her sister, sneaking out Agnes’s shawl wherever possible and becoming sad that it’s starting lose her sister’s scent. Through her experience with the Lockwoods’ (and the intervention of the obligatory Christmas dream/apparition), she gradually comes to realise that, although no one can replace her sister, the time has come to move on with her life.
While the character of Pearl is nicely developed, the other characters in the story don’t receive the same amount of fleshing out. I don’t want to criticise this much as I’m aware that it’s a very short story but I would have liked to seen the Lockwood family get a little more of a comeuppance. Although they don’t do anything especially evil, they are still an unpleasant family and it would have been nice to see them see the error of his ways. Although the novella suggests that they will eventually learn that money doesn’t buy happiness, we don’t see any real evidence of this in the story. In fact, it seems as though Mr and Mrs Lockwood have gotten by for many years without coming to this conclusion.
Yet I suppose the important thing is, really, that Pearl’s family do learn this. There is a difference between wealth and having enough to get by. Although her parents start out excited by the idea that they will soon own a fortune, it’s nice that they do learn that a healthy family (and enough money to ensure that your children don’t starve) is the best Christmas gift that any parent could ever ask for.
There really isn’t much more to say about this novella. The Snow Sister is a short but carries a strong moral which truly embodies the spirit of Christmas. It’s a beautifully presented little book that will be easily devoured by a younger reader. Given its small size, I would definitely recommend this as a stocking filler for anyone between the ages of eight and twelve.
The Snow Sister is due for release on 1st October and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk