Footprints in the Snow

Footprints in the Snow was written by Maggie Holman and first published in 2017. It is a festive work of contemporary fiction with light fantasy elements, focusing on a young boy’s trip to see his Grandfather at Christmas. The novella stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Christmas is only days away and Jamie has been sent to stay with his Grandfather in the Forest of Dean. It is the first time he’s been to stay there without his mother and so he’s understandably quite worried about being so far away from home, however his anxieties soon begin to lift as he settles in and helps his Grandfather to decorate the house.

It’s not long before Jamie starts to get to know the people who live nearby. He becomes particularly friendly with Caro, Finn and Molly – part of a family of Travellers – and learns about their way of life and deep respect for the wildlife of the forest. This lesson is particularly important as there have been sightings of a panther stalking the woods, and Jamie is worried about what will happen if he comes to face to face with the creature.

This becomes increasingly likely when he decides to take a walk in the forest by himself. Although Jamie is confident that he can find his way to the Travellers’ camp, it’s not long before he takes a wrong turn and finds himself lost in the woods. With the temperature dropping and the panther on the prowl, will Jamie manage to find his way home or will he become lunch for the creature?

This is likely to be a brief review, as Footprints in the Snow was only a very short novella. I was hoping to get to this review out before Christmas, but unfortunately my copy of the book arrived just a little too late for that. Yet the Christmas spirit hasn’t quite left me yet so I figured I’d take a look at this before it was too late!

I’m pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Footprints in the Snow. It is a lovely and uplifting novella that I would recommend to readers of all ages. As you may be able to tell from the picture, the paperback copy of the book is pocket sized, and its large type-face means that young or visually impaired readers will have no trouble with it. Its small size also means it would make a brilliant stocking filler, which is something that you should definitely bear in mind while buying for this year.

The story itself is short but very sweet, with all of the action focusing on a ten-year-old boy’s first holiday apart from his mother. Although Jamie loves his mother, his anxieties come across strongly in this novella and it’s not long before the reader understands why he is so nervous about being left alone. The story is very well paced, quickly setting the scene as Jamie gets used to being alone with his Grandfather, makes new friends and explores the forest.

While the story is largely a work of contemporary fiction, there is some undeniable magic in the air. The snow-covered Forest of Dean feels like something out of a faerie tale and the novel does have a bit of a supernatural twist in its tail. Jamie encounters a girl with an unusual gift and ultimately has a ghostly experience while he is lost in the forest. While you could take these as flights of fancy, I like to think that they are real experiences as they add a lovely sense of whimsy to the tale.

However, despite the slightly spooky twist, I would still say that this novella is more than suitable for readers of all ages. While Jamie’s final trek through the forest is incredibly tense, there is nothing too scary or inappropriate for even the most sensitive of middle grade readers. The ultimate conclusion of the story is just lovely. I won’t spoil it for you here, but I did find it to be a very warm ending as it helped put Jamie’s fears to rest and had a positive outlook for his future.

Yet the best thing about this story is its characters. Holman really does work wonders with her small page count, making Jamie an incredibly sympathetic protagonist. You really do feel his anxieties and sadness for the loss of his father, but he is still a cheerful and polite boy at heart. His adventures with Caro, Finn and Molly are just heart-warming, as they give him a chance to have a bit of fun with kids closer to his own age. His holiday also helps him to put things into perspective, accepting the fact that his mother is starting to move on.

I also loved the brief glimpse that Footprints in the Snow gives us of the culture of Travellers in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, this is usually a group that has very negative connotations in our culture. It was nice to read a novella that portrayed them in a very positive light that emphasised the freedom of their lifestyle and close-knit family groups. You couldn’t get much more of a positive role model than Caro, who cares for her younger siblings and would risk herself to help a friend in danger.

Anyhow, that’s about all that I have to say. Sorry for the brief review, but Footprints in the Snow is a very short and sweet novella and I really don’t have anything bad to say about it. I loved every moment of reading this story and it is bound to become a Christmas favourite for any young reader in your home.

Footprints in the Snow can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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