Just One Strike – a review of The Little Match Girl Strikes Back by Emma Carroll

Fairytale retellings. Not a subgenre I normally pick up. I’m sick of the Beauty and the Beasts and the Cinderellas that saturate the market. Not only was this from a fairytale rarely touched, but also with a genre interpretation I liked.

Bridie, our little match girl, sells matches from the factory her mother works at to help her family get buy and have a decent meal to eat in the peak of England’s industrial revolution. But the phosphorous in the matches her mother makes is making her and the other workers sick, and the managers either want them working to their fullest or laid off. After an accident where Bridie has her supply of matches to sell for the day stolen, she gets inspired to make a difference and help her mother and other women working in the factory take a stand to improve their working and living conditions. All it takes is just one strike.

This was honestly just a quick read I picked up to get caught up on my reading goals, and I finished this in one day. It was a breeze to get through, probably because it is for a middle grade audience and it had some beautiful illustrations in it provided by Lauren Child. But it had a very mature voice regardless. Children are smart, y’know! At least when they get written about…

One common phrase in this book was about how the matches were magical. I think that best describes how cozy Carroll made dreary Victorian London. It takes the light of a single match, the imagery that is pivotal to so much in this book, to provide such warmth. The small light that this match provided made something magical. It became a transformative short story about hope with just the single strike of a match.

That being said, the one strike I’d give this novel as a bad strike. Pacing. The novel focused so much on the hope that the action had only the final two chapters left to dive into. It was brushed over, and it was something I really wanted to look into. I love hearing about the different protests at these times, and it was glossed over and told instead of shown. This could have been the perfect chance to have the hope restrike as hardships were faced. A missed opportunity.

But that hope was so strong that I couldn’t deny it this rating.

The Little Match Girl Strikes Back gets a score of 4/5. I used the word strike more in this review than I have ever used in my life.

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