Matchless is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's beloved story The Little Match Girl. The story was to be read aloud on NPR by the author on "All...moreMatchless is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's beloved story The Little Match Girl. The story was to be read aloud on NPR by the author on "All Things Considered" Christmas day 2008.
The story intertwines two disparate stories that are ultimately woven together at the end. First we meet Frederik and his mother who are poor and live in a fishing village.The story's setting is " far to the north" imbuing the tale with a sense of cold and desolation. His mother works as the queen's seamstress. Frederik entertains himself by making a little town out of old sewing spools and other throwaways. One night he finds the old shoe that belonged to the little match girl and his life will be forever changed. Maquire sticks pretty much to the original tale of the match girl making very few changes such as it is not the grandmother who is illuminated with the last match but rather the child's mother who will whisk her away. But Maguire draws a new story involving Frederick and his mother and the family of the match girl that shows that love and miracles extend beyond our earthly plane. Maguire infuses the sad story of the match girl and imbues it with a new life and happier ending. The reader must suspend disbelief in order to believe the coincidences in the tale and it does not delve very deeply into its many themes, but it provides readers a new way to become acquainted with the timelessness of Andersen's original tale of The little Match Girl. Maguire wrote this story as a read-aloud and so it should probably be shared in the tradition of oral storytelling. But this does not detract from the story itself. The voice in the new retelling is one of hope not hopelessness. The Little Match Girl has themes of death, despair and eventual redemption, and Matchless gives us a sense that though Frederick and his mother are poor, their situation is not completely dire and there is hope for a better life to come. Interspersed within the text are simple pencil drawings by Maguire that lend an almost whimsical feel to a story. The retelling tries to capture the essence of the original tale but adds the secondary story to create a happy ending of sorts. Though not as rich in language and imagery as the original Little Match Girl (which in its simplicity created a tale for time immemorial), it is a genuine attempt to be true to the idea that even in the most miserable of circumstances, hope can wax eternal.(less)
K-2. Velma Gratch, the youngest of three sisters is entering first grade. When we first meet Velma she is feeling left out in school because the teach...moreK-2. Velma Gratch, the youngest of three sisters is entering first grade. When we first meet Velma she is feeling left out in school because the teachers seem to remember her sisters Freida, who had a voice like an angel and Fiona, who ran like the devil. The two older sisters also had a penchant for math and spelling. It seems everyone at school,including the class guinea pig, could remember the older Gratch sisters but no one could even remember Velma's name. Velma then tries to do the opposite of what her sisters did in order to get noticed. And noticed she was. After being sent to principal's office she realizes her sisters are remembered for doing well in class. Velma's favorite subject is science and when the teacher explains about butterflies and metamorphorsis, our little Velma experiences a change as well.
This is a wonderful story about sibling rivalry and how one person can feel unintentionally undermined by a sibling's accomplishments. The illustrations, by Kevin Hawkes, are vibrant, brightly colored, whimsical sketches capturing the wonderment of childhood and the excitement of learning. Velma is illustrated as wide-eyed and innocent.The story is reminiscent of an allegory detailing a butterfly's migration with the character discovering her own importance and individuality. The tone of the story is a quest of sorts and takes the reader on a journey. Young readers will delight in the illustrations,especially the two-page center fold-out which shows the similarities between Velma and the monarch butterfly. Adults will recall their own innocence when the simplest of discoveries would yield the sweetest pleasures. Great as a read-aloud and as part of a science unit. (less)
I thought about what makes this book personal for me and I find that nothing that I have experienced in my own life directly correlated with the story...moreI thought about what makes this book personal for me and I find that nothing that I have experienced in my own life directly correlated with the story of Lakshmi, a girl sold into slavery and prostitution at a very young age. However, you read about such a character and you can look at your own life and be reminded that some of your daily problems are nowhere near as dire and heartbreaking as what many have had to endure. In my teaching experiences I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with very large Indian-American population in our school community. These children come from a socio-economic group where they would never be assaulted by such dire circumstances. One student in particular, has spoken to me about returning after college to her ancestoral land of India to fight for women's rights. She and I both read this title at the same time, and while we both experienced differing levels of insight we were both moved by this heartwrenching story.
Lakshmi, is growing up in a very poor village in the Nepalese Himalayas. At the onset we realize that she is somewhat carefree, innocent and daydreaming of a better future for herself and family. Her mother works very hard to scrape by a living but her stepfather has gambled away what little money they have left. When a monsoon wipes out their crops, the stepfather makes a deal to sell Lakshmi into prostitution, telling her she will go to the city to work as a maid for a well-to-do family. It is then and there that we go on this downward spiral with Lakshmi as she realizes her dream of going to the big city will become an ultimate nightmare. Patricia McCormick tells the story in first person narrative and we, the readers, experience the emotional whirlwind that is now become Lakshmi's life. The story is written in free verse and the chapters are short and to the point. Yet, McCormick's writing style is always poignant and never preachy. As the reader, you begin to feel the helplessness of the situation as you read the descriptive and graphic language explaining our protagonist's situation. Yet, never does our author make any of the harshest scenes seem gratuitous. I applaud that remarkable use of imagery. There is near the end a glimmer of hope that belies what readers fear and that is for every one girl like Lakshmi that may find some chance at redemption there are so many others who will not. The depth of detail and characterization are very true to life and provide a very sad expose on the lives of these young girls. Patricia McCormick spent much time in India researching this book and we learn that though the names have changed the characters in the book are based on real persons.