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Matchless: An Illumination of Hans Christian Andersen's Classic "The Little Match Girl" [Paperback]

Gregory Maguire
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 20 2010

With Matchless, Gregory Maguire has reinvented the Hans Christian Andersen classic The Little Match Girl for a new time and new audiences. Originally asked by National Public Radio to write an original story with a Christmas theme, the New York Times bestselling author of Wicked and A Lion Among Men was once again inspired by the fairy tales we all loved in childhood—and he composed a poignant and enchanting tale of transcendence. A lovely and beautifully illustrated gift, Matchless places Andersen’s pitiful waif in the august company of Maguire’s previously re-imagined Snow White (Mirror, Mirror), Cinderella (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), and, of course, the Wicked Witch and other denizens of Oz. 


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Matchless: An Illumination of Hans Christian Andersen's Classic "The Little Match Girl" + What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy
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Review

An Indie Next List Notable (IndieBound)

“The little match girl’s story is now getting its due thanks to novelist Gregory Maguire of ‘Wicked’ fame…. Matchless glows with aching beauty.” (Huntsville Times)

“Maguire’s story has the weight and solidity of a treasured folk tale, something to be handed down and retold.” (Ellen Trachtenberg, author of The Best Children’s Literature: A Parent’s Guide)

From the Back Cover

The beloved New York Times bestselling author of Wicked reimagines Andersen's "The Little Match Girl" for modern readers, putting a new twist on a timeless classic.

In Matchless, Gregory Maguire adds a different dimension to the story, exquisitely intertwining the match girl's tale with that of Frederik, a young boy who builds a city out of trash, and whose yearnings are the catalyst for a better future for himself and his family. Maguire uses his storytelling magic to rekindle Andersen's original intentions, suggesting transcendence, the permanence of spirit, and the continuity that links the living and the dead.


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely little book June 27 2014
By Suzanne
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a fan of Gregory Maguire so of course I like this book. It is something that adults and children can read together.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maguire Does what He Does Best Sept. 24 2009
By Bart Breen TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Maguire is the type of author whom people seem to either love or hate. There's not so much middle ground and this book will likely evoke reactions similar to those of his more substantial books.

Make no mistake however, this is not one of Maguire's typical books.

What Maguire does better than most authors is to take an archetype of folklore and then to weave a tapestry around it that pulls it into modern times and make it more understandable and real to readers. Reading a Maguire tale may serve better in some ways to show the tale to better advantage than the original tale where many nuances and temporal elements are lost over the years.

Many of those elements are true to form in this shorter tale but added to it as well are the line drawings of the author that reinforce the verbal themes with pictures that do more than just illustrate the scenes being depicted. Here Maguire uses his drawings to futher elicit and evoke feeling and emotion. A reader would do well to pause and linger just a moment more to see what Maguire is doing with these illustrations.

Matchless, as a Christmas Story (the original was set on New Year's Day) with the additional tale woven in pulls out some of the story in a way that probably brings the reader into it to understand better what a contemporary reader of that day, age and place would have seen and felt. The typical western reader doesn't live with infant mortality, young children forced to the street to eke out a living and certainly not a young girl freezing on the streets with the hallucinations of a slow death recounted. This is not something that would draw memories and emotions from most readers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Unmatched May 16 2010
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Gregory Maguire is the king of giving new twists to old stories. So it comes as no surprise that he chose to subtlely rework one of Hans Christian Anderson's more depressing tales, namely the story of the doomed Little Match Girl. "Matchless: A Christmas Story" is a bittersweet but hopeful little tale that intertwines the story of the Match Girl with a more fortunate, imaginative young boy.

Frederik Pederson wanders the local docks in search of fish that the seagulls drop, so he can feed himself and his widowed mother. Mrs. Pederson has a slightly more exalted job repairing torn hems for the "lead toed" Queen. When he isn't scrabbling to find enough enough food to survive on, Frederik also tends to his "secret" -- a tiny town made of bowls, spools, boxes and netting -- and searches for more discarded items to add to the secret town.

But there are those more unfortunate than Frederik, including a penniless child trying to sell matches on Christmas Eve, who loses her shoe in the street. Tragically, she dies having visions of a warm, luxurious Christmas and her dead mother. One of her shoes found its way into Frederik's hands, and it leads him to a life-changing encounter with the girl's family -- and the realization that those that are gone are never quite lost.

I'll be honest here: I like happy endings, and so the depressing end of "The Little Match Girl" has always bothered me (spiritual themes or not). "Matchless: A Christmas Story" contains the same story in its second part -- poverty, chills and a little girl freezing out in the snow while nobody bothers to help -- but Maguire fleshes it out with a framework story that is a lot more uplifting. Big message: forgiveness, family love, and how the dead look after the living.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet Dec 20 2009
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Reason for Reading: I have several of the author's books but haven't read any as of yet plus The Little Match Girl is one of my favourite fairy tales.

Summary: The story of a young boy who lives with his widowed mother. They may be poor, but they have just enough to get by and that is enough for them. Their lives very briefly cross paths with a little match girl who dies in the night cold one evening. Then due to that crossed path they are brought together with her distraught family.

Comments: A bittersweet, little story that is really much more than a retelling of The Little Match Girl. Macguire uses Andersen's tale as a starting point to expand upon and from which to create his own tale. Chapter 2 of the book does retell Andersen's tale pretty much keeping to the original though he does make it clear that the little girl is hallucinating and it is her dead mother she sees at the end instead of her grandmother.

Set in the past, in a time of horse and buggies, there is a sentimental ambiance that floats throughout the story. One feels that things are not going to go particularly well and after the death of the little girl any small act of joy becomes poignant. Macguire shows how the small things in life can (and maybe should) mean so much. As in the original tale there is that heavy feeling in the heart but there are bright moments and humour added by Frederick's mom. The fairy tale aspect comes into play when Frederick and his mom meet up with the little match girl's widowed father and two other young daughters and there is a special magical ending on Christmas Eve.
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