What a lovely little book 'A Christmas in Time' by Sally Nicholls is - perfect for this time of year! Heartwarming and full of Victorian period detail, it harkens back to simpler times, reminding us to be grateful for what we have now.

 

Alex and Ruby have a special mirror; one which allows them to travel through time. When they are hurled back to 1872, they meet who they think are their Victorian relatives. It's Christmas with lots of singing, candles, chopping down a tree and charade games! But Alex and Ruby are there for a reason. Poor Edith is to be sent to a terrible school, where children go hungry. Can Alex and Ruby convince Edith's stern and joyless father to stop her from going?

 

I was really surprised by this little book. In sparse prose, Nicholls brilliantly evokes a bygone era: familiar but also hauntingly different. The details she describes, from frost on the inside of windows to the feel of tight-worn clothing, really brings a Victorian Christmas vividly to life - and readers will love to explore this as much as Alex and Ruby do. Similarly the dialogue is evocative too - Dickensian, specially gift-wrapped and edible for young minds. 

 

The story is great too. We really don't want poor Edith going to a school of such harsh conditions, and so we really root for Alex and Ruby as they try to thaw Edith's icy father to convince him otherwise. He's a Scrooge-like character with the magic of Christmas fortunately rubbing off on him. And Nicholls subtly and beautifully shows his change of heart. Marvellous iIllustrations by Rachael Dean also capture the moments of this Christmas so well too.

 

This is a wonderful little time-capsule of a book. I'm sure it will get children googling the details of a Victorian Christmastime, making them realise how lucky they are to have the things we do today, even if we also have a pandemic to contend with!

Thanks to the smashing Nosy Crow for the book to review!

https://www.waterstones.com/book/a-christmas-in-time/sally-nicholls/rachael-dean/9781788007337

© 2021 by Chris Soul