The Little Match Girl

by Hans Christian Andersen (Author) Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)

The Little Match Girl
Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

The wares of the poor little match girl illuminate her cold world, bringing some beauty to her brief, tragic life.

The luminous art of three-time Caldecott Honor recipient Jerry Pinkney transforms the nineteenth-century Danish girl of Andersen's tale into a child plucked straight from America's melting pot, shedding new light on the invisibility of the poor among the prosperous-a circumstance as familiar in Andersen's day as it is in our own.

"[A] beautifully illustrated version of a classic tale." - (Booklist, starred review)

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Publishers Weekly

A faithful retelling of a classic tale, dramatic snow-speckled street scenes and luxuriantly thick pages all earmark this picture book as a volume to be cherished. Pinkney (Going Home) transports the eponymous protagonist from Andersen's European setting to the bustling city streets and crowded tenements of early 1920s America. Aching with cold and desperate to earn money for her impoverished family, the young ragamuffin vendor will surely call to mind the plight of homeless people, familiar to so many contemporary children. The warm, comforting visions (a sumptuous feast, a twinkling Christmas tree, her late grandmother's loving face) that appear to the girl as she slowly burns through her wares shine bright as day in Pinkney's vividly detailed ink-and-watercolor compositions, as finely wrought as his admirers expect. The girl's cherry-red babushka and the fancy garb of harried passersby offer contrast to the stark gray sidewalks and brick buildings. The story's haunting death imagery–the girl slumped and frozen, her spirit soaring toward peace–may disturb the very young, but ultimately Pinkney's vision proves as transcendent as Andersen's. 

Copyright 1999 Publisher’s Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 4-As he did with The Ugly Duckling (Morrow, 1999), Pinkney has adapted and interpreted one of Andersen's classic tales with gorgeous watercolor illustrations. The artist conveys the details of this New Year's Eve story so splendidly that readers may not realize that the little girl is dying. The sumptuous sights she imagines once she begins striking her matches for warmth are a stark contrast to the freezing child, and readers may well be relieved when they see her being carried off by her grandmother to God. Pinkney's Match Girl is set in urban America in the 1920s; the child's ethnic heritage is nonspecific. There aren't too many versions of this somewhat maudlin tale available-if you need one, this is the one to buy.

Copyright 1999 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Hans Christian Andersen
Rachel Isadora began dancing at the age of eight. She trained at George Balanchine's School of American Ballet and has danced professionally. Rachel lives in New York City with her family.

Rachel Isadora has illustrated many books set in the world of dance and theater, including Opening Night, My Ballet Class, Swan Lake, The Little Match Girl, and Ben's Trumpet, which received the Caldecott Honor Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award.

copyright (c) 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Puffin Books
Publication date
September 23, 2002
Picture Puffin Books
BISAC categories
JUV012030 - Juvenile Fiction | Fairy Tales & Folklore | General
JUV014000 - Juvenile Fiction | Girls & Women
JUV017010 - Juvenile Fiction | Holidays & Celebrations | Christmas & Advent
Library of Congress categories

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