Booklist Reviews

/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 3^-5, younger for reading aloud. Pinkney, who recently retold and illustrated "The Ugly Duckling," now adapts another Hans Christian Andersen classic, "The Little Match Girl." The large-format picture book allows plenty of room for early twentieth-century city scenes that form the backdrop for this memorable tale. Sent out from her crowded tenement home to sell artificial flowers and matchsticks on New Year's Eve, the little girl loses her shoes crossing the street and feels the chill as snow begins to fall. She's afraid to go home because no one has bought her wares. As night falls, she huddles against a brick wall and begins to light her matches to stave off the cold. Each flame brings a momentary vision: first warmth, then a feast, then a Christmas tree, and finally her beloved, deceased grandmother. Striking all her matches to keep that vision with her, the lonely child finds herself gathered up in her grandmother's arms and taken up to heaven, "where there was no more cold, no hunger, no pain, for they were with God." The illustration of the match girl presents a challenge for artists, but Pinkney's interpretation is impressive. He places her firmly in the context of her times, contrasting her poverty and the wealth of many others in the street scenes, people too busy and self-absorbed to notice her. Also, he makes her neither too pretty nor too pathetic, giving her an essential dignity that is true to the original story. Like the story, the detailed artwork, in pencil, gouache, and watercolor, is a study in contrasts, with many juxtaposed shades of muted colors, occasionally brightened with golden light and brighter, deeper hues. Because of the book's somber tone, some parents may object to the book's placement on the picture-book shelves, as CIP recommends. However, this is a beautifully illustrated version of a classic tale. ((Reviewed October 15, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Horn Book Guide Reviews

Pinkney has gracefully adapted the tragic classic about a poverty-stricken young girl forced to sell matches on a street corner. If the Match Girl is a bit too rosy-cheeked and romanticized, the gouache and watercolor paintings of the city setting are both sumptuous and gritty, aptly underscoring the tale's contrasts.Copyright 2000 Horn Book Guide Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Pinkney's deeply moving treatment of Andersen's classic tale moves the events to an urban America of the 1920s. On a freezing New Year's Eve, a girl stumbles outside in her stocking feet to try and sell matches. The jovial holiday crowd hustles by her; she is afraid to go home, where her father will beat her. To keep herself warm she lights her matches, and each blazes in a dream of holiday happiness. Her last vision is that of her kind grandmother, whom the child joins in a place beyond the reach of cold and poverty. On the last page, two shooting stars are shown blazing across the dark New Year's sky. Pinkney's detailed watercolors bring to life this cold winter night, and profusion of food and gifts just out of the girl's reach. Flecks of snow tumble across the outdoor scenes, and warm yellow candlelight make indoor settings look especially cozy. Pinkney's sense of pacing is also just right; readers will be captivated by the intimacy and drama his illustrations create. The result is so affecting that some will believe they're encountering this story for the very first time. (Picture book/folklore. 5-9) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly Reviews

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. Ages 5-up. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews

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.-Lisa Falk, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.