Book review: Tinsel by Sibéal Pounder

Book review: Tinsel by Sibéal Pounder

I decided to spend the last week of December reading a stack of magically Christmassy middle grade novels, and I did not regret it. Tinsel is the first of this stack that I’ll be reviewing (check back on Thursday when I’ll be discussing my thoughts on the entire Christmas series by Matt Haig!).

Tinsel (subtitled The Girls Who Invented Christmas) is a feminist take on the Father Christmas origin story, explaining how Santa Claus came to be known as an old man when Christmas was actually the brain child of Blanche Claus and her best friend Rinki.

Blanche is an independent young girl who is desperate to find her place to belong in the world. She pretends to be a boy so that her and her horse, Rudy, can work as carters, while plotting with Rinki to bring magic and hope to every child in the world by figuring out a way to deliver gifts to every single one of them in one night: Christmas.

Unfortunately this seems impossible, until Blanche meets a fairy/elf called Carol, who (along with many other fairy/elves, also called Carol) works to help Blanche make her Christmas dream a reality.

Sibéal Pounder’s twists on Christmas lore were clever and comical. There are lots of miscommunication and hijinks going on in this story, but also some believable mix-ups that do make you wonder whether the story of Santa Claus is as clear-cut as it seems.

My favourite thing about Tinsel was definitely Eggnog, a talking fir tree who just loves to give hugs which are far longer than socially acceptable. If Sibéal Pounder decided to write a sequel to Tinsel following Eggnog, I’d pre-order that in a heartbeat.

I also really appreciated the epilogue, which encourages young readers to try to find an environmentally-friendly alternative to tinsel and informs them of the risk of plastic pollution. A subtle yet impactful way to get little people thinking about their impact on the planet.

If you’ve read and enjoyed Matt Haig’s Christmas series, you’ll definitely love this story. There are some parallels between them – including a twisted newspaper owner who is desperate to spread misinformation, an important topic to educate young readers on – and they both effectively weave the bittersweet with the magical, adding a realistic aspect to their fantastical tales.

Are there any Christmassy middle grade novels that you would recommend I pick up next year?