Title: Tinsel: The Girls who Invented Christmas
Author: Sibéal Pounder
Genre: Christmas, Fantasy
Published: 3rd November 2020
Synopsis: What if somewhere along the way we’ve all got the Santa story a bit wrong…? Join Blanche Claus and her best friend Rinki for a funny festive sleigh ride you’ll never forget!
From Sibéal Pounder, bestselling author of the Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series, this tale of friendship and mince-pie feasts is the perfect book to curl up with this winter. Funny, feminist and with a huge heart, it’s a gloriously Christmassy adventure that will delight even the biggest Grinch.
I love Christmas stories – I try to read a few every year during December, and this was one that I bought last year but it arrived after Christmas, so I had to save it for this Christmas. In Tinsel, two girls – Blanche Claus and Rinki meet – and start a tradition of a mince pie picnic. When Blanche stumbles across a magical bauble and an elf, she’s sent to the North Pole, where she meets the Carols – elves – and a dancing Christmas tree called Eggnog. Here, and together with Rinki, she hatches a plan: to ensure that every child in the world gets to open a present on Christmas Day – and so begins the legend of Santa Claus. Yet Rinki and Blanche must contend with the evil Mr Krampus, who hates Christmas (Bah Humbug) and is determined to ruin what Rinki, and Blanche have created – even going so far as to do all he can to reveal who S. Claus really is.
Christmas stories are always fun and magical, and reading them makes it feel like the Christmas and festive season is truly beginning – much like once Michael Bublé comes out, we all know it’s Christmas. This story takes all the Christmas themes, tropes and icons we know so well and turns them into a fun and engaging middle grade story about how it was two girls who created Christmas, going against what many people at the time thought girls could not do, and what they expected girls to do. This gives a wonderful insight into how the legends we associate with Christmas came to be in this lovely fantasy story. We get to visit Victorian London, the North Pole and see how the elves became the charming icons we all know today from various movies and stories.
I also loved that girls and girl power was at the centre of this novel – showing that girls are capable of anything and that those who underestimate them or assume they can only do certain things are not always right. I loved the ingenuity of the girls and Teddy, who also stepped outside of what was expected or assumed of him – and this was wonderful too, as we got to see a spectrum of how boys and girls act and behave and allows children to see – through the magic of Christmas – that anyone can do anything they want, if they believe in themselves. And also shows that anyone can choose their own destiny and what they enjoy – we don’t have to like something because someone says we have to.
It’s stories like this that are magical, and that turn gender expectations around in a fun and creative way that I really love and think we should all be given the chance to read, even if the book is aimed at younger readers. Sometimes it is the kids’ books that present issues of gender in creative and accessible ways, and in powerful ways. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to these books – the way they explore some themes and issues, even difficult ones, is truly powerful and they give a great understanding of things that I feel like some adult books can miss out on.
Tinsel was fun, bittersweet and magical, and one that I think suits Christmas perfectly, but could also be read at any time of the year when we want to be reminded of the magic and beauty of humanity and how we can help each other.