This is the best kind of book: the surprise gift kind! I hadn’t heard of this book when the parcel from Nosy Crow landed on my doorstep, but I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for the other books in this time travel adventure series!
Book: A Christmas in Time by Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Rachael Dean
Read before: No
Publication date: 1st October 2020
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Nosy Crow Books. All opinions my own.
Alex and Ruby are visiting their aunt for Christmas – the same aunt whose mirror they used last summer to go back in time! When they spot a woman beckoning to them in the mirror this time, they’re sent back to a Victorian household, and in order to make it home, there’s something they need to fix. The two siblings will need to cope with a very different Christmas to their modern expectations, and convince a strict father not to send his daughter, quiet little Edith, to a terrible boarding school – without revealing that they learned about the school’s history in their time!
Although this isn’t the first book in the series, you can jump in without feeling too adrift as to what’s going on; the only thing I found slightly confusing was how old the children were meant to be, and that doesn’t particularly matter in the grand scheme of things. Ruby is clearly the older sister, and though Alex feels more like the main character, the two share page time fairly equally. Their sibling dynamic is really well done – they’re good friends, in part forged by their previous adventure, but their interactions still feel realistic (and not overly saccharine as some sibling relationships sometimes appear!). I liked how Ruby’s practicality tempered Alex’s enthusiasm when it came to hiding their time travel; they make a good team, and it’s easy to like both of them.
The Victorian household is really well researched, and manages to pull off the balance between information and pacing very nicely. You really get a sense of how a Victorian Christmas would feel, from the chilly air (no central heating, of course!), to the very different traditions leading up to the day, to the much simpler present giving. The outfits are described in particular detail, which was like catnip to me, a historical dress enthusiast! This would be perfect for a reader who enjoys learning about the past – but don’t worry about it being bogged down in detail, because the plot itself moves nice and quickly.
This is such a cosy read, and one that would be perfect for Christmas! I would have been all over this as a child, from the Christmassy vibes right out of classic children’s literature, to the great historical detail and sweet storyline. I’m really looking forward to going back to book one, and then looking out for any further instalments in this lovely series – four out of five cats!