By Author / Illustrator
Sally Nicholls, Rachael Dean
Nosy Crow Ltd
Paperback / softback
Fun-filled, action-packed adventures in time from best-selling, award-winning author, Sally Nicholls. When Alex and Ruby fall through the mirror in their aunt's house, they find themselves in a different historical period, each time with a different task to perform before they can return to the present. From Edwardian crime capers to Victorian Christmasses, their time-slip stories are always exciting and beautifully told. A Victorian Christmas is lovely - all the food and candles and games and singing - unless you're poor, motherless Edith who is condemned to be sent to a cruel boarding school on Boxing Day. Can Alex and Ruby persuade her strict father that home is where the heart is instead? Classic storytelling from a brilliant writer and beautifully illustrated throughout by Rachael Dean, with covers by Isabelle Follath. One of these books is never enough!
A Christmas in Time picks up the story of Alex and Ruby and the mysterious mirror in their great aunt's house. They have fallen through it for the second time and found themselves in the middle of a typical Victorian Christmas, complete with skating on the local lake and expeditions to collect mistletoe and holly.
The house is still familiar but everything else has changed. For a start, it's perishingly cold without central heating - and they have to put on some very peculiar underwear to help them keep warm. But most worrying of all, is the predicament of little Edith, whose austere father is adamant she will be packed off to boarding school on Boxing Day. Ruby and Alex know from local history lessons how dangerous this will be and they know the mirror has sent them back to save her. But how can two children persuade her troubled father, Uncle Elijah, to change his mind?
I liked the wealth of fascinating Victorian detail inviting comparisons between Christmas then and Christmas now. I liked the way the children talk and listen so as to find common ground with the children of the Victorian household. Despite the cultural barrier of time that separates them, they learn that appearances aren't really very important - children are still the same. Most of all, I liked the subtext that kindness and understanding illuminate the path to hope in the gloomiest of situations.
The plot canters along quickly, so it's not overlong, and it's all within the emotional range of a seven-year-old. The language, vocabulary and historical detail ensure that it would challenge confident readers and listeners in lower Key Stage 2, but the story is sufficiently predictable to make it accessible to the less precocious too.
With a quintessential Christmas message at its heart, A Christmas in Time would be ideal for a seasonal class read for Year 3 or 4 in November or December.
256 pages / Reviewed by Louisa Farrow, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 7+
A Christmas in Time brings a new adventure for Ruby and Alex - this time during the Victorian period, in 1872. Once again, they fall through the mirror in their Aunt Joanna's house. This is a lovely story which has a lot of information about what Christmas would have been like for Victorians - the clothes (especially the underwear!), the food and the games.
They first meet Marian, who passes them off as her school friend's children from America. They have to stay with her over Christmas as she is too ill to look after them. In the house, along with Mirian and her husband Charles, lives five of their children. As you can imagine it is a very 'energetic' place with lots of Christmas excitement.
As the story unfolds, Alex and Ruby try, with the help of the other children, to stop Elijah sending his daughter, Edith, away to a truly horrendous boarding school (Scotsborough School). This is the problem that they need to solve in order to go back to their own time.
Nicholls manages to bring the past to life once again. These books are a fun way for children to find out about different periods in time, as well as being great adventure stories.
256 pages / Reviewed by Donna Ritchie, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 7+