I was thrilled to receive this little volume through the October 2009 Early Reviewers lottery at LibraryThing, anxious to see what Maguire would do to "illuminate" this Anderson tale. I don't think I was disappointed (except that I didn't get it until Feburary 2010).
Around the Hans Christian Anderson tale of The Little Match Girl, Maguire weaves the story of a young poor boy, his seamstress mother, his toy town, and eventually the family of the match girl. Almost as enchanting as the story are the ink illustrations by Maquire. Presented like a children's picture book, illustrations appear on most of the right-hand pages, with story text on the left-hand pages.
Maguire's postscript to the printed version (it was originally an NPR All Things Considered performance and aired Christmas 2008, and still accessible on their website) notes "a sense of the transcendent apprehended by many nineteenth-century readers [of the original story]" as does the dust jacket flap, which also states the Maquire story points to "the permanence of spirit, and the continuity that links the living and the dead." While the boy was part of the match girl's tragedy, the tragedy was triumph* for both his and her family.
*My favorite line from the book: "[...] they had the warmth of one another, and enough on which to live, and in most parts of the world, that is called plenty."