At Christmas 1888 Hetty Feather is twelve years old. This book is set in the period after the other books in the Hetty Feather series and after Clover Moon. Christmas day is the one and only day in the year when the Foundling Hospital schedule changes. The foundling children are to be given an orange, a penny, a Christmas lunch and a teaspoon of sugar on their porridge. They also make a Christmas tableau in the chapel. Hetty will see her brother Gideon, cast as the Angel Gabriel. Usually girls and boys are kept apart.
Hetty has discovered that Ida, one of the women working at the hospital, is in fact her birth mother. The rules of the hospital normally forbid such knowledge. Ida has given Hetty a Christmas present, which causes the other girls to become jealous. Hetty reacts badly to bullying and as punishment is excluded from the celebrations. But then one of the governors arrives and informs the matron that she is taking Hetty out.
Hetty meets a family called the Rivers. We understand that Rose Rivers is to be the lead character in Wilson’s next book. Though it is not stated, one of the other children, Beth, has what we would now call an autistic spectrum disorder.
This book takes the reader through some of the conventional Victorian Christmas celebrations, certain of which will be familiar to a modern reader but others unfamiliar. At the end of the book is a section of activities for the reader to follow. Many of the young Wilson admirers will be entertained this Christmas by an engaging story linked to our traditions today. Nick Sharratt’s characterful black and white snowflake illustrations marking the start of each chapter add beautifully to the cosy festive mood.