It is the lead up to Christmas 1952 and Penny Black has been sent to stay with her Uncle Frank, who runs a small post office in central London. Penny’s mother is a pilot for the Royal Mail and flies post to Europe and back; but Penny is hoping that she will be back home in time to celebrate Christmas. What Penny does not expect, is to discover what she initially thinks is a rat, but turns out to be something very special indeed. This small creature speaks English and says his name is ‘Wishyouwas’; he is a ‘Sorter’ and this group of creatures have made it their purpose to try and retrieve lost post and make sure it finds its rightful recipient. However, the Sorters are under threat from the Royal Mail Rat Catcher and Penny finds herself trying to save them and prove how useful they would be to the service.
This is one of those magical stories that just wraps itself around your heart and gives you a warm glow. Penny is a bright and adventurous young girl, who wants a real Christmas, but that is beginning to look most unlikely. Her relationship with the Sorters gives her a purpose and to her surprise it brings new friendships, with the most unexpected of creatures. The author has given us a real sense of the time and the bleakness that there was, so soon after the war and with rationing still happening. What we also have is a brilliant and precise description of the environment that the sorters have created. Their names are based on phrases they find in letters and parcels, whilst many of their utensils have been fashioned from human implements. For those who have read other stories about anthropomorphic animals and small humans this will seem quite normal.
This is a wonderful story about friendship, family and also being open to new ideas and accepting others who are very different. Alexandra Page has created a new Christmas classic and I know it will be a firm favourite for children in KS2, although it would be great to read out loud to younger children.