Thursday, September 21, 2023

Full Metal Alchemist: The Valley of the White Petals by Makoto Inque and Hiromu Arakawa



teen, lower secondary, Key Stage 3, ages10 -13, adventure, manga-related, fantasy, Inque Makoto, Arakakwa Hirmou, society,  

The white petals referred to in the title are from the flowers that Leaf grows. He offers them as a gift to Ruby who comes from the same village as him. Leaf is one of the weaker inhabitants of Wisteria, a town that is hidden at the bottom of a steep cliff.   Colonel   Mustang has ordered brothers Edward and Alphonse to go and investigate.

The Colonel’s methods are a little unorthodox: he has emptied their bank account of cash as a way of making them get in contact.

Edward and Alphonse Elric are Alchemists and have bodies made of metal. Their overall mission is to regain their own true bodes.

At Wisteria they meet Ruby who is convinced of the goodness of Mr Raygen who rescued her and who rules over all life in Wisteria. It seems idyllic in many ways but there are those who live on the cusp, such as Leaf.  There is a system of “equivalent exchange” which ultimately means that those who can’t work starve.

The brothers eventually show Raygen as he really is. He doesn’t really care about the people and he likes to control them.  They must obey. Once he has gone the people of Wisteria are freed to think for themselves.  Ruby and Leaf are reconciled.

This is a fast-paced adventure with pleasing character development and plenty of tension. It is based on the manga stories of Hirmou Arakakwa and indeed features a few manga-style illustrations.

It is 221 pages long, with blocked text in a serif font that includes difficult ‘a’s and ‘g’s. It has a friendly afterword from the author.                   

Saturday, September 9, 2023

The House of Serendipity: Sequins and Secrets by Lucy Ivison and Catharine Collingridge



Myrtle Mathers is a very skilled seamstress. She is the daughter of a tailor.  But when her father dies her mother has to sell the shop and goes to live with a relative who owns a farm.  Myrtle goes into service.

Slyvie Catrwright is one of the daughters in the big house and has a talent for drawing haute couture clothes.

Myrtle and Sylvie become a team. First of all they design and make a superb dress for Sylvie’s sister Delphine.  Then they become involved with Agapantha Portland-Prince who wants to wear trousers for her coming-out ball and also wants to disguise herself as a man so that she can go on an exotic adventure.

It almost all works but a misunderstanding about a tiara leads to Myrtle getting the sack. However, the girls’ designs are taken up by Hollywood, leaving the story open for another adventure.

The story is 267 pages long in blocked text with a classic serif font though it is double-spaced.

There ae several beautiful dress designs in the text and there is a pair of scissors underneath each page number.

At the end of the book we are treated to the opening pages of the next story.  There is also a note from the author. There are instructions for how to make glamorous headbands there are recipes for afternoon tea and Shirley Temple mocktails. Usborne provides some  “quick links” where you can access more dress designs, photos, videos and more activities.  

A Tempest of Tea by Hafsah Faizal

2024   Spendthrift is an innocent tea room by day and by night a den for vampires, where they can enjoy a different sort of tea and indulg...