The Hatmakers

Authored by Tamzin Merchant
Illustrated by Paola Escobar
Published by Puffin

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This debut set in an alternative Georgian London is an imaginative, magical adventure with underlying themes of co-operation, reconciliation and trust.

The plot is centred on Cordelia, the youngest of the Hatmakers, one of the different Maker families entrusted with creating special clothing and accessories for the royal family. This clothing is imbued with magical qualities that result in altering the mood of the wearer from anger to happiness and every emotion in between. There has been a long-standing feud and bitter mistrust between the families and the story opens during a particularly difficult period. The Makers have been instructed to provide Peace Clothing to ensure a successful outcome of the forthcoming peace talks with the King of France. Cordelia’s father, Prospero, has been lost at sea during a violent storm and King George appears to have gone mad leaving his daughter, Princess Georgina, in despair.

The narrative is littered with Shakespearean references and rich descriptions of clothing and settings alongside a gentle humour that will appeal to children who enjoy Harry Potter or similar fantasy adventures. There are some wonderful characters with equally wonderful names: the governess, Miss Starebottom, Lord Witloof, the King’s aide and my own particular favourite, Sir Hugo Gushforth, the actor. This is a story that can be read on several levels. Superficially a swashbuckling tale of villains, brave and resourceful children and darkened alleys and rooftops this also conveys important messages about the importance of family, loyalty, cooperation and peace against the threat of greed, betrayal. resentment and war.

An ideal novel for readers in Years 5 and 6 prompting discussion and creative writing, it would also be a treat to read aloud. Cordelia is a fabulous protagonist and the story carefully touches on gender stereotypes and assumptions. A hugely enjoyable story and there is a sequel to look forward to.

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