Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Book Review: The Manor House Stories by Jani Tully Chaplin

Book Review: The Manor House Stories by Jani Tully Chaplin

Cream & Sugar the Milkmaids: Snowfalls and Snowballs

As you may remember, my children and I reviewed a different book in this series just before Christmas. Well, it transpires that there are 12 books in total, each associated to a month of the year. This book – Cream & Sugar the Milkmaids – is the January issue, and it is full of The White Stuff that is snow J
Everything about the presentation of this book has already been said in my previous review. It has that ‘collectable’ feel to the 68 page solid hardback with shiny slipcase. As before, a glossy ribbon (ice blue this time) is included to mark your page. Before you reach the start of the story you are introduced to the full series of books with short single paragraph overviews. There is again a beautifully presented ‘Meet the Characters’ double page spread, with lovely portrait illustrations. And the foreword by Julian Fellows again reminds you that you are about to read a book that is a bit special!
And so to the actual story…

Set in January, the story mainly focuses around two milkmaids – Cream and Sugar – and the young members of the household, the children Miranda and her twin brothers Arthur and Sebastian. All children love to play in the snow, and the first morning in this story they all wake to a lovely white winter wonderland outside their windows. They had snowball fights, fast downhill rides, and the almost compulsory crash at the bottom, on their wooden sledge – simply what childhood memories are full of!

The outdoor games were temporarily suspended by the arrival of a beautiful hare-pulled sleigh, driven by a Russian princess (Princess Petrushka Plover) – everyone was in awe of the Royal arrival – and they all were desperate to meet her. Erminetine Stoat, who managed the icehouse, had agreed to carve an ice sculpture for a Grand Dinner that evening. Even with the help of a lot of her friends, her sculpture, of the domed buildings in Moscow, wasn’t quite right – and she started to panic. They then remembered that Delia Duck the cook was making an ice bowl full of flowers to serve ice-cream in, so they adapted the ice ‘domes’ and turned them into a stunning ‘fruit in a fruit bowl’ sculpture instead. Cream and Sugar the milkmaids, who helped sculpture the fruit and make the ice-cream, were desperate to catch a glimpse of the Princess. The Princess was so pleased with the sculpture that she asked to meet those who made it. The milkmaids were each given a present by the Princess – a set of Matryoshka dolls  - all the way from Russia. She also left some beautiful slippers for Erminetine Stoat – everyone was very pleased with their gifts!
When reading the story, you can sense the nervousness of the staff who were serving the Princess at the Grand Dinner – Delia Duck particularly had a sense of humour failure at one point, understandable given the stress she would have been under!

An absolute bonus can be found right at the very back of the book – a ‘How to Make an Ice Bowl’ project … a degree of mindreading must have taken place because when I read about it in the book, I did actually consider trying to make one myself! And of course, with the instructions in front of me, how could I not have a go! This weekend my children will be eating their ice-cream desserts from small bowls made of ice! I can’t wait!