The House of Serendipity

Illustrated by Lucy Truman
Ebook
On sale Jul 06, 2021 | 224 Pages | 9780593204733
Fans of Shannon Hale's Princess Academy series and budding fashionistas everywhere will love this charming, delightful middle-grade novel about two girls with a talent for dressmaking set in 1920s London.

The perfect dress can change everything.

When talented young tailor Myrtle Mathers becomes a maid for the Cartwright family, she thinks her days of sketching and stitching are over for good. That is, until Sylvia Cartwright runs into a big problem--her older sister's debutante ball is about to be ruined by a truly horrendous dress. Desperate, Sylvia calls on Myrtle to help her save the night, and a serendipitous partnership begins.

Their design catches the eye of London's debutantes, so when one practically begs Myrtle and Sylvia to dress her, the two girls make a plan: create something special for her without revealing their true identities. If people find out what Myrtle and Sylvia are up to, it could spell disaster for the girls' futures.



But as it turns out, the debutante is looking for more than just a gorgeous outfit--she needs a disguise that will help her escape high-society life forever. And for Myrtle and Sylvia, what starts as a plan to prove their design skills soon becomes a secret mission to defy expectations.

A fabulous, fantastical adventure through 1920s London, this delightful series opener celebrates the magic of friendship, fashion, and being yourself.

1

Myrtle

I stopped and set my sewing machine down for the hundredth time. My hand was red raw, and my whole body ached with the effort of carrying the machine across London. But I refused to leave it behind.

I caught my reflection in the shop window and smiled to myself. Ma had said this dress was my best work, and it was. I had designed it and stayed up all night making it. If I were going to be a maid, I had decided I would do it dressed as though I were a queen.

I based the dress on a design from Chanel’s last winter collection. All the magazines featured it, and every day another lady would come into our family tailor’s shop, grasping a clipping, wanting it copied, desperate to look as chic and beautiful as the picture. But my dress is only Chanel-inspired. The rest is Myrtle Mathers. Instead of cutting it out of navy crepe, I used the finest black wool, soft but strong. I changed the collar so it is wider and gently scalloped, and I trimmed it in silk. On the tips I embroidered the tiniest bumblebees, the symbol of the worker. The Chanel dress had wide sleeves that flared out at the cuff, but I designed mine so the cuffs are tight to my wrists and won’t drag in soapy water or ashes in the hearth. I sewed on tiny black pearl buttons that reach all the way from my wrists to my elbows, and then I fluted the hem so that when I walk it swishes ever so slightly. And if you pay attention as it swishes, you will catch glimpses of the life I am leaving behind.

Because along the hem I embroidered a paw print the exact shape and size of our cat’s, Schiaparelli. I stitched my mother’s favorite forget-­me-­not teacup and my father’s lucky scissors. There are two braids, one for me and one for my neighbor Ethel, tied together with our matching best-­friend ribbons. In a delicate chain stitch is our door with its number 7, old cracked paving stones in front, and the year, 1926. I stitched a cinema ticket and a Victoria sponge cake, my copy of Peter Pan and a reel of cotton.

I picked up my suitcase and sewing machine again and started to walk. With every step I was walking farther away from my before life. My life with a ma and pa. A life spent making things together in our tailor’s shop. A life where I believed I would become a dressmaker like them one day.

The most important cut in a pattern is the first one. It is irreversible. My life before was like a huge piece of uncut fabric. Pa dying was the first cut in my pattern. Ma got sick too, but then she got better. Well, almost better. But then she had to sell our shop to pay our debts—­another snip—and go back to Ireland, to the farm and to my nana, where the air is fresh and her lungs can fully heal. Saying goodbye to her, and not knowing when I would see her again, was a slash across the very seams of me. But I stayed in London because there are more jobs here for girls like me. More opportunities to become what you want to be. And I want to be someone. Someone who can bring my mother home. Someone who won’t let go of my dreams. Coco Chanel left her orphanage with just her scissors, and now I am leaving Stepney with my sewing machine. I am alone, cutting my own pattern, making my own life.

The street opened onto an impossibly grand square. There were four mansions, but I knew instantly which one was Serendipity House. It shone brilliantly white in the spring sunshine and, from a distance, seemed to be encased in its own private snowstorm. I squinted and realized what appeared to be snow was actually thousands and thousands of tiny pink cherry blossom petals swirling in the wind. Something in my heart lifted. The main door was vast, and a woman in an old-­fashioned wool suit holding a carpet bag stood in front of it. I saw the sign for the servants’ entrance and looked back across the square to where I had come from, back toward home. And then I looked up at the pink blizzard, closed my eyes, and stepped into it.

Since graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in illustration, Lucy Truman has become one of the UK's leading commercial illustrators. Her inspiration often comes from the very funny little people in her own life, including family holidays with her nephew as well as her own children. View titles by Lucy Truman

About

Fans of Shannon Hale's Princess Academy series and budding fashionistas everywhere will love this charming, delightful middle-grade novel about two girls with a talent for dressmaking set in 1920s London.

The perfect dress can change everything.

When talented young tailor Myrtle Mathers becomes a maid for the Cartwright family, she thinks her days of sketching and stitching are over for good. That is, until Sylvia Cartwright runs into a big problem--her older sister's debutante ball is about to be ruined by a truly horrendous dress. Desperate, Sylvia calls on Myrtle to help her save the night, and a serendipitous partnership begins.

Their design catches the eye of London's debutantes, so when one practically begs Myrtle and Sylvia to dress her, the two girls make a plan: create something special for her without revealing their true identities. If people find out what Myrtle and Sylvia are up to, it could spell disaster for the girls' futures.



But as it turns out, the debutante is looking for more than just a gorgeous outfit--she needs a disguise that will help her escape high-society life forever. And for Myrtle and Sylvia, what starts as a plan to prove their design skills soon becomes a secret mission to defy expectations.

A fabulous, fantastical adventure through 1920s London, this delightful series opener celebrates the magic of friendship, fashion, and being yourself.

Excerpt

1

Myrtle

I stopped and set my sewing machine down for the hundredth time. My hand was red raw, and my whole body ached with the effort of carrying the machine across London. But I refused to leave it behind.

I caught my reflection in the shop window and smiled to myself. Ma had said this dress was my best work, and it was. I had designed it and stayed up all night making it. If I were going to be a maid, I had decided I would do it dressed as though I were a queen.

I based the dress on a design from Chanel’s last winter collection. All the magazines featured it, and every day another lady would come into our family tailor’s shop, grasping a clipping, wanting it copied, desperate to look as chic and beautiful as the picture. But my dress is only Chanel-inspired. The rest is Myrtle Mathers. Instead of cutting it out of navy crepe, I used the finest black wool, soft but strong. I changed the collar so it is wider and gently scalloped, and I trimmed it in silk. On the tips I embroidered the tiniest bumblebees, the symbol of the worker. The Chanel dress had wide sleeves that flared out at the cuff, but I designed mine so the cuffs are tight to my wrists and won’t drag in soapy water or ashes in the hearth. I sewed on tiny black pearl buttons that reach all the way from my wrists to my elbows, and then I fluted the hem so that when I walk it swishes ever so slightly. And if you pay attention as it swishes, you will catch glimpses of the life I am leaving behind.

Because along the hem I embroidered a paw print the exact shape and size of our cat’s, Schiaparelli. I stitched my mother’s favorite forget-­me-­not teacup and my father’s lucky scissors. There are two braids, one for me and one for my neighbor Ethel, tied together with our matching best-­friend ribbons. In a delicate chain stitch is our door with its number 7, old cracked paving stones in front, and the year, 1926. I stitched a cinema ticket and a Victoria sponge cake, my copy of Peter Pan and a reel of cotton.

I picked up my suitcase and sewing machine again and started to walk. With every step I was walking farther away from my before life. My life with a ma and pa. A life spent making things together in our tailor’s shop. A life where I believed I would become a dressmaker like them one day.

The most important cut in a pattern is the first one. It is irreversible. My life before was like a huge piece of uncut fabric. Pa dying was the first cut in my pattern. Ma got sick too, but then she got better. Well, almost better. But then she had to sell our shop to pay our debts—­another snip—and go back to Ireland, to the farm and to my nana, where the air is fresh and her lungs can fully heal. Saying goodbye to her, and not knowing when I would see her again, was a slash across the very seams of me. But I stayed in London because there are more jobs here for girls like me. More opportunities to become what you want to be. And I want to be someone. Someone who can bring my mother home. Someone who won’t let go of my dreams. Coco Chanel left her orphanage with just her scissors, and now I am leaving Stepney with my sewing machine. I am alone, cutting my own pattern, making my own life.

The street opened onto an impossibly grand square. There were four mansions, but I knew instantly which one was Serendipity House. It shone brilliantly white in the spring sunshine and, from a distance, seemed to be encased in its own private snowstorm. I squinted and realized what appeared to be snow was actually thousands and thousands of tiny pink cherry blossom petals swirling in the wind. Something in my heart lifted. The main door was vast, and a woman in an old-­fashioned wool suit holding a carpet bag stood in front of it. I saw the sign for the servants’ entrance and looked back across the square to where I had come from, back toward home. And then I looked up at the pink blizzard, closed my eyes, and stepped into it.

Author

Since graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in illustration, Lucy Truman has become one of the UK's leading commercial illustrators. Her inspiration often comes from the very funny little people in her own life, including family holidays with her nephew as well as her own children. View titles by Lucy Truman

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