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Book review: Winter warmers from Macmillan Children’s Books

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As the nights draw in and the days grow shorter, Macmillan Children’s Books are spreading some welcome rays of forgotten sunshine onto a new season of reading.

Forget the TV and the Xbox, find a comfy chair and get lost in a world of seafaring cats, street-wise rodents, fiery dragons, knockabout history, alien adventures and dark, dangerous teen adventures.

Macmillan seek out the best authors and illustrators to bring kids some of the most exciting and innovative books around so get set and go for a winter of wonders.

Early years:

Poppy Cat: All Aboard! by Lara Jones

This superbly visual and fantastically colourful first picture book is sure to catch the eye of the very youngest children and become a firm favourite. Poppy Cat’s extraordinary adventures are a fun and funny way to introduce books. Featuring simple layouts and eye-catching artwork, tiny tots will enjoy sharing these stories again and again. Poppy Cat is a brilliant TV series based on the original books by Lara Jones who sadly died aged only 34 two years ago. In each episode, Lara, a little girl, invents extraordinary adventures for her beloved Poppy Cat and then the colourful characters spring to life in stories of friendship and fantasy play. A small, easy-to-handle picture book ideal for babies.

(board book, £4.99)

Zoe and Beans: Hello Oscar! by Chloë and Mick Inkpen

The Inkpens, a talented father and daughter duo, deliver another stunningly beautiful picture book in the adorable Zoe and Beans series for tots aged three and over. Chloë and Mick are proving a top team with their unique and exciting picture book partnership. Meet Oscar, the new next-door neighbour and a brand new friend for Zoe and Beans! Zoe has found a guinea pig at the bottom of the garden. And a tortoise, and a chameleon, and now there’s a noisy parrot! Where have they all come from? The hole in the fence could be a clue, but who lives on the other side? Exquisite drawings, the cutest little heroine and a fun story are sure to cast a warm glow over bedtime reading.

(hardback, £10.99)

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

In his most enigmatic and beautiful work to date, Lane Smith explores the importance of grandparents and their role in family life. Enter into Grandpa Green’s garden where the trees tell the story. Grandpa Green wasn’t always a gardener. He was a boy who lived on a farm and a child who had chickenpox. He was a soldier, a husband and, most of all, an artist. Follow his grandson through a garden where memories are handed down through the shapes of topiary trees and imagination recreates things forgotten. Charming, original and whimsical, Grandpa Green is book for every generation of the family to enjoy with its touching themes of family ties, shared memories and that special bond between the oldest and youngest in a family. A wonderful story that has all the ingredients to become a family favourite and a timeless classic.

(hardback, £11.99)

Again! by Emily Gravett

Enter the magical world of Emily Gravett and you’ll never want to return! Her award-winning stories are written and illustrated with flair, affection and a freewheeling sense of fun which tumbles out of every page. Here she brings us a stubborn little dragon with a favourite book... and a fiery temper! It’s nearly Cedric the dragon’s bedtime. He’s brushed his teeth and had his bath and there’s just time for his mum to read him his favourite book. Unfortunately for her, Cedric likes the story so much that he wants to hear it again and again with flame-filled consequences! There’s a red-hot surprise in the closing pages which will leave pre-schoolers burning to read this again and again, just like Cedric! Gravett’s imagination goes into overdrive in this funny, endearing and perceptive take on the whole concept of a book at bedtime.

(paperback, £6.99)

Rastamouse: Da Monstrous Fib by Genevieve Webster and Michael de Souza

The coolest rodent in town is back with his crazy crew of breakdancin’ pals to take pre-school dudes on more rappin’ and rhyming adventures. Join Da Easy Crew in Da Monstrous Fib, a lift-the-flap, pop-up adventure! (Campbell Books, paperback, £6.99) The ‘likkle’ orphan mice are having a great time camping in the forest until they are spooked by some monstrous noises in the middle of the night. Everyone is amazed when Bagga T’s cousin Mixy Mouse scares away the monster. But wait a minute, there’s no such thing as monsters, right? With flaps to lift on every page and a brilliant pop-up ending, children will love joining in the hunt for the truth as Rastamouse, Scratchy and Zoomer solve another puzzling mystery. Upbeat entertainment for young movers and shakers!

And don’t miss Rastamouse and the Double-Crossin’ Diva (Macmillan, paperback, £6.99). Missy D is causing Trouble with a capital T! Back-flippin’ Missy D is desperate to get to Mousetego Bay to win the grand prize in the Nuff Song Talent Show – so desperate that she’ll even steal the orphanage bus to get there. With the poor little mice stranded and missing all the fun, it’s an Easy Crew emergency!

Also, Rastamouse: Wicked Sticker Fun! (Campbell Books, paperback, £3.99) is bursting with games, puzzles and Mouseland mysteries to solve. Featuring Da Easy Crew and all their friends, it comes with over 60 glossy stickers and is the perfect companion for rainy days, journeys and holidays.

Age 5-7:

Gobbolino, The Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams

On the 70th anniversary of the publication of one of Britain’s best-loved children’s books, Gobbolino is ready to work his special brand of magic on a new generation of youngsters. Ursula Moray Williams, who died in 2006 aged 95, wrote nearly 70 books for children. This special edition has been lovingly brought to life for a modern audience by award-winning illustrator Catherine Rayner. No one could mistake Gobbolino for a simple kitchen cat, with his sparkling whiskers and magic tricks, but that’s just what the witch’s kitten wants to be. Instead of learning how to turn mice into toads for the witch’s brew, Gobbolino sets out on an adventure to find a family and a home of his own. This beautiful hardback edition has a retro appeal which makes it irresistible for both adults and youngsters.

(Macmillan, hardback, £9.99)

A First Poetry Book by Pie Corbett and Gaby Morgan

The early school years are the ideal time to get children interested in poetry and there could be no better introduction than this bright and beautiful book packed with verses to amaze, entertain and excite. Aimed at five to seven-year-olds, it includes hundreds of brand new poems from the very best poets around, and some timeless gems as well. The first in a new series of poetry books created with Key Stage One teachers and pupils in mind, it packs in some glorious poems that will appeal to a wide audience. The topic-based collection features poems about fairies, mermaids, princesses, monsters, mythical creatures, dinosaurs, pets, families, seasons, school, pirates, the senses, space, feelings, holidays, food, friends, the past and lots more.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Tony Robinson’s Weird World of Wonders: British

Using all the comic wit that he harnessed so memorably in the BBC Blackadder series, Tony Robinson brings us a history lesson with all the funny, strange, smelly and disgusting bits which teachers leave out but kids can’t get enough of! Here he sets his sardonic sights on the eccentric Brits and it’s a heady, hilarious headlong gallop through our country’s fascinating and sometimes foul history. Youngsters can find out everything they ever wanted to know in this brilliant, action-packed, fact-filled book, including how to avoid scurvy, why bright red isn’t the best colour for a soldier’s uniform, why not being able to swim was considered an advantage and how to cure the most gruesome tropical diseases. If only all lessons could be this much fun!

(paperback, £5.99)

Alienography 2: Tips for Tiny Tyrants by Chris Riddell

So you want to rule the universe? Join Chris Riddell, one of the best illustrators around, and Colin the alien as they explain their tips for intergalactic domination in this exciting, irreverent and colourful journey into space. Learn how to select a simpering sidekick, how to choose an evil outfit (a good vest is a must!) and how to buy the best battle cruiser ... you’ll be a butt-kicking baddy before you can blink! Impressively illustrated and full of out-of-this world laughs, this big, bold book has some brilliant novelty elements including a mini comic, a fold-out cross-section of the Centennial Turkey spaceship and a Top Chumps card game. Riddell’s books combine a wonderful originality with quirky humour tone to create something totally irresistible for keen readers. There’s never a dull moment in Riddell’s marvellously madcap world! Clever, funny and with an imagination as big as the universe, Riddell is the perfect choice for kids who love slime, silliness and geeky heroes!

(Macmillan, hardback, £14.99)

Teenage:

Rage Within by Jeyn Roberts

Jeyn Roberts’ mind-blowing teen novel Dark Inside was always going to be a hard act to follow but Rage Within features the same winning formula with its edgy darkness and white-knuckle excitement. The heart-stopping, page-turning saga of rage, hope and survival continues in Rage Within as a group of young earthquake survivors battle deadly, powerful forces. After the earthquakes came the infectious rage, turning friends into deadly enemies. For survivors Michael, Aries, Mason and Clementine, who have gained determination and resilience in their post-apocalyptic world, the battle to stay alive is about to get even tougher. The new world is organising itself, with camps that promise protection for the uninfected. But the reality of the sites is far more sinister. Besides, nobody is safe from the rage within their own soul... Chilling and truly terrifying, Rage Within is a tale of friends and enemies, hope and hopelessness, strength and weakness. A must-read for all young horror fans.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Forget Me Never by Gina Blaxill

Teens will love Gina Blaxill’s fast-paced novel which thrills with its true-to-life characters, gentle romance, gritty plotline and gripping finale. Did she jump or was she pushed? When Sophie’s cousin Danielle dies after a fall from her balcony, the police dismiss her death as suicide. She had broken up with her boyfriend and had suffered from depression in the past. Sophie isn’t so sure, however, and when she finds a computer memory stick in a pair of Dani’s old jeans, some new photos and information come to light that point to something more sinister. Sophie and her friend Reece investigate further and soon find out that Dani was involved with something very dark and very dangerous. As Sophie and Reece become more and more deeply involved, they put themselves in enormous danger too as they access secret data, face kidnap attempts and worse. And as they uncover the terrible truth about what really happened to Dani, Sophie and Reece must also face their feelings for each other... A brilliant and sensitively crafted exploration of the nature of friendship wrapped up in an intriguing, heart-searching mystery.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

 

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