Book review: Macmillan Children’s Books put the sparkle into Christmas

On your marks, get set, glow… Macmillan Children’s Books have a glittering line-up of books to add extra shine to Christmas 2013.

Thursday, 28th November 2013, 9:00 am
The Christmas Show
The Christmas Show

There are gorgeous, stardust-covered books to set young readers alight, funny and affectionate stories to warm hearts, activity books to combat boredom, informative books to inspire, weird and wonderful extravaganzas and new adventures with old favourite Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Age 2 and over:

The Christmas Show by Rebecca Patterson

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

First on stage is The Christmas Show, the big, bright and beautiful seasonal stunner from Rebecca Patterson, a rising star in children’s picture books.

Patterson, who won the 2012 Roald Dahl Funny Prize for her book My Big Shouting Day, knows just what little ones love… busy pictures that tell a multitude of stories. And this Christmas special comes with a gorgeously glittery cover, making it the perfect stocking filler.

It’s Christmas and the children have been practising hard for their nativity play. The narrators are word-perfect, the Important Angel has brushed her hair and the audience are in their seats. However, when the curtain rises, no one is expecting a spare shepherd to steal the show. But surely everyone deserves their 15 minutes of fame!

The Christmas Show will provide hours of entertainment as children pick out all the activities in a book brimming with action, festive fun and that irresistible glitter!

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)

Sugarlump and the Unicorn by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

And there’s a real shine to this glittery adventure written by Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Lydia Monks, one of the most original picture book artists working today.

When Sugarlump the rocking horse wishes to see the world, a magical unicorn with a silver horn and sparkling blue eyes turns him into a real horse. But after trotting around the farm, galloping around a racetrack and even dancing at the circus, Sugarlump learns to be careful what he wishes for and realises how much he misses the children he left behind. Luckily the unicorn has one more wish to grant…

Donaldson’s original and stylish rhyming verse really takes off in this warm and reflective little story which is brought to life by Monks’ magical illustrations.

A story to think about as well as enjoy…

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)

Charlie Crow in the Snow by Paula Metcalf and Cally Johnson-Isaacs

Take flight with lovable crow Charlie in a funny, snow-filled story which captures all the spirit of a winter wonderland.

Charlie the crow loves his home but things don’t stay perfect for long when the leaves drop off his tree and the water in his stream turns to glass. Then white flakes start to fall from the sky! Whatever is going on? Maybe a new friend can help Charlie find out …

Enchanting and charismatic pictures from the brush of Cally Johnson-Isaacs do full justice to Paula Metcalf’s quirky, heart-warming story.

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

Aunt Amelia by Rebecca Cobb

Rebecca Cobb’s eclectic, exciting illustrations have real child appeal and here she sets her artistic sights on an aunt with attitude.

When Mum and Dad go away for the night, Aunt Amelia comes to look after one very cross little girl and boy. They do not want to be looked after and, even worse, Mum has left a list of boring instructions. But Aunt Amelia turns out to be rather different from expected… and a lot more fun!

Cobb has an original style which puts idiosyncratic charm into the wonderful world of picture books and this rib-tickling story is sure to be a favourite bedtime read.

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)

Star Paws Animal Dress-Up

There’s no time to ‘paws’ as the magical sticker book series gets into gear for another round of amazing adventures with the ever-inventive Star Paws menagerie.

What child can’t fall in love with the irresistible furry friends whose adventures get them into all sorts of sticky, stickering spots? And with four exciting titles to choose from, including a Christmas extravaganza, these books are guaranteed to keep hands busy and the fun factor on full throttle.

From the world of brave knights and smelly peasants to buying the simple bear necessities on a madcap shopping trip and a Christmas outing, there are hundreds of colourful stickers, charming animal characters and plenty of crazy one-liners to keep the whole family laughing every step of the way.

Look out for Knights Sticker Book, Amazing Jobs Sticker Book, Shopping sticker book and the Christmas Sticker Book which includes presents to wrap, feasts to prepare, snowballs to throw, halls to ‘deck’ and outfits to choose. Help the animals spread some Christmas cheer with bells, bows, snow-white beards and jazzy winter knitwear. And look out for that mistletoe!

Big, bold and addictively entertaining, the Star Paws sticker books are a feast of fun for every season!

(Macmillan, paperback, £3.99 each)

Age 4 plus:

Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

And now for something completely different… Are you bored with being sensible and hearing people talk about the weather? Do you want to have more fun? Mr Tiger knows exactly how you feel. He too wants something fun, something exciting, something different. He’s fed up with tea parties, top hats and talking about the weather so he astounds his friends by making up his mind to go… wild! But by taking things into his own claws, does he go too far and what do his friends think? Will they disapprove or will they follow him? The wilderness can get pretty lonely and it would be good to have them along…

Youngsters will enjoy letting their own imaginations go wild with this brilliantly funny book from award-winning artist Peter Brown. It’s a story which encourages us all to discover the freedom of being ourselves. And to complete the picture, Brown’s unusual and vibrant illustrations were all made with India ink, watercolour, gouache and pencil on paper then digitally coloured.

A wonderfully wacky walk on the wild side which proves there’s a time and place for everything…

(Macmillan, hardback, 11.99)

Age 7 plus:

Walking with Dinosaurs Dinopedia by Steve Brusatte

The BIG picture – in every sense of the word – this Christmas time will be Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie but there’s a chance to get in on the act early with a thrilling range of tie-in prehistoric adventure books.

Walking with Dinosaurs Dinopedia is a beautifully produced 96-page, full-colour encyclopaedia filled with facts about the dinosaurs from the film as well as information about the world the dinosaurs inhabited and theories about their rise and fall.

Featuring images from the film and photos of palaeontologists at work, this fun and fascinating book explains how dinosaurs came to rule the world, what other species coexisted with them and how they grew and evolved.

Meet Patchi, Scowler, Alex, Gorgon and the rest of the film’s cast as they are put under the microscope to reveal a world long before our time.

(Macmillan, hardback, £9.99)

Dick and Dom’s Slightly Naughty but Very Silly Words! by Richard McCourt and Dominic Wood

If Christmas is the silly season, then who better to celebrate it with than Dick and Dom – aka Richard McCourt and Dominic Wood – who are back with a wonderful world of weird and wacky words.

The madcap duo – household names on children’s TV for 17 years and as beloved by parents as their offspring – have their very own made up vocabulary and now they’re letting youngsters in on the secret!

Packed with the strangest words, illustrated with glorious line drawings and their own hilarious definitions, this Christmas gift book will appeal to everyone’s mischievous side. Who could resist words like Dobbawoofsinit (a person who has trumped and blamed the dog) Germ Rain (the little bits of spit that some teachers do when they’re talking) and Musty Troutwarbler (an aged teacher who can’t keep control of the class).

This bundle of political incorrectness is simply a must-have for all little mischief makers!

(Macmillan, hardback, £7.99)

Tony Robinson’s Weird World of Wonders: World War One

If it’s quirky history you’re after, Tony Robinson fills in all the gaps in those conventional, wartime history books.

True to form, Robinson takes us on a headlong gallop through time, pointing out all the most important, funny, strange, amazing, entertaining, smelly and disgusting bits about World War I, giving us a history lesson, but not as we know it!

Find out everything you ever needed to know about World War I in this brilliant action-packed, fact-filled book, including how to build a trench, why dogs were such good messengers, how plastic surgery was invented and why you needed a gas mask.

With the incredible Tony Robinson as your guide, you’ll never be short of fascinating facts, fun-filled games and weird but wonderful gems from history.

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 8 plus:

How The World Works by Clive Gifford

This brilliant book is not just big in size but big in brain power and sets out to provide children with all the information they need to understand how the world works…

It’s an ambitious goal and one that allows curious young minds to investigate the systems, processes and phenomena – both natural and man-made – which make up the workings of the world.

Lavish, eye-catching design and illustration are paired with succinct, easy-to-read text to explain a vast range of weird and wonderful happenings. Stuffed full of facts and detail, this amazing book has all the information of an encyclopaedia but with a fresh, exciting look.

Five chapters cover Earth and space, prehistoric life, the natural world, science and technology and history, all presented in a highly visual manner and with dynamic information-filled artworks and graphics.

A question-and-answer structure helps to reinforce the information and build a lasting and real understanding of our incredible world.

A world of learning at your fingertips…

(Kingfisher, hardback, £14.99)

Basher Basics: Space Exploration by Dan Green and Simon Basher

The Basher books are fast becoming a collector must-have with their lively, creative approach to learning through exciting concepts and unique artwork.

Simon Basher is the creator and illustrator of more than a dozen internationally best-selling books for children including the critically acclaimed Basher Science, the Go! Go! Bobo books and Basher’s ABC. He specialises in ‘graphic surrealism’ and his original artwork is regularly exhibited and sold.

Dan Green is the voice of Basher, the author of numerous Basher titles as well as a journalist and science writer with a brilliant knack for science communication.

Space Exploration is a compelling guide to developments right at the forefront of space science. Meet characters who embody the amazing science that is revolutionising space exploration, from the pioneering space crafts and equipment that have been used to delve into deep-space exploration to the scientists who have taken voyages to space and back or contributed to our understanding of the universe.

So step into your spacesuit, zoom into the cosmos and enjoy Basher’s unique one-step guide to space exploration. An out-of-this-world gift for scientists young and old!

(Kingfisher, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell

The colour purple… or is that black and silver? You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover… but if you did, this symphony in black, purple and silver would be at the top of the book pile.

With its silver leaves and skulls ornamentation, sparkling purple page effect and velvety smooth black cover, Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse is a gift in every sense of the word.

Truly stunning black and white illustrations bring to life this funny and yet bittersweet tale which pays homage to the outlandish adventuresome style of Alice in Wonderland and the stars of other literary classics whilst offering a more contemporary and knowing way of looking at the world.

When Ada Goth of Ghastly-Gorm Hall wakes in the middle of the night to find Ishmael the disgruntled ghost of a mouse on her bedroom carpet, they team up to uncover a dastardly plot.

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse is a warm, witty, beautifully illustrated and presented book which delivers an original, entertaining and heart-warming tale of courage, friendship and loyalty as well as a teeny, weeny surprise tucked into the back cover!

(Macmillan, hardback, £9.99)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Over the Moon by Frank Cottrell Boyce

It’s almost 50 years since James Bond author Ian Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a bedtime story for his son Caspar and now the little car is flying again thanks to the storytelling talents of scriptwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce.

In the third official sequel to Fleming’s classic book, the Tooting family is stuck in 1966. Somebody has stolen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and left them behind but that’s not their biggest problem. Little Harry has been kidnapped by whoever took their magical car and there is only one solution. The Tootings must find the Potts, the family that originally built Chitty…

Fast-paced, entertaining and laced with wry humour, Chitty’s 21st century adventures are perfect for a new generation of readers. With suitably quirky illustrations by Joe Berger to add to all the fun, Boyce has filled Chitty’s tank with his trademark wit, warmth and sense of adventure to create a thrilling and collectable trilogy and a superb tribute to the original story.

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)


This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Leila Sales is in tune with all the angst of teenage years in this fresh, original and exciting novel which puts music at its fast-beating heart.

All her life, Elise Dembowski has been an outsider. Starting a new school, she dreams of fitting in at last but when her best attempts at popularity fail, she almost gives up. Then she stumbles upon a secret warehouse party. There, at night, Elise can be a different person, making real friends, falling in love for the first time, and finding her true passion – it all seems too good to be true. And it is because when her real and secret lives collide, she has to make a decision once and for all… just who is the real Elise?

Heartbreaking and emotional, alive with youthful vigour and so palpably real, this is a book about hope, friendship and the power of music to bring people together.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Saving Silence by Gina Blaxill

Gina Blaxill is not afraid to take her teen readers on a walk into the dark side in her powerful and thought-provoking novels which portray life in all its raw reality.

Here she tackles city gang culture and all the inherent dangers it poses through the eyes of two youngsters at a London high school. Plotting is Blaxill’s forte and Saving Silence has some clever twists and turns whilst delivering a thrilling and fast-moving drama which sets the heart pounding and the spine tingling.

It’s not easy being the new kid at school and it’s even harder when people seem to want you dead. Sam Costello has been an outsider ever since he moved to London, regarded by most as a loner from the North who won’t let anyone in.

Former head girl and all-round school star Imogen had pretty much given up trying to befriend Sam before that night on Walthamstow high street, the night he wanted to tell her a secret and someone tried to murder him. But Sam isn’t the only one whose life is in danger. Although she doesn’t know it, Imogen is being watched…

With a narrative that alternates between the perspectives of Sam and Imogen, the story unfolds in all its terrifying and cautionary reality. A raw and gritty reminder that inner city life is tough for kids as well as adults.

(Macmillan, paperback, 6.99)

Briar Rose by Jana Oliver

How about an exciting novel that puts a dark – and sexy – twist on the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty?

Jana Oliver’s action-packed re-telling blends all the traditional facets of fairy tales – handsome heroes and vengeful villains – with a fabulously feisty heroine, lashings of laughs and a southern USA style that puts the fun into fantasy.

Briar Rose has always loved fairy stories. Tales of dashing heroes, beautiful princesses and evil villains are so much more interesting than her real life in Bliss, the mundane town where she has been brought up.

She is desperate to escape her stifling life but on the eve of her 16th birthday, Briar’s parents drop a bombshell. When she was younger, she was cursed by dark magic and when the clock strikes twelve on the day of her birth, she is doomed to fall asleep for 100 years.

Briar is forced to say goodbye to her parents and her closest friends before drifting off into a timeless sleep... and waking up in the darkest, most twisted fairy tale she could ever have dreamed of...

Romance and rogues aplenty in this tantalising teen thriller…

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)