Book review: Summer’s Shadow and all shades of reading with Macmillan Children’s Books

A lyrical coming-of-age story grabs the headlines in a bevy of summer beauties from top children’s publisher Macmillan.

By Pam Norfolk
Tuesday, 1st July 2014, 10:00 am
Summers Shadow and all shades of reading with Macmillan Childrens Books
Summers Shadow and all shades of reading with Macmillan Childrens Books

There is also another exciting outing for Andrew Lane’s Young Sherlock who heads off to Ireland on a spiritual quest that will test his grey matter to its lofty limits.

And for younger children, a flying bath makes a big splash, a teacher morphs into a monster, two wacky sisters have a wonderful adventure and cheeky car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang gets ready for take-off.

Age 11 plus:

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Summer’s Shadow by Anna Wilson

Passions run high in popular author Anna Wilson’s beautiful standalone novel which blends romance and mystery in an atmospheric Cornish tale with shades of the great Daphne du Maurier.

Aimed at early teen readers, Summer’s Shadow is an enchanting and thought-provoking odyssey into the dramas and dilemmas of a young girl who is packed off to live with distant relatives after the death of her mother.

In a departure from her delightful animal fiction books, Wilson captures all the intensity and poignancy of youth in a powerfully emotional story which sees a bewildered and bereaved teenager battling to make sense of love, loss and life.

When Summer Jones’ mum dies after an accident, Summer’s life is turned upside down. In two short, sharp sentences, her mother’s will states that Summer’s legal guardian will be her uncle Tristan Trewartha, a man Summer has never even heard of before.

Forced to leave her life in London, Summer moves to Tristan’s creepy, ancient house in a small village near Penzance in Cornwall. Instead of being welcomed with open arms, she is met with indifference from uncle Tristan, open hostility from her cousin Kenan, and an aunt who has chosen to leave rather than to tolerate her presence.

Summer is soon convinced that the house may be haunted but is it haunted by ghosts, or by the shadows of her family’s past? Scared and lonely, she seeks refuge at a beautiful sheltered cove nearby where she meets Zach, a local boy who enjoys the solace of the cove just as she does.

There, drenched in sunlight and surrounded by glistening water and with Zach’s help, can Summer finally begin to escape the ghosts of her family’s past? Will grief finally open doors that would normally be firmly held closed?

There is both darkness and light in Wilson’s warm and insightful tale as she weaves frissons of supernatural mystery into the poignancy of first love and the rugged beauty of a mesmerising backdrop.

Perfectly paced and haunting in its depiction of the Cornish landscape and the pains of first love, Summer’s Shadow will enchant teenagers on the cusp of adulthood and steal the hearts of those who just love a finely fashioned romance.

Prepare to shed a tear or two as Summer and Zach set out on their voyage of self-discovery…

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 11 plus:

Young Sherlock Holmes: Knife Edge by Andrew Lane

Author, journalist and lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan Andrew Lane is in ‘seventh heaven’ here as his brilliant series which imagines Holmes as a cerebral but authentically sceptical teenager reaches its sixth book.

Young Sherlock Holmes is Lane’s first book series for young adults and he is on top form as he packs off our young detective on a spiritual adventure in Ireland.

Lane’s passion for the original novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his determination to create an authentic teenage Sherlock Holmes made him the perfect choice to work with the Conan Doyle Estate to reinvent the world’s most famous detective as a teenager.

His classy, intelligent stories are fast-paced with thrilling plots, plenty of action and marvellous mysteries which are a real treat for youngsters who like their books to be a challenge as well as a cracking adventure.

Young Sherlock Holmes discovers that something sinister is afoot in the house in the west of Ireland where he is staying with his brother Mycroft. There are frightened whisperings among the servants and the house’s owners are clearly scared. But who, or what, has terrified them so much that nobody will speak out?

Young Sherlock must bring all his powers of deduction to unravelling his greatest mystery yet. With scary séances, conversations with the dead, conundrums to solve and a fresh crop of sinister, clever criminals, Sherlock certainly has his work cut out…

As always, Lane pits young Sherlock against some venal villains and dastardly deeds in a story that is both intriguing and thrilling.

There’s nothing elementary about this excellent series which puts an exciting and youthful spin on an old-fashioned hero.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

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 but they can’t afford to get distracted by the football! 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 and combine their knowledge of the world’s most amazing car to get her and little Harry back. But an old enemy is lurking and he’s got a plan to use Chitty to mess up history forever…

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, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Buckle and Squash and the Monstrous Moat-Dragon by Sarah Courtauld

Meet Sarah Courtauld, a fresh and funny new voice in children’s fiction whose wild and wacky debut book is guaranteed to tickle every child’s funny bone.

The stars of her amazing, laughter-packed adventure story are two contradictory sisters who battle dragons and fairy-tale villains in their own inimitable and hilarious style.

First of all there is Eliza who longs to be a fearsome soldier fighting evil and doing daring deeds, and then there is her sister Lavender who would give anything to marry a prince and be a pampered princess.

But the reality is that they are both stuck at Old Tumbledown Farm in a village called The Middle of Nowhere in a forgotten corner of the Kingdom, deep in the realm of Squerb.

Then one day they get the chance to fulfil their dreams, though not quite in the way they intended. Accompanied by their cynical goat Gertrude and with their granny’s warnings about the Black Death ringing in their ears, they head out into the forest and come face to face with the evil count who definitely does not have their best interests at heart…

With zany characters, funny illustrations, deadpan dialogue and slapstick humour, this is a top-class adventure story with perfectly-pitched humour that the whole family can enjoy.

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

My New Home by Marta Altés

If your child is starting school this year, Marta Altés’ captivating and uplifting story about moving house, making friends and finding a new home will offer much-needed reassurance at a time of change.

This warm and thoughtful illustrated tale is written from the perspective of a young child who is moving to a new home and feels scared and a little bit lonely, but soon discovers that wherever you go, adventures soon follow.

Little racoon has just moved house but he feels so far away from home. Everything in this new place is different and he misses his old friends. But a new adventure is just around the corner… and who knows what, or who, may come with it?

Perfect for children about to move house or start new school, My New Home has a universal message for any child about the importance of kindness and acceptance when meeting someone new, whether they are young or old.

With its cute and cuddly illustrations and clever, charming story, My New Home will be a bedtime favourite.

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)

My Teacher is a Monster! by Peter Brown

Monsters – and teachers – are not always what they seem in this enchanting and quirky picture book from master illusionist and award-winning artist Peter Brown.

Bobby has a problem at school. It’s his teacher, Miss Kirby. She stomps, she roars and she won’t let him throw paper aeroplanes in class… what a monster she is. Bobby much prefers it when he’s not at school and can go to his favourite spot and forget his terrible teacher traumas. One day the unthinkable happens when Bobby bumps into Miss Kirby at his special place and she’s not too happy to see him either. However, he soon finds out there’s more to her than meets the eye. Miss Kirby might actually be fun, and not as monstrous as he first thought.

Children, and their teachers, will love this warm and funny tale about an unlikely friendship. Brown’s distinctive illustrations are used to wonderful effect in a clever story about learning beyond first impressions.

Enjoy the journey as Miss Kirby transforms from a green and horrible monster into a charming and friendly teacher. But watch out for the twist in the monster’s tail!

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

Zoe and Beans: Pirate Treasure 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. Chloë and Mick have certainly discovered the Midas touch with their unique and exciting picture book partnership. Their imaginative and eclectic stories are brought to life by Chloë’s fun-filled pictures featuring an adorable heroine and her crazy canine.

In Pirate Treasure, they transport Zoe, her faithful dog Beans, best friend Oscar and his baby sister Evie to the coast for a seaside adventure. They’ve got buckets and spades and they’re ready to search for buried pirate treasure. But digging is hard work and treasure is hard to find. It looks like it’s up to clever Beans to sniff some out...

This is the perfect summer read for children getting ready for a beach holiday and dreaming of finding pirate treasure. They will love joining in the hunt as the mischievous pranksters set off on a madcap adventure. And youngsters can enjoy more fun and games with Zoe and Beans online at

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Baby and toddler:

The Flying Bath by Julia Donaldson and David Roberts

The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson has formed a top team with illustrator David Roberts and their brilliant new picture book is already making waves.

This spellbinding story featuring bath toys heading off on exciting adventures in their magical flying bath is the answer to every child’s bath time dream.

When everyone has left the house in the morning, the bath toys spring into action and head off on water-filled missions in their amazing flying bath. From giving a muddy piglet a shower to putting out a fire for a frightened baboon, they have water at the ready for any emergency… but they are always home for the children’s bath time at the end of the day.

Little ones will love hopping into the bath and joining all the high-flying adventures. Roberts’ busy, detailed and outsize illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Donaldson’s charming rhyming text. With these lovable characters and such an inspired concept for a story, children can see their own bath time games in action and make up their own adventures for the toys.

This delightful book will make a splash long before bath time arrives.

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)