Book review: Warm romance, lost worlds and weird pets with Macmillan books

Macmillan have a red-hot selection of children’s books to take the chill out of the dark nights ahead.

Wednesday, 8th October 2014, 10:00 am
Warm romance, lost worlds and weird pets with Macmillan books
Warm romance, lost worlds and weird pets with Macmillan books

Cosy up with a beautiful collection of heart-stopping love stories, prepare to be seduced by a new teen series from the amazing Josephine Angelini, enjoy the picture book magic of adorable Princess Mirror Belle and gallop through time with Tony Robinson’s preposterously peculiar pets.

Age 11 plus:

My True Love Gave to Me Edited by Stephanie Perkins

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Christmas is coming (oh yes, it is) and time to start thinking about ‘true love’ gifts…

Edited by Stephanie Perkins, a much-loved American author of scrumptious teen reads, this gorgeous collection of 12 romantic stories, all set around the festive period, have been written by some of the most talented and exciting young adult authors around today.

Brimming with the magic of first love, the joy of the Christmas holidays and featuring a ribbon marker and fashionably pink-sprayed edges, this winter warmer includes big names like Ally Carter, Holly Black, Laini Taylor, David Levithan, Gayle Forman and Stephanie Perkins herself.

First out of the true love treasure trove is Midnights by Rainbow Rowell which introduces us to two teenagers Mags and Noel whose New Year’s Eve romance is guaranteed to set bells ringing, and hot on their heels is The Lady and the Fox, a supernatural mystery from prolific author Kelly Link.

There’s a ‘home alone’ theme to Angels In The Snow, a feelgood stunner by Matt De La Pena, while Jenny Han’s Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me features a whimsical, snow-spangled romance at Santa’s home in the North Pole.

And get ready to swoon as Stephanie Perkins’ It’s A Yuletide Miracle, where Charlie Brown leaves no stone unturned – in this case at a Christmas tree lot – to dish up a delicious and heartwarming Christmas feast of love.

There’s a darker but more humorous edge to Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire, a clever little story about a wayward boy called Vaughn, and expect the unexpected in Krampuslauf by the very talented Holly Black.

This is a wonderfully eclectic mix of stories emanating from all sections of society and backgrounds and featuring different races and sexual preferences. Whether these characters feel joy, wonder, disappointment, anger or simply love, their experiences reflect young people everywhere and their experiences of Christmas time.

The perfect gift to read and treasure…

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)

Trial By Fire by Josephine Angelini

Love burns, worlds collide and magic reigns in an exhilarating and seductive new series from Josephine Angelini, author of the bestselling Starcrossed series.

Using the Salem witch trials as her inspiration, Angelini brings us a thrilling and unique story about a girl who has an identical self in alternative world, a place of vile creatures and terrifying witch-like women.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor who lives in Salem, Massachusetts. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted.

And that is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high school party. But Lily’s life never goes according to plan and, after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.

And when her wish suddenly comes true, Lily finds herself in a different Salem, one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Even more frightening is the fact that the strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian, Lily’s identical other self.

This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences. She realises that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem.

But it also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn’t understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected. But how can she ever be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

With its gripping opening and pulsating storyline, Trial By Fire is a work of brilliant imaginative power, creating a world that is compulsively readable and packed with incredible twists.

A fantastic opener to what promises to be a bewitching new series…

(Macmillan, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

Young Sherlock: Stone Cold by Andrew Lane

Back to amuse and bemuse us is Andrew Lane’s young Sherlock Holmes, the teenager who grew up to be the world’s most famous detective.

Stone Cold is the latest thriller in a series of mystery adventures featuring the young Sherlock, exciting and dramatic adventures tales endorsed by the Conan Doyle Estate.

Author, journalist and lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan, Lane’s brilliant series imagines Holmes as a cerebral but authentically sceptical teenager and his action-packed books have an irresistible appeal.

Following his last enthralling case, Sherlock has been sent to live in Oxford to focus on his education. But something strange is happening in the university pathology labs. Body parts are being stolen from corpses and are being posted one by one to an address in London.

What can these sinister goings-on mean, and what message is someone trying to send? In an attempt to find out, Sherlock follows the trail to a very sinister house deep in the countryside. Can he get to the bottom of another baffling mystery?

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.

His classy, intelligent stories are fast-paced with compelling plots and dark-edged mysteries which are a real treat for youngsters who like their books to be a challenge as well as a cracking adventure.

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

(Macmillan, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

Lost Worlds: Shadow Creatures by Andrew Lane

And there’s another world of adventure in Andrew Lane’s fabulous Lost World series, also inspired by the work of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Lane uses the same winning formula as the originals but zooms forward over 100 years, adds some terrific techno wizardry, a cast of delightful misfits and, hey presto, conjures up a thrilling 21st century take on the great man’s masterpiece, The Lost World.

Calum Challenger is not like any other teenager – and that’s not just because his great-grandfather was Professor George Edward Challenger whose explorations in South America are the stuff of legend.

Sixteen-year-old Calum’s life changed forever two years ago when a devastating accident left both his parents dead and his legs paralysed.

A massive compensation pay-out has financed his flashy London apartment where he surrounds himself with a multi-screen, high-definition, hex-core computer system and spends his days searching the worldwide web for evidence of the Almasti, the supposedly mythological ‘missing link’ creatures whose DNA could provide a gene to regenerate his damaged leg nerves.

But a sinister corporation called Nemor is desperate for rare DNA too. They want to make millions from it, and will stop at nothing to get there first.

As Calum guides a group of friends in a thrilling search for a shadowy creature, it looks as if he has the upper hand but then a spate of brutal kidnappings puts everything at risk.

With Calum held hostage in New Mexico and computer-hacker Tara locked up in London, who can warn the rest of his group – ex-SAS soldier Rhino, free-runner Gecko and Natlalie, the spoilt daughter of Calum’s guardian – that they are hurtling headlong into the jaws of death?

Lost Worlds is a brilliant pastiche of old and new, a bang-up-to-date adventure yarn in which computer gadgetry to impress the young jostles with the traditional ingredients of action, suspense and danger.

Refreshingly intelligent and full of awesome locations, fascinating technology and quirky but accessible characters, this series will strike a chord with all adventurous youngsters.

And as an added techno bonus, Lost Worlds fans can log onto the Lost Worlds website at to access Calum’s secret website, play the Lost Worlds game and unlock confidential information.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Tony Robinson’s Weird World of Wonders: Pets

Tony Robinson’s Weird World of Wonders is getting bolder, more beastly… and even bigger!

A new larger format book, packed with wonderful, whimsical colour pictures, brings us an amazing collection of pets through time, including all the most important, funny, strange, amazing, entertaining, smelly bits. These are animals, but not as most of us know them.

So where did pets come from, just how clever are they and what on earth do people use them for? Madcap Tony has all the answers… including why Egyptians worshipped cats and even shaved off their eyebrows to mourn them when they died, the brilliant and extremely useful jobs that animals did and still do for us in times of war, and an introduction to medieval squirrels.

We also meet pets who help us in everyday life, some bizarre pet fashions and fashionable pets and the furry (and not so furry) friends who can be trained to do the most incredible things. There are dogs which can sense when we are unwell, two friends from the 1970s who owned a lion cub called Christian and plenty of tips on how to look after our own pets.

Everyone in the family will want to get their paws on this brilliant book and with the irrepressible Tony Robinson and his Curiosity Crew as your guides, you’ll never be short of fascinating facts, fun-filled history and weird wonders.

If only all history lessons could be so entertaining!

(Macmillan, hardback, £12.99)

Age 4 plus:

Princess Mirror Belle and the Dragon Pox by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

Dream team Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks shine again in this gorgeous, glittery picture book which puts fiction favourite Princess Mirror Belle in a shiny, new spotlight.

The magical escapades of Ellen and her mischievous princess double return in picture book format with the same adventure, magic and glitter but specially produced for a younger age group. Author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Lydia Monks take us back to where Princess Mirror Belle’s escapades began in 2003 and it’s a fresh and fun-filled new formula.

Ellen gets a big shock when her double appears out of the bathroom mirror, but Mirror-Belle is a double with a difference. She is a princess, and a very mischievous one. She is sure that Ellen’s chicken pox is actually dragon pox and she is full of ideas about how to make the spots disappear. She just needs a little help from her bubble fish and fairy friends.

This sumptuous book, which has glitter on every page and a marvellously magical story, is the perfect introduction to independent reading and a beautiful adaptation of the original Mirror-Belle story.

More glittering prizes surely await this top team…

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Cinderella’s Not So Ugly Sisters: The True Fairytale by Gillian Shields and Bérengère Delaporte

And there’s a touch of offbeat glitter to Gillian Shields and Bérengère Delaporte’s laugh-out-loud retelling of the classic tale of Cinderella.

Little fairy tale fans will be intrigued by this quirky picture book which turns the story of kind, put-upon Cinderella and her notoriously ugly sisters on its head.

Youngsters get the chance to find out what Cinderella is really like… and it’s not pretty! Winifred and Prudence are kind and sweet, unlike their stepsister Cinder-Ella who is absolutely horrible. She will do anything to get her own way, and even orders a spell to make her sisters really ugly. But spells don’t last forever, so maybe Win and Pru will get a happy ending after all…

An upside down, inside out story that will charm the shoes (and socks) off all would-be Cinderellas…

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Polly Parrot Picks a Pirate by Peter Bently and Penny Dann

What child could resist a swashbuckling picture story packed with pirates, treasure… and a very picky parrot!

Roald Dahl Funny Prize winning author Peter Bently is on top form in this addictive and funny rhyming story which stars a parrot who is tired of her tree and eager to branch out on a new and more exciting life.

Fed up with living life in the sticks, Polly the parrot takes flight to find herself a dashing pet pirate and an action-packed life on the ocean wave. But finding the perfect pirate isn’t easy; one is too fond of his clothes, one is frightened of spiders, one has stockings that stink and one likes walking the plank. This fussy, funny parrot might just end up with more than she expected…

Bently’s witty rhyming text is perfectly complemented by Penny Dann’s lively and detailed illustrations to create the perfect book for reading aloud and discussing. Every picture is a visual feast of talking points and entertaining characters.

Colourful, vibrant and packed with action and humour…

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)