Book review: William bounces back for a summer of fun with Macmillan

The ever-popular Just William makes a welcome return as Macmillan Children’s Books add their special sparkle to summer reading.

Tuesday, 4th August 2015, 1:45 pm
William bounces back for a summer of fun with Macmillan
William bounces back for a summer of fun with Macmillan

While William makes mischief, a fiery girl creates her own brand of magic, a superhero hippo leaves his troubles behind, a lion leaps into action, a sci-fi team do battle, a whiffy dog comes up smelling of roses, and top picture book artists conjure up some special activities.

Age 9 plus:

Just William by Richmal Crompton

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Just look who’s back!

It’s William Brown, or Just William as we know him, the mischievous schoolboy loved by millions of children since his adventures were first published in 1922.

Wonderful William and his lovable gang of ‘Outlaws’ sprung from the pen of Lancashire-born author Richmal Crompton, daughter of the Rev Edward John Sewell Lamburn, a classics master at Bury Grammar School.

And now – with the help of a stunning contemporary book cover by talented illustrator Chris Riddell – her tousle-headed, snub-nosed, incorrigible imp has returned to harass his unfortunate family, and delight a new generation of children.

Born in 1890, Crompton was a teacher until she became ill with poliomyelitis and gave up her career to write. Her best known works are the William stories, about a havoc-wreaking 11-year-old schoolboy and his band of friends. She wrote 39 William books throughout her life, the last one published posthumously in 1970, a year after her death.

The William books sold over twelve million copies in the United Kingdom alone and have been adapted for films, plays and numerous radio and television series.

In this sparkling new series featuring Just William stories – complete with the original illustrations by Thomas Henry – there is a collection of twelve stories about everyone’s favourite troublemaker in each book.

Here we find William and the Outlaws planning a day of non-stop adventure. The only problem is that William is meant to be babysitting. But he won’t let that stop him having fun with his gang… he’ll just bring the baby along!

Whether he’s putting on a show with his Outlaws or terrorising his relations, William always has a new scheme up his sleeve. His intentions are good, but nothing ever quite goes to plan…

With Crompton’s beautiful, flowing language skills, her innate sense of fun and sarcasm, and more madcap antics than a circus clown act, Just William is set to prove as irresistible today as he was ninety years ago!

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Fire Girl by Matt Ralphs

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered? You will be when you join forces with Hazel Hooper, a fiery girl with her own special brand of magic!

Welcome to the wonderful world of Fire Girl, a thrilling and atmospheric debut novel from Matt Ralphs, a former editor who admits to being fascinated by anything that sends a shiver down his spine.

Brimming with witches, demons, dark, dark woods and all the other hallmarks of a classic supernatural adventure story, Ralphs also give his readers space to ponder the importance of friendship, loyalty and self-belief.

The Civil War in England is over, Oliver Cromwell rules the land and a new battle is raging… between the people and the witches. Twelve-year-old Hazel Hooper has spent her whole life trapped in a magical Glade created by her mother, Hecate, but now she is desperate to meet new people and find out about the world. And, more than anything, she wants to be a witch. But when her mother is kidnapped by a demon, everything changes.

Suddenly Hazel is alone in the world. Well, not quite alone. For it turns out that Hazel does have magic but she is just not very good at controlling it. And she may have accidentally created a grumpy familiar in the form of a dormouse called Bramley. Determined to rescue her mother, the young witch and her mouse set out to track down the demon and find Hecate.

However, life outside the Glade is far more dangerous than Hazel ever could have imagined. Witch hunters are everywhere, and the witches are using demons to fight back. Luckily for Hazel she manages to enlist the help of a handsome boy called David, and his drunken master, Titus White, who are expert demon hunters… and witch finders.

Exciting, original and full of extraordinary characters, Fire Girl will cast a spell over any child who loves adventure, fantasy, dark surprises… and magic!

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Scavenger: Chaos Zone by Paul Stewart, Chris Riddell

Fasten your seat belts and get ready for lift-off… Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell’s deadly robots are on the rampage again.

The second book in the top writing team’s thrilling sci-fi adventure series is heading for Earth again and no right-thinking boy would want to miss out on all those thrilling space wars ahead.

Think Star Trek and Dr Who but with two charismatic children directing the action as they battle fearsome zoids, technologically advanced robots which have rebelled against their human masters.

Fourteen-year-old York is a Scavenger and has only ever known life in the biosphere. He tracks down the zoids, who are now hunting in packs, and kills them by any means he can. Working alongside him is Belle, a zoid who has become York’s friend and helper, and together they must journey down to the next level of the Biosphere, where all the plants and animals for the journey from Earth were kept.

Since the zoid uprising, this level has become a deadly mix of enormous carnivorous plants, mutated insects and animals that have evolved in terrifying ways. York and Belle have no choice but to fight their way through this dangerous landscape to finally solve the mystery of the zoids…

Chris Riddell provides all the amazing pen-and-ink illustrations for a fantastic, fast-paced story packed with all those classic ingredients… action, excitement, danger and mystery.

What child could resist such a brilliant out-of-this world adventure?

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Draw With Marta Altés: You Are an Artist by Marta Altés

Grab your pens, put on your thinking cap and get creative with a talented picture book artist!

Award-winning artist Marta Altés is ready to take children on a journey of artistic discovery in this unique sticker activity book which is designed to get you making art… and making a mess.

This exciting and innovative activity book, based on the bestselling picture book, I Am An Artist!, is ideal for youngsters who like drawing, colouring and getting stuck into hundreds of stickers.

Altés helps youngsters to make their own art, proving that anyone can be an artist with the right guidance, and that making your own pictures is both easy and fun. From doing a self-portrait to drawing flowers, animals and patterns, there is plenty of advice and room to use your own imagination.

Packed with colourful, smart and silly ideas, and hundreds of stickers, this is the first book in a new series which invites youngsters to draw, write, colour and create with their favourite artists from the world of children’s books.

A picture perfect gift for all aspiring artists…

(Macmillan, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Draw With Yasmeen Ismail: Let’s Go Find a Tiger!

And even the youngest children can get in on the colouring act with this sticker activity adventure book from Yasmeen Ismail.

Using hundreds of stickers and step-by-step guidance, children can create, draw and colour their very own jungle story.

Yasmeen starts the story but then asks her readers to complete it by drawing, colouring and using the many colourful stickers to create some truly incredible jungle animals. Cue to sharpen those pencils, crack open the felt tips and prepare to get sticking as the search is on to find monkeys, elephants, crocodiles… and if you’re very lucky, a tiger!

The book featuring two adorable characters, an exciting jungle journey and some bright, bold stickers and is designed to encourage a child’s creativity and show that anyone can tell a story.

It’s never too early to discover your inner creative!

(Macmillan, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Zippo the Super Hippo by Kes Gray and Nikki Dyson

How can you be a superhero when you have a very large bottom?

It’s a powerfully big problem for Zippo the ‘cheeky’ hippo who is fed up with being any old hippo and wants to be Zippo the super hippo. Being good at swimming, bathing in in mud and splish, splash, sploshing aren’t really considered to be superpowers. Perhaps he can fly like his friend Roxi the oxpecker. But who has ever heard of a flying hippopotamus, especially one with such a big bottom? Perhaps the bottom line is to be… a super hippobotamus!

Enjoy the lively, eye-catching illustrations by exciting new illustrating talent Nikki Dyson in this funny, frantic story from award-winning author Kes Gray, whose trademark wit and humour turn a hippo into a super-sized hero!

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 2 plus:

Smelly Louie by Catherine Rayner

Louie’s got the bath-time blues and he’s tired of coming up roses…

Greenaway Medal winner Catherine Rayner works her special magic on Louie the dog who is desperately tracking down his own Special Smell after being dunked in a tub of scented water.

Unhappy with his new clinging aroma of roses and apple blossom, Louie is doggedly determined to sniff out his old odour and the hunt leads him to lots of smelly things along the way. There’s a stinky fox, some interesting dustbins, a pongy pond and a marvellously muddy puddle to roll in. Will he succeed in getting his smell back and, more importantly, will he be able to keep it this time?

Smelly Louie and his wonderfully whiffy adventures are full of Rayner’s addictive humour and amazingly textured artwork.

The perfect bedtime read for all little bathing belles…

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

Lion Practice by Emma Carlisle

Young imaginations will be in full flight when they join leaping Laura and her menagerie of madcap animals.

Emma Carlisle’s bold and busy debut picture book is guaranteed to be a roaring success as a lovable, adventurous, overactive little girl gets to grips with an imaginary, playful lion. Little ones will love joining Laura as she leaps, dines and bathes with her new mane man!

Laura loves to practise. She’s been a kangaroo, a parrot and a crocodile, but nothing beats being a lion! It’s fun to leap, run and roar really loudly, isn’t it? Laura’s patient parents aren’t so sure. So when Laura takes a lion-sized leap too far, she gets a small telling off. But like all good lions, Laura soon bounces back and it isn’t very long before her mum, dad and baby brother are joining in the game.

Packed with warmth, humour and beautiful illustrations that leap off the page just like the lion, Carlisle reminds us all of the joy of the imagination, having fun and the importance of patience and family love.

A beautiful and thoughtful picture from a talented new author and illustrator.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

Bear and Hare: Where’s Bear? by Emily Gravett

Bear and Hare are back and they are coming, ready or not!

Award-winning author and illustrator Emily Gravett’s lovable duo Bear and Hare are back in their third adventure and this time they are playing hide-and-seek. Hare is very good at closing his eyes and counting to ten. The problem is, Bear is not very good at hiding, not very good at all. But all of a sudden Bear has simply disappeared! Wherever could he be?

This popular board book series is perfect for young children with its charming sense of fun, warmth and adventure, gorgeous illustrations and sturdy format.

Animal magic at its best!

(Macmillan, board book, £5.99)