Book review: Christmas 2012 with Macmillan Children’s Books

With the Christmas countdown well underway, Macmillan Children’s Books have a sack full of sparkling gifts for readers of every age... and every taste.

Monday, 19th November 2012, 9:00 am

Take a flight into the future with a special string of paper dolls, rediscover a 30-year-old classic story, climb aboard the new-age Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and find out just why we have sprouts with our Christmas dinner.

There’s a whole world of storytelling just waiting to be discovered...

Baby and Toddler:

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Dear Zoo Touch and Feel Book by Rod Campbell

Over the last 30 years, five million copies of Rod Campbell’s much-loved book Dear Zoo have been sold worldwide and it is still as popular today as it was when it was introduced to families in 1982. As part of the celebrations for the 30th anniversary, some new books have been added to the range, including this exciting touch-and-feel version. Inside this book there’s a frog with ‘icky sticky’ feet, a snake with a lumpy bumpy basket, a giraffe with a very long neck and an elephant with great big ears... but watch out for the lion’s teeth! Ingeniously simple, with touches of gentle humour, this wonderful new book brings the much-loved story of Dear Zoo to glorious 3D life. With a different texture for every animal and brand-new artwork throughout, there’s a whole zoo full of fun to entertain and delight both newcomers and fans of the classic story. A chance for little ones to get up close to the animals and get a feel for what makes them so special!

(Macmillan, hardback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Zoe and Beans: Zoe’s Christmas List by Chloë and Mick Inkpen

Christmas books don’t come better than the glorious Zoe and Beans, ‘brainchildren’ of the Inkpens, a unique and talented father and daughter duo. Their stunningly beautiful picture books in the adorable Zoe and Beans series for tiny tots really do bring out the ‘aaah’ factor. Here Zoe knows exactly what she wants for Christmas and to make sure Father Christmas does too, she and Beans take a trip across the Arctic all the way to the North Pole. But with a baby polar bear to rescue and a swirling snowstorm to contend with, will they ever make it?! A wonderful Christmas story with an amazing pull-out page that makes Zoe’s adventures bigger, longer and even better! This adorable double-act and their madcap escapades will appeal to all pre-schoolers.

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb

Donaldson and Cobb work a unique brand of magic in this lyrical picture book about a string of paper dolls who go on a fantastical adventure through the house and out into the garden. They manage to evade the clutches of a toy dinosaur and the snapping jaws of an oven-glove crocodile but it seems there is no escape when a very real pair of scissors threatens to tear them apart. The Paper Dolls is the first collaboration between Julia Donaldson, the current Children’s Laureate, and Rebecca Cobb, a rising star in children’s illustration. It is a breathtakingly beautiful and moving story, perfectly brought to life by Cobb’s illustrations which have a timeless, evocative quality. The Paper Dolls is a subtle exploration of loss, providing a gentle stimulus for discussing this issue with young children and offering a message of comfort and hope. A simple, moving story but with powerful ideas about continuity, the world created by your own imagination, the comfort of memories and the promise of renewal.

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)

A Patch of Black by Rachel Rooney and Deborah Allwright

Is there a little one in your house who is afraid of the dark? Here’s the answer... an imaginative and reassuring picture book to bring some welcome light and understanding to the dark shadows of scary night-time. What can you do with a patch of black, a moon and a silver star? From a magical wish-granting cloak to a hammock rocked by jungle animal friends, there’s nothing that a patch of night-time sky can’t become with a bit of clever thinking, and there’s certainly no need to be afraid of the dark! Patch of Black is a beautifully soothing lullaby and is a wonderful book to read aloud when bedtime beckons and day turns to night. It’s the stuff of dreams for toddlers feeling fraught after a busy day, providing the perfect wind-down with its colourful, dream-like illustrations by Deborah Allwright and hypnotic verse by Rachel Rooney. A truly classic bedtime book, sure to become a favourite with all the family.

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene

What little girl doesn’t love a princess story, particularly one with a funny, fairytale twist? From the creators of the award-winning The Santa Trap comes a new witty, inventive and colourful story that is bursting with loopy antics and laugh-out-loud quirkiness. There’s been a dreadful mix-up in the royal nursery. Priscilla the princess has switched places with Pigmella, the farmer’s new piglet! The kindly farmer and his wife believe it’s the work of a good witch but bad-tempered King and Queen squarely blame a bad witch. It’s the sort of thing that happens all the time in fairy tales! Priscilla grows up on the farm, poor but very happy. Things are less straightforward for a pig princess, but if kissing a frog can work, surely the same applies to pigs? Argentinian Poly Bernatene’s lively and excitingly visual illustrations add an exotic touch which makes them especially appealing to young children while author Jonathan Emmett’s fairytale-themed jokes are pitched perfectly for the youngest members of the family.

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 5 plus:

101 Poems for Children: A Laureate’s Choice Chosen by Carol Ann Duffy

‘Poems,’ declares Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, ‘in so few words, create whole worlds, imaginary or real’ so what better time to start enjoying the rhythm and rhyme of poetry than in early childhood? Duffy has chosen her favourite poems for children in this very readable and entertaining collection of classic and modern verse. As she says in her introduction, each poem seems to ‘offer a different place from which to stand and look and listen.’ From traditional poems like The Owl and the Pussycat, The Lion and Albert and Jabberwocky to poems by some of the greatest children’s poets, Charles Causley and Ted Hughes included, there are verses to inspire, amuse and amaze children from early years to beyond childhood. Funny, sad, mysterious or familiar, these are the sort of classic, memorable poems that remain with you as you grow older.

(Macmillan, hardback, £9.99)

Age 9-11:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Race Against Time 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 trademark wit, warmth and storytelling talents of scriptwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce. This is his second official sequel and it is as fast, funny and exciting as you would expect from adventures featuring this fantastic flying car. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is stuck in reverse. Baby Harry’s pressed a button that means she’s reversing through time – with the Tooting family aboard. When they finally come to a stop, it’s at the big, scaly feet of a very hungry-looking T-rex. How are the Tootings – and Chitty – going to get out of there before they become T-rex takeaway? And where (or when) will the magical car take them next? Fast-paced, entertaining, fun-filled and laced with wry humour, Chitty’s 21st century adventures are ideal for a new generation of readers. With a quirky family, a wacky car, action-packed pictures by the talented Joe Berger and terrific off-the-wall adventures, this is flyaway fun for all the family.

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)

Age 10 plus:

The Truth about Christmas by Philip Ardagh

So why DO we have sprouts with our Christmas dinner, whose idea was it to kiss under the mistletoe and what on earth has a Yule log to do with the festive season? The truth about Christmas and its often weird traditions are unravelled in this brilliant little book from Philip Ardagh, a man who just can’t stop finding fascinating facts! The author of books on subjects ranging from archaeology to space flight sets his sights here on the cryptic side of Christmas. He reveals who decided to celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25, the real Saint Nicholas, why we kiss under the mistletoe, when the first Christmas card was sent, the inventor of the advent calendar, the purpose of all that holly and ivy, why we have a fairy and not an angel at the top of the tree and plenty of other candle-burning questions. A must-have gift for inquisitive children who like a stocking full of festive facts to keep the adults on their toes at Christmas!

(Macmillan, hardback, £7.99)

Young Sherlock Holmes: Snake Bite by Andrew Lane

Can you imagine the great detective Sherlock Holmes as a teenager... what would he have been like and would he still have had cases to solve? Author, journalist and lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan Andrew Lane reckons he has all the answers! Young Sherlock Holmes is his first series for young adults and Snake Bite, which involves a brutal kidnapping, a showy pursuer and an impossible murder, is his fifth intriguing 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 as a teenage boy. Kidnapped and taken to China, Sherlock is soon plunged into a mysterious adventure. How can three men be bitten by the same poisonous snake in different parts of Shanghai? Who wants them dead, and why? The answers seem to lie in a message that is hidden in a web-like diagram. But deciphering it leads to a more dangerous conundrum. What has all this got to do with a plot to blow up an American warship? Sherlock is about to brave terrors greater than any he has faced before. And this time he is on his own... A classy, intelligent, ‘grown-up’ kind of book with a fast-paced, thrilling plot, plenty of action and terror, and a real treat for youngsters who like their books to be a cerebral challenge as well as a cracking adventure.

(Macmillan, hardback, £12.99)