Book review: Special mums, special kids and special books with Macmillan

Mother’s Day is nearly here and it’s time to celebrate once again the ties that bind together families everywhere.

Tuesday, 25th March 2014, 9:00 am
My Mummy Says
My Mummy Says

As a tribute to one of life’s most loving relationships, Campbell Books, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Books, has published My Mummy Says, the first of a reassuring new series called Families and Friends which takes a close-up look at family life.

The perfect Mother’s Day gift to read and share, My Mummy Says is just one of a glittering array of new titles from Macmillan, a 150-year-old publisher which prides itself on producing award-winning children’s books to suit all ages.

Macmillan now publishes over 400 books a year for babies, children and young adults and this month there is the tale of a rabbit who doesn’t belong, a joke jamboree from madcap comedy duo Dick and Dom, a brand-new sci-fi adventure series for adventurous boys and the heart-melting love story of two disabled teens.

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Babies and toddlers:

My Mummy Says by Justine Smith and Angie Stevens

Angie Stevens’ gorgeous illustrations and Justine Smith’s lyrical story combine beautifully in this specially padded baby book which captures all the special love between a mother and her child.

The simple and yet effective rhyming story features two mothers, a baby boy and a little girl who make separate trips to the seaside for the day. One family is black and the other is white, one travels by bus and one by car but they share the same experiences and emotions.

Reassuring, timeless and full of warmth and humour, this inspirational story teaches youngsters about the joy of sharing, family, friendship and adventure, and includes emotions, dialogue and events recognisable to most small children.

It’s a sturdy, chunky, hard-wearing book ideal for little hands, and packs a powerful message in a gentle storyline.

Just made for Mother’s Day…

(Campbell, board book, £5.99)

Hooray for Hoppy by Tim Hopgood

Hoppy the Rabbit has five good reasons to enjoy the arrival of spring… and he’s discovering just how useful it is to be able to smell, see, hear, touch and taste!

Hooray for Hoppy is an exciting board book which helps babies and toddlers to understand about their senses and comes from the Booktrust award-winning illustrator Tim Hopgood.

When Hoppy the rabbit wakes up on the first day of spring, he discovers a world full of wonderful things but after he has sniffed the fresh air, listened to the singing birds and tasted the fresh green grass, he starts to feel a little lonely. And so he finds a way to wake up his friends so they can enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of spring all together.

This bold, colourful and appealing introduction to the senses includes an activity spread to help children learn about the way they can use their five senses to interact with the world around them, whilst the stunning artwork has a delightful retro charm.

Don’t miss the fun with Hoppy as he makes sense of the world around him.

(Macmillan, boardbook, £5.99)

Bear and Hare Go Fishing by Emily Gravett

Meet Bear and Hare… they’re the best of friends and love to have fun together but their adventures don’t always go to plan and the consequences are hilarious!

Bear and Hare Go Fishing is the first story in a new series for young children created by Emily Gravett.

Once youngsters enter the world of animal magician Gravett, they never want to return. Her award-winning stories are written and illustrated with flair, affection and a freewheeling sense of fun which tumbles out of every page.

Here we find Bear and Hare setting off on a fishing trip, with nets and rods at the ready. Bear loves fishing but Hare seems more interested in tucking in to their picnic lunch. Will Bear have any luck with his fishing adventures and will Hare be more of a hindrance than a help? After a long wait, the two adventurers catch more than they expect in this tale of fun, friendship and fishy goings-on.

Full of warmth and humour, and starring two lovable and quirky new characters, this endearing illustrated story from the twice winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal is sure to delight children and parents alike.

Big and small, warm and wise, hugs and surprises… who could resist such a wonderful adventure?

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)

Charlie Chick by Nick Denchfield and Ant Parker

How about a brilliant pop-up book with some outsized surprises packed into its colourful pages?

Charlie is a little chick but he’s got a very BIG appetite! Young readers will love seeing his enormous feet, huge mouth and massive belly, all brought to life by ingenious paper engineering and eye-catching pop-ups.

And there’s only one thing bigger than Charlie… open the colossal fold-out ending to find out what that is!

Charlie Chick is one of Campbell Books’ best-loved titles and his return is guaranteed to make a big impression on your little ones. Look no further for that special Easter treat!

(Campbell, hardback, 7.99)

Rabbits Don’t Lay Eggs by Paula Metcalf and Cally Johnson-Isaacs

And what would Easter be without eggs? Paula Metcalf and Cally Johnson-Isaacs have teamed up to bring us a warm-hearted and whimsical story about a rabbit who wants to make friends.

And with its glittery cover reflecting a bright new season and a pack of animals all ready to spring into action, this is another tip-top book for Easter.

What can rabbits do? Rabbits don’t belong in the farmyard so it creates quite a stir when Rupert the rabbit pops up. He tries to make himself useful but he can’t cock-a-doodle-do like cockerel and when he tries to lay an egg like Dora the duck, it’s a disaster. Luckily Rupert is good at digging which soon leads to the most unexpected farm job of all…

Rupert’s adventures and misadventures are about doing your best however difficult the going gets and learning to think for yourself. Little ones will adore the enchanting Rupert and his raucous farmyard friends while the eye-catching illustrations will have them frowning and laughing in quick succession.

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

Age 7 plus:

Dick and Dom’s Big Fat and Very Silly Joke Book by Richard McCourt and Dominic Wood

Why was the ant confused? Because all his uncles were ‘ants’!

Yes, they’re back… the dynamic comedy duo better known as Dick and Dom whose speciality is very silly, very funny jokes.

The madcap duo – household names on children’s TV for 17 years and as beloved by parents as their offspring – have put together a side-splittingly funny joke book jam-packed with their bonkers yet brilliant humour.

Dick and Dom’s Big Fat and Very Silly Joke Book is a hilarious mishmash of Dick and Dom’s very best and very silliest jokes. Feast your eyes on over 500 brilliant gags, japes, jokes and puns and be amazed at Dick and Dom’s Titbits, a selection of fascinating yet fact-free facts.

You can also settle in to Dick and Dom’s Poetry Corner for some slightly naughty but very silly poems, and never be bored again with Dick and Dom’s brilliantly baffling Boredom Busters. Most importantly of all, laugh until you do a Vom Goblin… that’s a burp with a small surprise serving of sick!

With amazingly funny illustrations on every page, a laugh at every turn and the looniest limericks around, your funny-bone will be seriously tickled.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Scavenger: Zoid by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

Multi-award-winning authors Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell are determined to get boys reading and this brilliant ‘Robots versus Humans’ sci-fi adventure is a sure-fire page-turning winner.

Featuring the biggest battle that space has seen for centuries, Scavenger: Zoid is the first of a thrilling new series and has all those ingredients that have made Star Trek and Dr Who perennial favourites… space wars, suspense and electrifying action.

Imagine a spaceship the size of a city, drifting through space on its century-long journey to find a new Earth. When it launched it was populated by thousands of passengers in search of a new life. The spaceship is supported by Zoids, the most technologically advanced set of robots in the world, ready to serve the crew’s every need.

But that was then, and this is now. The Zoids began to evolve and eventually rebelled against their masters, wiping out most of the crew in one bloody uprising. Now the few remaining humans, who for so long relied on their support, are targets and hunted by the Zoids like vermin.

Fourteen-year-old York is a Scavenger and has only ever known life in the biosphere. He hunts Zoids, who are now hunting in packs, and kills them by any means he can, bringing back their parts to mend the technology on which the few remaining humans rely.

When the Inpost where York lives suffers a brutal invasion, he finds himself alone. His friends are being held prisoner and time is running out to rescue them. If they are not saved, they will become like the machines that captured them. York has always battled to survive, but now the fate of his people is in his hands…

With dazzling pen-and-ink illustrations to bring all the high-octane adventure to life, the Scavenger series looks like being an unmissable read for boys ready to boldly go where no man has gone before!

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)


Amy and Matthew by Cammie McGovern

Physical and mental illness take centre stage in a beautiful and thoughtful story about two young people who face challenges that most of us could never imagine.

Amy and Matthew is the first young adult novel by Cammie McGovern, sister of Elizabeth McGovern who plays Cora, Lady Grantham, in ITV’s Downton Abbey.

It’s the story of two special teenagers who find love against the odds. Amy loves Matthew and he loves her. Amy is unflinchingly honest about her limitations. Born with cerebral palsy, she can’t walk or talk without help but trapped inside her uncooperative body lies a brilliant mind and a luminous spirit. She’s a girl capable of truly loving and worthy of being loved in return.

Matthew, meanwhile, has his own set of hurdles to mount. His mind is consumed by unwanted repeated thoughts, obsessive rituals and a crippling fear which he can’t explain. But underneath all the anxiety lies a deep seed of hope for someone to come along who believes in him…

Then Amy meets Matthew. It may not be a fairy tale romance and they might not inhabit a fantasy world far from our own but the love that they share is real… and the magic is still there.

Amy and Matthew’s moving relationship opens our eyes to the reality of being disabled. The problems they face are portrayed here with uncompromising honesty and unflinching reality but their unfolding love story is also subtle, heartbreaking and utterly enchanting.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Thirteen by Tom Hoyle

No self-respecting teen will want to miss Thirteen, an extraordinary and exciting book from an extraordinary and gifted writer.

With its striking yellow cover and bold, realistic and gritty tale of a city boy who is targeted by a murderous cult leader, this is a teen novel that will resonate long after the last page has turned.

Fast-paced and brimming with action, menace and suspense, Thirteen is a truly gripping and gritty thriller.

Born at midnight in London, on the stroke of the new millennium, Adam is the target of a cult that believes boys born on this date must die before the end of their thirteenth year. Twelve boys have been killed so far. Coron, the crazy cult leader, will stop at nothing to bring in his new kingdom. And now he is planning a bombing spectacular across London to celebrate the sacrifice of his final victim… Adam.

Tom Hoyle is the pseudonym of the headmaster of a North London boys’ school and Thirteen, the start of a series, is his first book. ‘I wanted every chapter to be dramatic and engaging,’ he says, ‘the literary equivalent of a modern action film, something that even the most reluctant readers in my English class would want to pick up.’

Don’t miss the ride into a contemporary brand of hell…

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Unforgotten by Jessica Brody

If the Bourne Identity – but with a delicious romantic twist – floats your boat, check out the second part of Jessica Brody’s captivating sci-fi teen trilogy about cloning, manipulated memories and heart-stopping romance,

In the opening book, Unremembered, we met Seraphina (Sera), the only survivor of a plane explosion who woke up in hospital with no memory. The only clue to her identity was a mysterious boy Zen who claimed she was part of a top-secret science experiment.

In Unforgotten, we find her hoping that she is finally safe from the horrors of her past after a daring escape from the scientists at Diotech who created her. But new threats await her and Zen. At every turn, Zen falls prey to a mysterious illness and Sera’s extraordinary abilities make it more and more difficult to stay hidden.

Meanwhile, Diotech has developed a dangerous new weapon designed to apprehend her, a weapon that even Sera will be powerless to stop. Her only hope of saving Zen’s life and defeating the company that made her is a secret buried deep within her mind, a secret that Diotech will kill to protect.

Brody is a master of the fine art of suspense. She fills her story with action, intrigue and a fascinating exploration of one girl’s desperate bid to find the freedom to make her own choices and live her own life.

The final chapter of her amazing adventure story is set to be a cracker…

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Best-selling US author Rainbow Rowell’s coming-of-age love story about learning to open your heart is guaranteed to get teenagers sighing and swooning as they follow the fortunes and misfortunes of identical twin girls.

Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they are off to university and Wren has decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair any more. Instead she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose.

It’s not that easy for Cath. She’s painfully shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she has experienced in real life.

Without Wren, Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She’s got a surly room-mate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilised world and a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words…

Rowell explores the relationship between the two very different sisters and the exploits of their friends as they all wrestle with the highs and lows of discovering the big wide world. Authentic dialogue, a remarkable empathy with adolescents and an honest portrayal of young, vulnerable love make this a riveting read.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)