Book review: Alice takes centre stage in Macmillan’s summer of fun

Alice takes centre stage in Macmillan's summer of fun
Alice takes centre stage in Macmillan's summer of fun
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It’s 150 years since English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, took the world by storm with his perennially enchanting story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

And to celebrate the anniversary of this iconic novel, Carroll’s original publisher, Macmillan, is delivering a raft of exciting new ‘Alice’ books to suit every age group, from toddlers to early teens.

But the fun doesn’t stop there… Macmillan is also setting sail for the school holidays with a simply sizzling selection of children’s books to keep boredom at bay and banish the rainy day blues.

Delve into the magical world of fairies, meet a boy who thinks his teacher is a monster, go fishing with a bear and a hare, help a postman dog to save the day, join a teenager on a death-defying mission and catch up with the diaries of a modern day princess.

Age 8 plus:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Macmillan Classics Edition by Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll’s timeless adventures featuring Alice’s bizarre journey down a rabbit hole have been delighting young readers since 1865.

And this Macmillan Classic Edition, with the original line drawings by Sir John Tenniel, is the perfect introduction to inquisitive Alice, who finds wonder, adventure, confusion, madness, mayhem, and cake, on her journey underground.

Carroll’s famous story plays cleverly with logic, ensuring a lasting popularity with adults as well as with children. The narrative style and its unusual structure, the amazing characters and memorable imagery have been hugely influential in both popular culture and literature since the book was first published.

Youngsters will love joining Alice as she tumbles into a strange world where curious things are normal and normal things are ‘curiouser.’ There is the chance to marvel at the classic nonsense poem The Jabberwocky and join in with Tweedledum and Tweedledee’s brilliant ode The Walrus and the Carpenter. In her extraordinary adventures, Alice meets a series of unforgettable characters, from the bossy White Rabbit to the grinning Cheshire Cat and the amazing Mad Hatter.

Gloriously illustrated, with the plates coloured by John Macfarlane, complete with a ribbon marker and a foreword by Hilary McKay, this sumptuous hardback edition is truly a gift to treasure.

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)

Age 7-9:

The Nursery Alice by Lewis Carroll and Sir John Tenniel

And how about an enchanting adaptation of Alice’s adventures for younger readers?

In 1881, Lewis Carroll’s diary records that he wrote to Macmillan to suggest a new ‘Nursery Edition’ of Alice. Nine years later, the first colour edition of Alice was printed. Carroll rewrote Alice, simplifying and abridging the original text, while Tenniel redrew, enlarged and coloured twenty of his iconic illustrations.

The resulting book was, and still is, a delightfully engaging experience with readers prompted to interact not only with the story but also with the images, and even the physical book itself, in a way that seems thoroughly modern.

Beautifully reproduced for the anniversary year, this edition retains every word of the original and restores the exquisite delicacy of Tenniel’s artwork, lost in reproductions across the decades, as well as the enchanting cover artwork by Emily Gertrude Thomson.

A joy to read, and to behold, for both children and adults…

(Macmillan, hardback, £12.99)

Age 7-9:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: The Little Folks’ Edition by Lewis Carroll

And here is a pocket-sized piece of history!

First published by Macmillan in 1907, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Little Folks’ Edition is a charming miniature edition of the original classic, specially abridged for younger readers. A sixth of the length of the original 1865 edition, it features 32 brightly coloured illustrations by Tenniel, featuring Alice in a red dress.

Faithfully reproduced from a rare archive copy, this unique little book retains all the charm of the historic original. With a luxurious red binding and gold sprayed edges, it is the perfect celebration of Alice’s special anniversary, a wonderful gift for fans of every age and a must-have for every collector’s bookshelf.

(Macmillan, hardback, £9.99)

Age one plus: Busy Alice in Wonderland

Even the youngest children can enjoy an early taste of Alice’s wonderful adventures with this innovative and interactive board book. Busy Alice lets babies and toddlers push, pull and turn the different mechanisms on this sturdy book to bring the story to life and introduce all the main characters… Alice, the White Rabbit, the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, Dormouse and, of course, the unforgettable Queen of Hearts. Colonel Moutarde provides the eye-catching illustrations.

(Macmillan, board book, £4.99)

Age 11 plus:

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot’s phenomenally successful and outrageously funny series, The Princess Diaries, have reigned supreme for 15 years, with over a million copies sold in the UK alone and two hit films based on the books.

To celebrate this right royal anniversary, Macmillan Children’s Books is republishing the books with fresh, contemporary covers to delight a new generation of Princess Mia fans.

The stories feature Mia Thermopolis, a normal 14-year-old American who, until now, has largely been concerned with the fact no boy has ever asked her out, and her mum is dating her algebra teacher. So imagine her shock and horror when her dad tells her, ‘You’re not Mia Thermopolis any more, honey. You’re Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, Princess of Genovia.’

In just one minute, Mia goes from regular Manhattan girl to heir to the throne of Genovia, being trailed by a bodyguard, taking princess lessons with her loathsome, uncontrollable old grandmere, and having a makeover with someone called Paolo. Well, her dad can lecture her till he is royal blue in the face, but no way is Mia going to turn herself into a style-queen. And they think she’s moving to Genovia? Er, hello?

Written in the form of Mia’s journal, including her hilarious to-do lists and algebra notes, these laugh-out-loud books capture all the spirit, defiance and angst of the early teenage years, and are a must for any girl who loves fun, romance… and kicking against the traces.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Notebooks of a Middle-School Princess by Meg Cabot

And now youngsters aged between eight and twelve can get in on The Princess Diaries action with an illustrated series from Meg Cabot which introduces us to Olivia Grace, another new princess in town.

Olivia Grace is completely average, or so she thinks. When HRH Princess Mia Thermopolis turns up at her school one day, Olivia is whisked away to New York City in a limo which all the cookies you can eat and has pink and purple ceiling lights like a disco. But discovering that your father is actually the Prince of Genovia is quite a shock. Especially since it means you are a descendent of the Kingdom of Genovia, and a princess. Olivia has got a lot to learn about her long-lost family, and everyone has got a lot to learn about her!

Just like Mia, Olivia chronicles her transformation from ordinary girl to princess in her notebook, with some charismatic black-and-white illustrations by the author and plenty of heart-warming action and smiles.

This is an enchanting spin-off to the original series, allowing younger children to share in the fun and comic capers of a rip-roaring royal saga.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 11 plus:

The Snake Trap: Travis Delaney Investigates by Kevin Brooks

Carnegie medal-winning author Kevin Brooks is the master of suspense and the third thrilling book in his high-octane Travis Delaney series ratchets up the tension to breaking point.

Following a death-defying escape from the hands of a criminal overlord, teenage PI Travis Delaney thinks he might finally be getting closer to finding out who killed his parents, and why. But things are about to get a whole lot more deadly.

One moment Travis is trapped in an armed face-off in the offices of Delaney & Co, private investigators and the next, terrorists have stormed the building and he has been abducted. Kept captive alongside Winston, the rogue security officer who Travis believes is responsible for his parents’ deaths, our hero is quickly plagued by more questions than answers.

As the truth begins to emerge, Travis is faced with the ultimate dilemma… how do you choose between saving your own life and saving the life of someone you love?

Brilliant storytelling and realism are the keys to the success of Brooks’ teen adventure books. His intriguing mysteries teem with plausible characters and red-hot action, all guaranteed to keep young readers on the edge of their seats.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 11 plus:

My Secret Rock Star Boyfriend by Eleanor Wood

Red hot author Eleanor Wood brings us a summer of loving in this irresistible teen romance featuring a deliciously mismatched couple.

When a self-confessed geeky girl meets a famous boy, what could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday Cooper is happy being normal. She’s currently doing her A-levels and indulging in her twin obsessions… buying weird vintage clothes in charity shops and writing her beloved music blog (which nobody ever reads). Her love for music started when she was thirteen and had a massive crush on Jackson Griffith, teen rock god and the undisputed love of her life. But Tuesday is eighteen now and has moved on to fancying boys in real life. Jackson went off the celebrity radar years ago so it can’t be him who is messaging her on her blog, can it?

From a girl’s computer to the pyramid stage at Glastonbury Festival, this is a love story for anyone who has ever had a celebrity crush and wished that someone would sing a love song just for them. Dreams can come true…

A gorgeous, fun-filled, summertime romance to set hearts beating and pulses racing.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 11 plus:

The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson

Eva Ibbotson, who was born in Vienna in 1925 and moved to England with her father when the Nazis came to power, wrote more than twenty books for children and young adults during her long career.

The much-loved author died in 2010 by which time her imaginative and humorous books had won several prizes, the hearts of her many adoring fans and garnered nominations for major awards.

The Morning Gift, set during the Second World War, is one of Ibbotson’s most exquisite romances, a classic tale of love under fire.

Ruth lives in the beautiful city of Vienna and is wildly in love with Heini Radik, a brilliant young pianist. But her world is about to change forever. When Hitler’s forces invade, Ruth’s family flees to London, but she is unable to get a passport.

Quin, a young professor and friend of the family, visits Ruth and, in an effort to bring her back to London, he offers a marriage of convenience. As Ruth throws herself into her London life, Quin begins to fall desperately in love with her. But things are further complicated by the arrival of Heini.

Prepare to be swept away…

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Queen of Dreams: The Secret Throne by Peter F. Hamilton

There aren’t many sci-fi fans who have not thrilled to the stunning books of popular author Peter F. Hamilton, perhaps best known for his psychic detective Greg Mandel books and epic trilogy The Night’s Dawn.

Hamilton has now turned his hand to writing children’s books and The Secret Throne, first book in the thrilling Queen of Dreams fantasy trilogy, is a real stunner. Highly original and utterly compelling, this is a story to set young imaginations on fire and kindle a lifelong love of both reading and exhilarating science fiction.

Taggie and her younger sister Jemima are just like any other girls their age. They live with their mum, go to school, play sports and spend their holidays with their dad in the countryside. But one day, everything changes… when a white squirrel wearing purple glasses turns up in their lives.

The next thing the sisters know, their dad has been kidnapped and it’s up to the girls to get him back. But it seems their father – no ordinary man, it turns out – has been keeping some very big secrets from his young daughters. He is an otherworldly prince in exile, and the land he should be ruling, the First Realm, has been overthrown by the King of Night.

Can Taggie and Jemima find their way between the worlds to save their father, and what other secrets has he been hiding? Before long, the sisters realise that it is not just their dad’s life at stake. It’s the future of a whole world.

Hamilton fires on all cylinders in this absorbing, illustrated story which is guaranteed to hook young readers all the way to the next book in the series.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Dindy and the Elephant by Elizabeth Laird

Award-winning author Elizabeth Laird transports us back to India in the 1940s, as the country shakes off British rule, in this beautiful, though-provoking story about unexpected endings and new beginnings.

Dindy and the Elephant, an accessible and beautifully written story about a young English girl faced with leaving the only home she has ever known, is a real eye-opener for a new generation of children.

Bored with her little brother Pog’s childish games, Dindy decides that she is finally grown-up enough for a real adventure. While her mother is sleeping and the servants are busy, she takes Pog deep into the tea gardens, a place they are never supposed to go alone.

Terrified by wild animals and snubbed by the local children, Dindy starts to realise how little she really knows about India, even though it’s the only place she has ever called home. But little does she know her life is about to be turned upside down when her mother is taken ill and her father tells her they are leaving India for good.

Dindy and the Elephant is a sensitive and enthralling portrayal of a young British child coming to terms with leaving her beloved childhood home, while at the same time realising that many of the things she has been raised to believe are wrong.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Princess Mirror-Belle by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

Mirror, mirror on the wall… where is the outrageous Princess Mirror-Belle?

There are three stories in one to enjoy in a gorgeous new collection of funny and exciting Princess Mirror-Belle adventures.

Mirror-Belle, the princess with a difference, is the hilarious looking-glass creation of top author and illustrator team Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks, and her madcap adventures are ideal for youngsters who are beginning to read on their own.

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, as she pops out of the unsuspecting Ellen’s mirror to sweep her into a variety of comic escapades, from battling the Dragon Pox to exploring a department store and helping out with the local pantomime. Wherever Mirror-Belle goes, trouble will follow!

Double trouble… and double the fun!

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 7 plus:

The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

The ‘wizards of Oz’ are here… and they are ready to work their treehouse magic!

Top Australian writer and illustrator team – Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton – have turned their wacky adventure stories, featuring two young would-be publishing sensations (unsurprisingly called Andy and Terry!), into a real-life reading phenomenon.

The success of the Treehouse series just won’t stop growing Down Under and now the amazing creators are branching out into the UK market with these wild and wacky, highly illustrated, laugh-out-loud books packed with hilarious antics, jokes and cartoons.

Fun, easy-to-read, visually exciting and wonderfully entertaining, their primary purpose is to grab the hearts and minds of reluctant young readers, and it’s a job well done.

Andy and Terry live in the world’s best ever treehouse! It’s got a giant catapult, a secret underground laboratory, a tank of man-eating sharks and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and shoots marshmallows into your mouth whenever you’re hungry.

It should be the perfect retreat to write a best-seller but there are a few totally unexpected hitches… you have to watch out for the sea monkeys, and the monkeys pretending to be sea monkeys, and the giant mutant mermaid sea monster. Oh, and, whatever you do, don’t get trapped in a burp-gas-filled bubble!

Youngsters will love following Andy and Terry’s crazy adventures in their treehouse as they try to write a book beset by a giant ocean of devilish distractions.

With its slapstick humour, brilliant absurdities and a some bonus puzzles to solve at the back of the book, The 13-Storey Treehouse is the best ‘tall story’ you’ll read this year!

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Digby Dog Saves the Day by Tor Freeman

Talented illustrator and author Tor Freeman has hit on the perfect search-and-find formula in this brilliant series for early years children.

Digby Dog, the charismatic canine, is the best postal delivery dog in town and he’s back on his round and busier than ever. This time his deliveries take him far and wide, to the castle, the fun park, the library and the arcade. Young children will love the ‘Can You Find’ activities which involve seeking out each character and spotting the additional items hidden in each busy scene. A story and activity book rolled into one, it is packed with quirky illustrations, brilliant characters and first words, as well as fascinating and funny details to keep both youngsters – and their parents – laughing all the way to the post office.

The degree of difficulty is pitched perfectly for younger children, making Digby Dog an ideal introduction to the fun of search-and-find books and proof that it’s never too early for a bit of brain- training!

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

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, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

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, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

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 and this sturdy board book format is perfect for younger readers.

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, board book, £5.99)

Age 6-18 months:

Playtime Stories Illustrated by Luana Rinaldo

Playtime Stories is just one of an inventive and entertaining new collection of interactive Campbell books for babies and toddlers.

Little children will find lots to explore in this beautiful, imaginative book with its finger trails to trace, textures to touch and feel, and little flaps to flip. Playtime Stories is a unique way for parents and babies to share and discover stories together.

Each spread has finger trails cut into the page for little hands to trace while the charming story provides a springboard for toddlers to take the adventure into new directions of their own. Each spread is a complete story, allowing parents and children to spend time looking, exploring and touching the page.

With beautiful, warm illustrations to capture the imagination, and a gentle rhythmic text, these clever books help adults to teach the youngest children about the world around them and encourage language learning and communication.

(Campbell, board book, £7.99)

Age 6-18 months:

Best Friends by Illustrated by Kim Hyun

Learning begins at an early age with this beautifully produced, classic board book of first words and phrases. Best Friends is a little tab book which shows older babies what it means to have friends, and introduces them to some first words and expressions. There is so much here for toddlers to look and laugh at, and bright, endearing animal characters to charm babies.

The sturdy little tabs along the top and down the side help babies to find their favourite page and encourage interactivity. Kim Hyun’s imaginative and expressive illustrations provide colourful, warmth and vitality to this beguiling little book.

The perfect wind-down for active toddlers…

(Campbell, board book, £5.99)

Age one plus:

Rhyming Stories: Pip the Dog and Freddy the Frog Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler comes up with two fun, rhyming stories in one beautiful, busy book. Pip is a pup with a very loud bark, He scares all the cats when he strolls through the park! Freddy’s a frog with goggly eyes, He’s small and fat and loves catching flies.

Pip and Freddy are two lively creatures who love to make noise and share magical escapades. These rhyming stories are beautifully illustrated by the award-winning Scheffler with lots of exciting detail that children will love to spot.

Perfect for reading aloud, and introducing little ones to the wonderful world of rhyme.

(Campbell, board book, £5.99)