Book review: Summer is here with Macmillan Children’s Books

Kite spirit
Kite spirit
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An outstandingly beautiful story about a girl coping with her friend’s death, a thrilling adventure featuring pirates and monsters, a hundred decker bus and a madcap pair of puddled plumbers are leading the summer charge at Macmillan Children’s Books.

Here are some of the sunshine reads that are now hot off the presses:

Age 11 plus:

Kite Spirit

Sita Brahmachari

How do you cope when you are just sixteen and the best friend you thought you knew so well takes her own life on the eve of your first GCSE exam?

Sita Brahmachari’s haunting novel set amidst the rugged beauty of the Lake District promises to be one of 2013’s most powerful and emotionally charged stories in the burgeoning young adult market.

Perfectly pitched and written with the utmost sensitivity and truly uplifting charm, this is a book to read and treasure, to gain wisdom and understanding, and to comfort and console.

The story of typical teenager Kite Solomon’s battle to come to terms with her lifelong friend’s shocking suicide is one that speaks volumes about the pressures on today’s young people – the imperative to perform academically amidst a whirlwind of extra-curricular activity and spiralling social lives.

Kite’s world falls apart when her best friend Dawn Jenkins, a gifted young musician, commits suicide after a long struggle with feeling under pressure to achieve.

That dreadful morning when Dawn’s body was discovered in the bedroom at her home has become Kite’s Falling Day, the moment her world and everything she shared with her best friend began to disintegrate.

Unable to cry and consumed by guilt that she had not been able to help Dawn, Kite is whisked off to the Lake District by her father who wants his daughter to have the time and space to grieve.

In London, Kite was a confident girl, at home in the noisy, bustling city, but in the countryside she feels vulnerable and disorientated. She senses Dawn’s spirit around her and is consumed by a confusing mix of anger, guilt, sadness and frustration, all locked up inside her broken heart.

Her mind has become ‘an endlessly whirling film reel with scenes cut up in the wrong order,’ desperately trying to search for what might have been a cry for help from Dawn. She sees her in the landscape, in the flight of an owl and in her troubled dreams.

And then in the quiet solitude of the Lakes, she meets farming lad Garth who seems to understand Kite better than anyone and who can help her come to terms with her all-consuming sorrow and finally show her how to say goodbye to Dawn.

Kite Spirit is a masterclass in wise and sympathetic storytelling and a superbly constructed lesson in the joys of friendship, the human heart’s ability to heal itself and the importance of acceptance and renewal.

A moving and unmissable treat for both teens and adults

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Railsea

China Miéville

Now if you want your imagination to take off on a flight of fun and thrilling adventure, climb aboard the Railsea, a famous mole train, and soar into a world of beastly fantasy.

China Miéville’s Railsea is a book of grand and glorious ideas, a vision of a world in which trains rule the world, traversing a sea of rails and carrying out recognisable missions like trade, exploration, military duties and fighting pirates.

Sham Yes ap Soorap has always dreamed of adventure and now adventure has found him. On the great open rails of the Railsea, aboard the famous mole train Medes, he watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt.

Moldywarpes are great burrowing beasts whose meat and pelt are valuable commodities to the hunters tracking them. The giant moles burst from the earth, the harpoonists target their prey and the ensuing battles which result in one’s death and the other’s glory are extraordinary.

Every alarm signalling a creature nearby leaves Sham breathless with excitement, the thrill of the chase overwhelming every time. But no matter how spectacular it is, travelling the endless rails of the Railsea, Sham senses that there’s more to life, even if his captain can think only of her obsessive hunt for one savage mole, the Giant Southern Moldywarpe.

When they find a wrecked train, it is a welcome distraction. But the impossible salvage Sham finds there leads to trouble. Soon he is hunted on all sides – by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters and salvage-scrabblers. And it might not be just Sham’s life that’s about to change. It could be the whole of the Railsea.

A magical blend of the real and imagined, Railsea creates a credible and exciting world guaranteed to keep young brains engaged and the pages turning.

(Macmillan, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

I’m Dougal Trump... Where’s My Tarantula?

Jackie Marchant

Is there a boy at your house who just won’t get going on his reading? Would he like to meet a ‘pal’ who is funny, fun-loving and can’t help getting into the most outrageous scrapes? Dougal Trump could be the ideal addition to the family!

Daredevil Dougal is the ideal anti-hero for trouble-magnet youngsters who want to read about boys just like themselves.

In his latest hair-raising adventure, the wickedly witty schoolboy discovers that someone has stolen his tarantula, Sybil (named after his sister as they both have very hairy legs), and she is being held to ransom. Dougal must fulfil the kidnapper’s demands before poor Sybil is tortured – one leg at a time.

Dougal’s misadventures are perfectly pitched at the wicked mind and humour of a seven-year-old boy who hates almost everything about his schoolwork and his sister. Cartoon-style drawings, clever changes in type face and format make this irresistible for boys who soon get bored. Sharing his adventures isn’t so much reading as simply joining in the fun.

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Belly Book

Fran Manushkin and Dan Yaccarino

There’s nothing a child likes more than a good belly laugh so what better than a book that celebrates tummies?

Dan Yaccarino’s inventive and eye-catching illustrations provide the perfect picture board for Fran Manushkin’s wonderful rhymes which are sure to tickle a few little ribs!

From baby bellies to grown-up bellies and animal bellies, bellies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are soft, some are firm, some are round and some are flat. But whatever they look like, all bellies deserve a happy pat!

The Belly Book is the ideal, creative introduction for youngsters wanting to know more about the stomach’s role in digestion and how ‘tummies’ are used to ‘grow babies.’ There are also fun sections on topics like belly flops in the swimming pool and exotic belly dancing.

A gorgeously gregarious book guaranteed to get a great gut reaction…

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water

Gemma Merino

Winner of the Macmillan Prize for Illustration in 2011, Gemma Merino’s enchanting debut picture book brings us the heart-warming story of a little crocodile who finds it hard to fit in with his family… for a very good reason!

Everybody knows that crocodiles love water, but this little crocodile is different. He doesn’t like water at all. In fact, he prefers climbing trees! But it can be lonely when you’re the odd one out, so the little crocodile tries his best to change. But being wet isn’t for everyone and a shiver soon becomes a cold and the cold becomes a sneeze, a very hot sneeze… Could it be that this little crocodile isn’t a crocodile at all? He might just be a dragon! Author and illustrator Merion’s funny, fiery and unique story promises to become a children’s classic with its playful drawings and delightfully uplifting text.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

The Toucan Brothers

Tor Freeman

Water, water everywhere and every drop’s in sight! Meet a lovable and crazy pair of plumbers and a brilliantly quirky story.

Tor Freeman’s new picture book has a bouncy rhyming text which is perfect for reading aloud, as well as busy, bright pictures to keep young readers fully engaged.

What do you do when your sink’s on the blink? In Tapton everyone knows who to call – the Toucans that can do, Sammy and Paul! But when new plumber Flash Rover swings into town, the Toucans’ telephone stops ringing. Flash Rover may be faster and cheaper, but he’s also a rotten cheat and it isn’t long before the people of Tapton find themselves in deep, deep water as a result of his dodgy doings. Can Sammy and Paul get the unsound hound to pipe down so that they can save Tapton from a drenching disaster?

This offbeat tale of triumph and teamwork has read appeal for children and parents. The bold, colourful pictures are a visual feast, packed with amazing detail, charismatic characters and zany humour so that children will find something new to delight them every time the story is read.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

The Hundred Decker Bus

Mike Smith

All aboard Mike Smith’s big, beautiful bus for an amazing adventure! This innovative picture book, which comes with surprise, giant fold-out ending, is just the ticket for little ones who love travel, adventure and big red buses!

Every day, the bus driver finishes his cup of tea, puts on his jacket and sets off on his rounds on his double decker bus, picking up the same regular passengers. Every day, the man with the big red tie gets on at the roundabout, the lady with the pram gets on at the library and the noisy children get on at Clover Drive.

But what if one day the driver turned down a new and exciting road, picked up new and exciting people and set off on a daring adventure? And what if there were so many people getting on that the bus simply wasn’t big enough? Well, there would only be one solution ...

Join in a journey brimming with fun and discovery across countries, seas and skies. With its bustling action and busload of offbeat people and surprises, this exciting picture book has all the hallmarks of a bedtime classic.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Zoe and Beans: Hello Oscar

Chloë and Mick Inkpen

The adorable Zoe and Beans, ‘brainchildren’ of the Inkpens, a unique and talented father and daughter duo, are back for another cuddly, heart-warming adventure. Chloë’s imaginative and quirky stories are brought to life by her father’s fun-filled pictures featuring an adorable little girl and her crazy dog Beans.

In the fifth book in the series, we meet Oscar, the new next-door neighbour and a brand new friend for Zoe and Beans. Zoe has found a guinea pig at the bottom of the garden, and a tortoise, and a chameleon, and now there’s a noisy parrot! Where have they all come from? The hole in the fence could be a clue, but who lives on the other side?

There’s laughter all the way with this luscious and lovable pair of pranksters.

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Zoe and Beans: How Many Pets? and Look at Me!

Chloë and Mick Inkpen

And now babies can get in on the Zoe and Beans double act with the launch of a sparkling new series of sturdy board books featuring the adorable duo and all their friends. With its gentle rhyming text and irresistible illustrations, these books are perfect for sharing.

In Look at Me! Zoe and Beans and their best friend Oscar find a dressing-up box and must decide what they will be today. Join in the fun as they become robots, doctors, bumble bees and even pirates!

And Zoe and Beans learn to count in How Many Pets? Little ones can help spot the pets as Zoe, Beans and Oscar count the animals from one to ten. There’s a hungry rabbit, a kitten, a duck, a puppy and a colourful cow but will there be enough room for them all? Creative artwork and familiar and funny animals will make this a story time favourite.

Simple, bold illustrations and easy-to-read and understand words are a perfect introduction to the wonderful world of books.

(Macmillan, boardbooks, £5.99)

It’s a Little Book

Lane Smith

The ever-inventive Lane Smith brings his quirky, bestselling It’s A Book to an even younger audience in a fun and yet sophisticated board book so that the message about the joy of reading can be shared with toddlers too.

A playful exchange between an uninformed young donkey and a book-loving young ape carries the same subversive, signature twist but is suitably wrapped in a cuddly, cosy and playful story.

(Macmillan, boardbook, £5.99)