Book reviews: Big Ben, spring rabbits and a giant treehouse with Macmillan

Easter is bursting out all over and Macmillan Children's Books have a super, sparkling line-up to keep the kids smiling.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 24th March 2016, 10:00 am
Big Ben, spring rabbits and a giant treehouse with Macmillan
Big Ben, spring rabbits and a giant treehouse with Macmillan

Watch a rabbit make sense of the world, take a trip to adorable Acorn Wood, meet a fun-loving crocodile, colour in with The Moomins, climb into a 52-storey treehouse or share the angst of a troubled teen. Macmillan have a book for every young taste…

Age 2 plus:

Hooray for Hoppy by Tim Hopgood

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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 book which helps little ones 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 helps children to 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 that will appeal to readers young and old.

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

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Babies and toddlers:

It’s a Little Baby by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb

Somebody’s hiding. Who is it? It’s a little baby, and she’s peeping at you!

Lift the flaps of this adorable book and watch your little one’s face as he or she finds five babies doing all the things that babies do… waving, clapping, pointing and lots more.

It’s a Little Baby is a beautifully illustrated and engaging first book from Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb, creators of the popular The Paper Dolls which has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide.

Donaldson’s simple but effective rhyming text combined with Cobb’s appealing illustrations on fresh white backgrounds make this a perfect gift. With big flaps to lift and irresistible pictures underneath, children will love joining in with the baby’s actions.

And the fun doesn’t stop there because there is an online song to enjoy too! Written and recorded by Donaldson, the wonderful It's a Little Baby song is the perfect accompaniment to the book and sure to become a favourite sing-along tune. Visit to hear the song and download the lyrics and actions.

A world of surprises in a fresh and beautiful book…

(Macmillan, board book, £6.99)

Age 0-3:

Tales from Acorn Wood: Colours and Counting by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Creators of The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, are the geniuses behind two enchanting and educational new board books.

The books, which teach little ones the basics of counting and colours, are based on Donaldson and Scheffler’s best-selling lift-the-flap toddler series Tales from Acorn Woods featuring Bear, Fox, Pig, Rabbit and all their woodland friends.

In Colours, try to find Fox’s blue socks, Bear’s red waistcoat and the yellow flowers in Rabbit’s garden, and in Counting, learn to count to ten as one pig plays hide-and-seek, Fox loses two socks, Bear delivers three letters and four mice keep Rabbit awake.

A captivating and colourful way to join familiar friends and make learning fun!

(Macmillan, board book, £5.99 each)

Age one plus:

Noisy London by Marion Billet

The sights and sounds of London in one big, beautiful book!

Even the youngest of children can enjoy getting in on the hustle and bustle of a visit to the capital city with this exhilarating and noisy board book which has six iconic London sounds.

Noisy London is an inventive and entertaining way to introduce children to big city life as they press the buttons and follow the famous sights.

Watch out for the beeping double decker buses, listen to the original Tube ‘mind the gap’ announcement which was recorded over 40 years ago, and hear Big Ben chime the hour. Travel on and discover who is roaring at the Natural History Museum and listen to the monkeys chitter chatter at ZSL London Zoo. Then finish off the day with a royal visit to Buckingham Palace and remember to look out for the naughty crown jewel thief on every page!

Packed with fascinating detail and things to spot, this beautifully illustrated sound book is a must-have travel companion for children visiting noisy London Town!

(Campbell, board book, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

Solomon and Mortimer by Catherine Rayner

Solomon Crocodile captured readers’ hearts when he first appeared in 2011 and now the charismatic little croc is back to snap up some new followers!

Award-winning author and illustrator Catherine Rayner captures the playful nature of two unlikely heroes in a gorgeously illustrated and lively picture book using her distinctive bold style and clever use of colour.

Solomon Crocodile and his croc friend Mortimer are bored. They want to find some fun but what can they do? Tree-climbing is tricky, chasing lizards doesn’t end well and flying turns out to be a lot harder than it looks. But then they spot the biggest hippo in the river. Just imagine the splash he would make if two naughty crocodiles were to surprise him! But Solomon and Mortimer are about to get a whole lot more than they bargained for...

Funny, uplifting and with eye-catching illustrations on every page, Solomon’s new adventure will have youngsters crying crocodile tears of laughter!

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

What the Ladybird Heard Next by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

Two of the best-known names in children’s books are on top form in the fabulous follow-up to the hugely successful What the Ladybird Heard, which has sold over a million copies worldwide.

The ladybird and her farm animal friends have a clever new plan as crafty crooks Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len get out of jail and head back to the farm with another cunning scheme to cause trouble. They have been stealing eggs from the fat red hen but now they are setting their sights higher and are planning to steal the fat red hen herself! Fortunately the quiet, clever ladybird is on their trail, and she and her farm animal friends have a plan of their own.

Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks deliver another raucous, rhyming, ribald feast of mayhem, muck and misadventure with the feisty farmyard animals, two feckless foes, a mysterious bird and a very clever ladybird. Youngsters will love joining in the fun, and the rhymes, as the hapless thieves meet an animal team that is more than their match.

The book comes complete with a gorgeously glittery eye-catching cover and there’s the added fun of spotting the sparkly ladybird on every page. With slapstick action, animal noises, and a mysterious Snuggly Snerd bird, What the Ladybird Heard Next is destined to become yet another classic in the Donaldson and Monks collection.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Little Legends by Tom Percival

Red Riding Hood and her fairy tale friends go digital in an exciting new series from born storyteller Tom Percival.

A magical blend of action stories and technology, these super Little Legends books – ideal for both new and confident readers – feature classic characters enjoying everyday adventures but all set against the most extraordinary backdrops.

The new series kicks off with two books, The Spell Thief and The Great Troll Rescue, each starring familiar fairy tale heroes like Jack (of Beanstalk fame!) and his talking chicken Betsy, Red, Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretel.

They all live in Tale Town where the population is small but their adventures are epic thanks to Percival’s remarkable storytelling and the innovative illustrations provided by Made in Me, a digital creative studio.

In The Spell Thief, Jack spots Anansi, the original Spider Man of West African legend and the new kid in town, as he talks to a troll in the Deep Dark Woods. Now everyone knows that trolls mean trouble, and Jack will do anything to prove to the rest of his friends that Anansi is a troll spy, even if that means using stolen magic!

And in The Great Troll Rescue, what starts as an adventure ends in disaster when Rapunzel, Anansi, Jack and Betsy are captured by a wicked witch and locked up in a tower. It’s up to Red (the sustainable woodcutter’s daughter) to save the day. With the help of the witch's servant, Ella, and her magical fairy god-brother, can Red save her friends and all the other magical creatures the witch has kidnapped, including a fearsome troll?

Fairy tale fun and all-action adventure for the digital generation!

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Moomin Colouring Book

It’s over 70 years since the first book featuring The Moomins was published but Tove Jansson’s globally treasured stories continue to delight generations of children.

The Moomins are a lovable family of white, roundish fairy tale characters with large snouts that make them resemble hippopotami and were created by Jansson, a celebrated Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator artist, political cartoonist and author who died in 2001.

In a new publishing partnership between Macmillan Children’s Books and the Moomin brand, her much-loved illustrations are being showcased in a colouring book for the first time.

This stylish and unique colouring book features original artwork from Jansson’s coveted archive and are accompanied by some of the most memorable quotes from the much-loved series.

Beautifully conceived and designed, the chunky book includes striking patterns and scenes on high quality colouring paper and is the perfect gift for Moomin fans of all ages.

(Macmillan, paperback, £10)

Age 7 plus:

The 52-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

The ‘wizards of Oz’ are back with their incredible, ever-expanding treehouse… and this time it has thirteen new storeys!

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 climbing high in the UK market with these wild and wacky, highly illustrated, laugh-out-loud books packed with hilarious antics, jokes and cartoons.

The new, super-sized treehouse includes a watermelon-smashing level, a wave machine, a life-size snakes and ladders game (with real ladders and real snakes!), a rocket-powered carrot launcher, a Ninja Snail Training Academy and a high-tech detective agency with all the latest high-tech detective technology. And that is very, very lucky for them because they have a BIG mystery to solve… where is Mr Big Nose? So what are you waiting for? Come on up!

The 52-Storey Treehouse is the fourth book in this truly bonkers series. Easy-to-read, visually exciting and wonderfully entertaining, the pace is fast and the fun never stops. Simply brilliant and guaranteed to get even the most reluctant readers begging for more!

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 7 plus:

Oranges in No Man’s Land by Elizabeth Laird

Some of the classic novels of award-winning author Elizabeth Laird get a fresh and contemporary new look from Macmillan Children’s Books this year.

Noted for their evocative settings, unforgettable characters and breathtaking tales of bravery, determination and hope, these amazing stories have been nominated for numerous awards.

First off the press is Oranges in No Man’s Land, the gripping story of a ten-year-old girl who risks death to make a life-saving dash through war-torn Beirut.

Since her father left Lebanon to find work and her mother tragically died in a shell attack, Ayesha has been living in the bomb-ravaged city of Beirut with her granny and her two younger brothers. The city has been torn in half by civil war and a desolate, dangerous no-man’s-land divides the two sides. Only militiamen and tanks dare enter this deadly zone, but when Granny falls desperately ill Ayesha sets off on a terrifying journey to reach a doctor living in enemy territory. Will she be able to find medical help and make it back before it’s too late?

Packed with emotion and the terrifying realities of civil war, this is a moving tale of resilience, courage, survival and, ultimately, hope.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce

He’s green by day and a hero by night… colourful schoolboy Rory Rooney is setting out on an unforgettable voyage that will change the way he sees the world.

Award-winning author and scriptwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, the inventive genius behind the 21st century return of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and one of the masterminds behind the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, is on exhilarating form in this brilliant stand-alone story.

Charming, funny, gloriously offbeat and packed with the spirit of adventure, The Astounding Broccoli Boy comes straight from the warm heart and fertile imagination of the amazing Mr Cottrell Boyce.

Rory Rooney doesn’t like surprises. He’d rather be prepared for all eventualities and relies on his favourite and well-studied book Don’t Be Scared, Be Prepared which offers advice on any problem. In fact, Rory has memorised every page of it. He could even survive a hippo attack. He knows that just because something is unlikely doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen.

But Rory isn’t prepared when he suddenly and inexplicably turns green after an unfortunate incident on a geography field trip. It’s such a rare a predicament that even Don’t Be Scared, Be Prepared has no answers.

Stuck in an isolation ward with two other remarkably green children in a hospital far from home and family, poor Rory is as confused by his new condition as the medics seem to be. No one, not even some world famous scientists, have an explanation for what has happened to him, or any idea how to turn him skin-coloured again.

Despite feeding him ‘good things’ like quinoa and monitoring his every movement, they remain clueless. Is it genetic, an allergy, something all the children ate or maybe an alien life form? Hang on a minute, what if turning green actually means you’ve turned into a superhero?

Accompanied by his former nemesis and a feisty penguin sidekick, Rory makes it past hospital security, eager to discover exactly what his superpower might be. But even the best intentions can cause more harm than good and soon Rory is in a dangerous situation that needs more than an average superhero to save the day…

Family and friends, the power of the imagination, tackling bullies and learning that real heroes come in every shape and size are just some of the themes covered in this delightful, laugh-out-loud reading odyssey which has been brought to glorious life by Steven Lenton’s quirky illustrations and is guaranteed to enchant both children and parents.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 10 plus:

The Parent Problem by Anna Wilson

Which teenager has not occasionally been mortified by their parents?

Master storyteller and prolific author Anna Wilson has her finger firmly on the pulse of teen angst in this hilarious and heart-warming story about families, friendship and not worrying – well, trying not to worry – about what other people think!

Wilson pits adorable teenager Skye Green and her wonderful best friend Aubrey against an over-the-top mum guaranteed to leave sensitive and sympathetic 13-year-olds with their toes curled and their eyes tightly closed.

Aspiring writer Skye Green’s mum is driving her insane. When she’s not posting embarrassing pictures of Skye online or experimenting with bizarre clothing, she is forever taking up new hobbies… and her latest obsession is ballroom dancing.

It’s only a matter of time until she waltzes down the street in spandex and sequins and, to make matters worse, Skye's younger brother Harris is wildly (and irritatingly) enthusiastic about mum’s new hobby, and about wearing mum's sparkly new outfits.

As if this wasn’t horrific enough, Skye’s mum has also enlisted the new neighbour’s son to come and ‘babysit’ when she’s at dance class, and he’s only a year older than Skye. Talk about mortifying in the extreme!

At least best friend Aubrey is there to help Skye cope with her family’s madness. They have been friends since before they can remember, and nothing will ever, ever change that … right?

Written in Skye’s fantastically funny diary style, under the heading My Mortifying Life, and filled with her caustic comments on her madcap family, friends and enemies, this is a laugh-out-loud tale of tears, tantrums and terrific one-liners that will appeal to any girl whose family has made them cringe with embarrassment!

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 12 plus:

Underwater by Maris Reichardt

When a traumatic experience shatters the life of teenager Morgan Grant, time suddenly stands still.

Reliant on ‘emergency pills’ to see her through her worst days and hardly able to leave the house, Morgan is struggling to cope… until a new boy moves in next door.

US author Marisa Reichardt plays a blinder in a stunning and beautifully written debut novel about redemption, recovery and the power of hope.

In order to move on after her terrible trauma, Morgan must learn to forgive… first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then herself. But Morgan can’t move on. She can't even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother.

Morgan feels like she's underwater, unable to surface, unable to see her friends, unable to go to school. When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, new boy Evan moves in next door.

Evan, with his sun-bleached hair and sun-tanned skin reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. Along with the support of her brother and her psychologist, cool and cute Evan might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside…

Reichardt paints a powerful portrait of a teenager on a painful, personal journey in search of new beginnings and a peace pact with the past. Her life presents tough, real-life challenges and readers are with her all the way as she finally learns acceptance and the gains the strength to move on.

Underwater is an impressive and thoughtful debut novel about redemption, recovery and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.

A modern gem for the modern world…

(Macmillan, paperback, £7.99)