Book reviews: History, fantasy and animal magic with Macmillan

Meet a witch on a dangerous mission, a fabulous fantasy queen and a cast of colourful picture book stars in a glittering array of new titles from Macmillan Children's Books.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 25th August 2016, 10:00 am
History, fantasy and animal magic with Macmillan
History, fantasy and animal magic with Macmillan

Age 9 plus:

Fire Witch by Matt Ralphs

English history, thrilling adventure and a bewitching heroine…

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Matt Ralphs is back with Fire Witch, the red-hot sequel to Fire Girl, and our fiery, fearless witch Hazel must gather her wits and steel her nerves to join her enemies and try to save her mother.

Packed with intrigue, danger, nail-biting tension and flashes of rib-tickling humour, these page-turning stories featuring an extraordinary girl are addictive reading for young fans of fantasy, drama and… witches!

The Civil War in England is over, Oliver Cromwell rules the land and a new battle is raging… between the people and the witches. Twelve-year-old HazelHooper is no ordinary girl. She is a Fire Witch, she can wield and manipulate flame and she is getting stronger all the time. But she is also angry because her mother Hecate had to sacrifice herself to the demon world in order to stop a demonic invasion. Hazel must fight on alone and she is determined to get her back, whatever the cost.

Her only chance to find Hecate is to seek advice from brilliant demonologist Nicolas Murrell, the Order of Witch Hunters’ most prized prisoner, and the man who summoned the demon responsible for Hecate’s fate. With only Bramley, her grumpy dormouse familiar for company, Hazel must disguise herself as a boy and infiltrate the black heart of the Order of Witch Hunters to speak to Murrell before he is executed. But can he be trusted? Will Murrell reveal to his captors that their newest apprentice is actually… a witch?

Ralphs has always been fascinated by witches, ghosts and anything that sends a shiver down his spine and this magical series is the perfect creation of his high-flying, super scary imagination.

A world of supernatural in the midst of terrifying real history…

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 10 plus:

The Hunting of the Princes by Peter F. Hamilton

Also dabbling in the wondrous world of fantasy is Peter F.Hamilton, the UK’s bestselling adult science fiction author, who was inspired to write for a younger audience by his own two children.

The Hunting of the Princes is the second book in his original and gripping Queen of Dreams trilogy which began with The Secret Throne and has all the hallmarks of a memorable modern classic.

Sprinkled with atmospheric black and white illustrations by Rohan Eason, this gorgeous fantasy series is a vivid, magical adventure featuring amazing kingdoms, daring quests and deadly menace.

Taggie Paganuzzi has had a busy year in the beautiful old market town of Stamford in Lincolnshire. Her mum was a Third Realm sorceress and now Taggie has inherited her family’s magical powers. From finding out she is the queen-to-be of a magical realm to learning to use her magic skills and discovering that the King of Night wants her dead, there have been a lot of ‘firsts.’

Assassins have been targeting royal heirs throughout the magical realms and now someone has tried to kill Taggie whilst she was cycling back to her home. Everyone thinks the King of Night’s army, the Karrak invaders, are responsible and that war is inevitable. But Taggie has found out two very interesting facts. Firstly, that the Karraks come from a cold, dark universe and cannot abide warmth and light. And secondly, that there was once a gate to this universe, now lost in the mists of time. If Taggie and her friends can find the gate, perhaps they can also stop the war? But to do that, they need to find a Karrak willing to take their side…

Hamilton conjures up a thrilling alternative world in which good must overcome evil, children are pitted against powerful enemies and a fantastic cast of amazing animal characters add to all the fun and fantasy. Don’t miss it!

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Flying Lemurs by Zehra Hicks

This funny, reassuring story about overcoming fears and discovering hidden talents is the latest inspirational book from Macmillan’s new imprint for young children, Two Hoots.

A zingy, zany tale bursting with high-octane energy and an adorable cast of high-flying animals, this gorgeous circus-themed odyssey comes from talented author and illustrator Zehra Hicks whose speciality is telling stories through pictures.

Everyone in the lemur family is good at jumping, a talent which comes in handy as they are all circus performers. Mum is a brilliant trapeze artist, Dad’s trampoline routine is absolutely huge and Grandma’s speciality is being shot from a cannon.

Unfortunately little Lemur is not so good at jumping… in fact, he’s not even a fan of heights. He just can’t jump, no matter how hard he tries. But there are other things that Lemur is good at – throwing custard pies, skateboarding and playing the tambourine – so maybe with a bit of practice, he can become the best circus performer of them all!

Hicks ramps up the visual and verbal drama of this fun and warm-hearted story with her multi-textured illustrations, painted here by using bamboo and a bold palette of colours. Having fun, accepting life’s triumphs and disasters, and discovering the importance of family love all come under the spotlight in a sparkling and inspirational picture book.

(Two Hoots, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

More People to Love Me by Mo O’Hara and Ada Grey

Modern families come in all shapes and sizes… and sometimes they are extra super-sized!

Mo O’Hara, author of the popular My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish series, delivers the perfect picture book for the step family generation in this moving story about a little girl with so many branches to her family tree that she runs out of space to draw them all.

Asked by her teacher to draw her family tree, the little girl just doesn’t know where to start. She’s got her mum and dad, her sister Cee Cee, her stepdad David and her stepmum Sharon. And then there are her mum’s new baby twins, her step brother Michael and no one must forget about Happy the tortoise. But the tree is starting to get rather crowded because there are all the grandparents to fit in as well. There’s only one thing for it, the family tree is going to have to grow!O’Hara was inspired to write by her own children’s positive experiences of being part of an extended family and felt that this was

rarely depicted in picture books. The result is a warm and moving tale about one little girl and her family that keeps on growing.

The gentle, reassuring and playful story is complemented by Ada Grey’s charming illustrations, reinforcing the message that every family is different and the bigger the family, the more people there are to love… and to love you back!

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Hippopandamouse by Jools Bentley

Nobody’s perfect… and sometimes being imperfectly different makes you special!

Author and illustrator Jools Bentley plays with traditional expectations in this cute and clever story about a little princess who falls for the only toy in the shop that doesn’t have a name.

Princess Flo has pocket money to spend so she heads off to Fluffley’s Fine Toys, the best toy shop in town. Everybody there has been working very hard to prepare for her visit – so hard, in fact, that one of the cuddly toys has ended up as a strange mix of a hippo, panda and mouse. The shop’s owner Miss Fluffey is eager to show Princess Flo the cuddly teddies, cute kittens and perky penguins, all perfect for a royal princess. But to everyone’s horror, Princess Flo spots the strange looking toy. The part hippo, part panda and part mouse is a total and utter mistake! But Flo loves this toy being different, seeing something unique and special in the strange animal. All he needs now is a name… Hippopandamouse!

Wise, witty and wonderfully warm-hearted, the tale of The Hippopandamouse is a beautiful, big-hearted story, gorgeously illustrated and simply perfect for little princesses everywhere.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Prince Ribbit by Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene

Hop, skip and jump into this brilliant new picture book from top team Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene.

Well-loved fairy tale, The Frog Prince, gets a dashing, daring makeover as ever popular author Emmett and talented illustrator Bernatene put a devilishly clever twist in the not-so-handsome frog’s tail.

One day, Princess Martha and her sisters, Princess Lucinda and Princess Arabella, are listening to the story of The Frog Prince. Lucinda and Arabella love romantic tales and their happily-ever-after endings, but Martha isn’t so sure. She prefers facts to fairy tales, and likes real frogs more than enchanted ones, and besides, clever Martha knows that not everything written in books is true.

Unknown to the sisters, a clever little frog is listening to the story and it sparks a bright idea. If he can convince the gullible princesses that he is actually a prince, perhaps he could start getting some royal treatment of his own. So is Prince Ribbit really a handsome prince, or just a plain, ordinary frog?

There’s only one way to find out… pucker up princesses, it’s time for true love’s kiss!

Emmett works his own brand of fairy tale magic as he transforms a classic tale into a feast of smiles and smoochy surprises while Bernatene’s stunning and superbly detailed illustrations provide a feast of colour and fun.

A picture book that all the family can enjoy…

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Dear Zoo Drawing and Colouring Book by Rod Campbell

Rod Campbell, creator of the classic, much-loved Dear Zoo books, has been a trusted name in early learning for over 30 years and he’s back with this inspirational first drawing and colouring book.

Dear Zoo, an ingeniously simple, lift-the-flap book with touches of gentle humour, introduces pre-school children to the wonder and variety of wild animals, and now a new generation can join in all the fun and draw their very own zoo full of amazing creatures.

There are 32 pages of drawing, colouring and doodling featuring all the animals from the original story. At the top of each page, little ones are told what to draw and given a helping hand with many of the pictures already started.

Packed full of simple activities that are perfectly pitched for pre-schoolers, the book’s large, square, extra thick pages can be peeled off the pad, stuck to walls at home or even put in a frame if they are special mini-masterpieces.

Draw bananas for the naughty monkey, give the fierce lion big sharp teeth, design a bowl for a frisky puppy or give a camel a big smile. The Dear ZooDrawing and Colouring Book is the ideal first lesson for budding young artists and dedicated toddler doodlers.

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)