Book reviews: The magic of Christmas comes alive with Macmillan

The Greatest Magician in the World by Matt Edmondson and Garry Parsons
The Greatest Magician in the World by Matt Edmondson and Garry Parsons

There’s a magical box of tricks awaiting children this Christmas as Macmillan roll out their selection of fun and festive crackers.

From a boy who dreams of being a famous magician and an amazing ever-expanding treehouse to a captivating retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and a special nativity board book for babies, the season of giving is well and truly under way.

Age 6 plus:

The Greatest Magician in the World by Matt Edmondson and Garry Parsons

Is there a book out there that could entertain ALL the family this Christmas? Abracadabra… yes there is!

Join aspiring boy magician Elliot in his quest to find The Greatest Magician in the World in this brilliantly inventive, interactive adventure book which comes with seven removable magic tricks to perform as you read the story.

Written by former professional magician and TV and radio personality Matt Edmondson and illustrated by Garry Parsons, this fun-filled, unique book is truly an amazing box of tricks for all budding magicians.

Elliot is completely and utterly mad about magic. It’s all he talks about, all he thinks about, and even all he dreams about! And it’s not surprising because magic is in Elliot’s blood. His great grandfather was once known as The Greatest Magician in the World and Elliot is desperate to follow in his footsteps. But it’s tricky when the only magic book in the library is missing half its pages, and there’s no one around to teach you. But all that’s about to change when Elliot discovers a long lost letter from his great grandfather and embarks on a magical adventure that could change his life forever…

Edmondson and Parsons have conjured up the perfect novelty Christmas gift… a witty and exciting adventure story with a cast of magnificent magicians, and seven jaw-dropping, easy-to-perform magic tricks including making an object vanish into thin air, mind-reading, a crazy card trick and even predicting the future.

So wave your magic wand and give your children a Christmas show-stopper that all the family can enjoy!

(Macmillan, hardback, £14.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Road To Ever After by Moira Young

Not for nothing has Moira Young’s brilliant new novel for middle graders been described as It's a Wonderful Life meets A Christmas Carol.

Every line, every thought, every idea in this magical book about an orphan boy on a remarkable journey of self-discovery has been worked up into an unforgettable modern classic.

Davy David, an orphan, lives by his wits in the dead-end town of Brownvale. When a stray dog called George turns Davy’s life upside down just days before Christmas, he sets in motion a chain of events which forces them to flee.

A mischievous wind blows the two of them to a boarded-up museum on the outskirts of town where they meet the elderly recluse, Miss Elizabeth Flint. She has planned one last adventure before her time is up and hires the reluctant Davy and George to escort her.

Young melds fantasy and real-life, humour and heart-rending emotions as we revel in an unlikely friendship that transcends time and convention.

Beautifully written and imbued with genuine warmth and wisdom, this is the perfect gift for the Christmas season.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Moone Boy: The Notion Potion by Chris O’Dowd and Nick V. Murphy

Can Martin Moone’s imaginary friend help him to get one up on those posh kids?

Welcome to the hilarious third book in the smash-hit Moone Boy series, based on the Sky TV series from dream team Chris O’Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy.

When you put together Irish actor O’Dowd, his screenwriter pal Murphy and an 11-year-old boy with a wicked wit and an outrageously overactive imagination, you know the outcome can only be explosive!

The outrageously funny stories of Martin Moone are based on O’Dowd’s own family life as he grew up in Boyle, County Roscommon, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And now Martin and his imaginary friend Sean ‘Caution’ Murphy have become the stars of a series of brilliant books which whisk readers away to the marvellous, madcap world of Moone Boy.

Here we find Martin about to finish primary school and feeling he hasn’t achieved very much. He’s desperate to get his picture on the school’s Winners’ Wall and decides that entering the Invention Convention science competition will definitely earn him everlasting respect.

But Martin – along with his team-mates Trevor, Padraic and the ever terrifying Declan Mannion – is having trouble coming up with a winning idea. Fortunately Martin’s imaginary friend Sean comes to the rescue, and together they concoct a plan to beat the snooty kids from the posh school in town.

If they can get their hands on some Notion Potion, a mythical brain-boosting beverage, then Martin will have all the ideas he needs. And so the gang embarks on a dangerous (imaginary) journey in their quest to become ‘Boyle’s first Junior Genius.’

Brought to life by zany illustrations and featuring irrepressible (and sometimes naughty!) Irish humour, Martin’s adventures in his amazingly imaginative world are ideal for youngsters who enjoy reading alone… though they may want to share the occasional joke with an adult!

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

The 91-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 an incredible 91 storeys!

Top Australian writer and illustrator team – Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton – have turned their zany 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 the amazing creators are climbing higher than high in the UK market with these wild and wacky, highly illustrated, laugh-out-loud books packed with hilarious antics, jokes and cartoons.

So join Andy and Terry in their now 91-storey spectacular treehouse! They have added thirteen new levels, including the world’s most powerful whirlpool, a mashed-potato-and-gravy train and a human pinball machine.

Why not try your luck on the spin-and-win prize wheel, hang out in a giant spider web (with a giant spider), get your fortune told by Madam Know-it-all or eat a submarine sandwich the size of an actual submarine while deciding whether or not to push the big red button! So what are you waiting for? Come on up!

The 91-Storey Treehouse is the seventh 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:

I’m Just No Good At Rhyming by Chris Harris and Lane Smith

Do you hate poetry? You won’t after you have read (and enjoyed!) this wonderful book.

Radically inventive, absurdly funny and a little bit naughty, US writer and executive producer Chris Harris is on a mission to make reluctant poetry readers forget what they think they know about poetry… and instead try out something totally different.

Harris combines wit, wordplay and nonsense with visual and verbal tricks to make you look at the world in a new and wonderfully upside-down way, reminiscent of Shel Silverstein, the famous American poet, singer-songwriter, cartoonist, screenwriter, and author of children’s books.

This unique collection offers a surprise around every corner, from the ongoing rivalry between the author and illustrator, to the mysteriously misnumbered pages that can only be deciphered by a certain code-cracking verse, to a poem that is 100 per cent genuinely infinite.

Adding to the fun, Lane Smith, winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, has spectacularly illustrated this extraordinary collection with nearly one hundred pieces of suitably anarchic art.

With its innovative interplay between words and pictures, endless detail and things to spot, this is a mischievous match made in heaven for even the most poetry-hating child… and grown up!

(Two Hoots, hardback, £14.99)

Age 5 plus:

Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, retold by Elli Woollard

Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories – based on bedtime stories for his daughter Josephine – have become classics of English literature since they were first published in 1902.

Kipling’s witty and fantastical accounts of how animals acquired their most distinctive features never fail to capture a child’s imagination, and now a new generation can enjoy a magical rhyming retelling of five of the famous stories.

Elli Woollard, an author with a remarkable rhyming talent, lets her imagination take flight in this enchanting blend of humorous verse and storytelling, while award-winning illustrator Marta Altés brings the Just So tales to life with a gallery of beautiful and engaging pictures.

Learn how the leopard got his spots, meet the cat who walked by himself, discover how the lazy camel got his hump, how the elephant got his long trunk, find out why the rhino has such wrinkly skin and how the whale got his teeny tiny throat.

This exquisitely packaged and reworked edition offers a smart, funny and younger approach to Kipling’s work, and recreates the Just So Stories as they have never before been seen. A book to treasure!

(Two Hoots, hardback, £14.99)

Age 5 plus:

Teddy Robinson Meets Father Christmas and Other Stories by Joan G. Robinson

Meet every child’s best friend… the cutest, cuddliest Teddy Robinson!

Teddy Robinson, who has been enchanting readers since his first appearance in 1953, is the creation of Joan G. Robinson, an English author and illustrator of over 30 children’s books who died in 1988.

Her most enduring character was undoubtedly Teddy Robinson and this heartwarming and endearing collection of stories has been selected by Robinson’s daughter Deborah, star of the books and owner of the real Teddy Robinson.

Join Teddy as he has goes to the fair, meets Father Christmas and plays babysitter. He is sometimes rather shy and sometimes a bit of a show-off, but with his love of rhymes and his great imagination, Teddy Robinson is the best friend any child could have.

Illustrated with the author’s beautiful, original black line illustrations, these timeless, warm and reassuring stories will touch the hearts of readers both young and old.

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Santa Selfie by Peter Bently and Anna Chernyshova

If you have been led to believe that Santa only appears on Christmas Eve, well think again!

Top picture book team, author Peter Bently and illustrator Anna Chernyshova, whisk us away on a raucous, rhyming, whistle-stop trip around the world as Santa decides to swap Christmas for a holiday, with disastrous results!

Santa is taking a well-earned break from Christmas and going on holiday instead. But it’s not easy to relax when you are one of the most famous people in the world. From Paris and Sydney to the Great Wall of China, people recognise Santa wherever he goes. And all they want is to take selfies with him, whether he’s in the gym, having a swim or even eating his lunch. Taking a holiday might not be as much fun as Santa thought!

Santa Selfie is a fun-packed, festive romp from award-winning picture book author Peter Bently who spells out some timely, rhyming cautions about the perils of being famous in the most hilarious way. Russian-born illustrator Anna Chernyshova completes the seasonal picture with an eye-catching gallery of fabulously detailed, madcap pictures.

And with a clever, pull-out photo frame at the end of the book, the fun doesn’t stop on the last page… youngsters can take their own selfies with Santa to impress family and friends!

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Fish Dream of Trees by Frantz Wittkamp and Axel Scheffler

Curiouser and curiouser…

Help your children to learn about the joys of verse in this collection of quirky and charming ditties brought to life by the much-loved Axel Scheffler’s spectacular illustrations.

Gruffalo illustrator Scheffler’s delightful artwork lights up these 30 playful and easily accessible nonsense poems by award-winning German artist and poet Frantz Wittkamp, all wonderfully adapted to English by national treasure and famous Liverpool poet Roger McGough.

There are lions and tigers and mice galore, not to mention a whole host of other bizarre and lovable creatures in this collection. Each surreal four-line poem conjures a new scene or concept and their short length combined with the detailed artwork makes this book ideal for introducing poetry to both the very young and reluctant readers.

Ranging from the curious to the witty, the touching to the joyful, and all exquisitely illustrated, Fish Dream of Trees is the perfect book of poetry to share with children. They will delight in the funny stories and their satisfying, easy rhymes while grown-ups find themselves smiling at the often tongue-in-cheek topics.

This beautifully packaged hardback edition with its shiny gold foiled cover is a Christmas gift to treasure long after the season has ended.

(Two Hoots, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

A Treasury of Songs by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Sing along with the Gruffalo and his friends this Christmas with this innovative and entertaining book and CD package.

As well as being the UK’s most successful picture book author, Julia Donaldson is a gifted songwriter for children and A Treasury of Songs contains over twenty of her songs, including fun-filled action rhymes, Aesop’s fables, and songs based on Donaldson’s best-loved picture books, from Room on the Broom to The Gruffalo.

Beautifully produced on high quality, glossy paper, the book is illustrated throughout with Axel Scheffler’s warm and wonderful artwork, and comes with a CD of all the songs performed by Donaldson herself.

Many of the songs, including A Squash and a Squeeze and The Gruffalo Song, will be familiar to anyone who has heard them on TV or radio or enjoyed one of Donaldson’s live performances. With a shiny, foiled jacket and a foreword by the author, this is the perfect gift for anyone who loves reading, listening… and singing!

(Macmillan, paperback, £9.99)

Age one plus:

Dear Zoo Book and Story Blocks by Rod Campbell

Rod Campbell’s irresistible animal lift-the-flap book, Dear Zoo, has been delighting pre-school children for 35 years now and to celebrate this timeless classic, Macmillan have produced this beautiful gift box of delights.

With Dear Zoo Book and Story Blocks, children can have fun reading the story as they build a giant metre-high tower with their animal blocks. The beautifully created package includes a mini gift hardback of the lift-the-flap pre-school classic and ten stacking and nesting blocks featuring everyone’s favourite animals from the zoo.

Young children will love building a tower as they read the story… and then knocking it down again! Stacking and nesting help toddlers understand cause and effect and develop hand-eye co-ordination and early construction skills.

They can also learn to count from one to 10 as they play with the numbered blocks, and recognise different colours and sizes too. With bright, bold artwork and fun animal characters, Dear Zoo Book and Story Blocks is guaranteed to keep little ones entertained for hours!

(Macmillan, book and blocks, £14.99)

Age one plus:

Busy Nativity by Emily Bolam

Even the youngest children can enjoy the true meaning of Christmas with this innovative and interactive board book.

Busy Nativity, part of the hugely successful Busy Book series from Campbell Books, lets babies and toddlers push, pull and turn the different mechanisms to join Mary and Joseph on their long journey to Bethlehem. Watch their faces light up as a host of angels appear and see beautiful baby Jesus in his crib.

Children will love playing with this bright and colourful Christmas board book with a gentle rhyming text which introduces young children to the wonderful story of the First Christmas. The easy-to-handle mechanisms are ideal for little hands and the magical illustrations by Emily Bolam help to bring the story to life.

The magic of Christmas on every page…

(Campbell, board book, £4.99)

Age from birth:

Goodnight Moon 123 & ABC Gift Slipcase by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

Babies will be over the moon with two beautiful new board books which come packaged perfectly for the season of giving…

These soothing books, first published in 1947, introduce letters and numbers using familiar images from the much-loved classic Goodnight Moon by the late American author Margaret Wise Brown and illustrator Clement Hurd who created many beautiful books with his wife Edith Thatcher Hurd.

Clement Hurd died in 1988 but his illustrations have been carefully re-imagined by his son, John Thacher Hurd, for these captivating new editions of Goodnight Moon 123 and Goodnight Moon ABC. Using artwork from the original, these eye-catching new illustrations are the ideal and engaging way to introduce children to their first ABCs and 123s.

Presented in a sturdy yet pleasingly miniature gift box set, this duo of books makes the perfect present for christenings, birthdays or baby’s first Christmas.

(Two Hoots, slipcase board books, £10.99)