Book review: Summer sizzlers from Macmillan Children’s Books

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Those brilliant book boffins at Macmillan have applied the ‘science’ and come up with a fistful of fabulous reads to keep the pages turning this summer.

Youngsters of every age will find their perfect holiday book in a wide and wonderful selection created with love, care and attention by some of the world’s most talented children’s authors and illustrators.

Here is a rundown of their latest top titles:


The Demon Trappers: Foretold by Jana Oliver

Hell hath no fury like a woman who sold her soul to a devil in order to save the world...

Demon trapper and scourge of Lucifer, Riley Blackthorne is back for the final round of her fight against evil, and her battle to win the heart of Denver Beck, her reluctant Romeo.

Foretold is the fourth book in Jana Oliver’s spine-tingling, heart-wrenching, hair-raising series which has taken the traditional demons and angels theme to new depths... and new heights!

Seventeen-year-old Riley is a ‘daredevil’ in more ways than one... as the daughter of a Master Demon Trapper in the hotspot city of Atlanta, she fights fire with fire at work and in her private life.

After a recent high profile Hell v Heaven battle, there’s a lot of people unsure of which side she is really on, and they’re keen to save her soul, a soul that she had to sacrifice to the restless and disillusioned Fallen Angel Ori.

But the only ‘soul’ Riley really cares about is ex-military man Beck, her trapping partner and sometime boyfriend. They were an item until something dark in Beck’s past caused him to push her away, but she has no plans to let him go quietly.

Riley has always known that Beck had a chequered history, but she’s not prepared for what it actually means to be in love with a guy with the dark secrets that are revealed when they travel to his old home in Georgia to prepare for his evil mother Sadie’s death.

But Beck knows that now he’s finally admitted to himself that he’s in love with Riley too, there’s no more hiding the truth about his past. And as it turns out, fending off an imminent demon apocalypse is going to be nothing compared to his personal battle...

With its original concept, smart storytelling and wicked brand of romance, this is a heaven-sent journey to hell which no teen will be able to resist...

(paperback, £6.99)

Tempest by Julie Cross

It’s September 9th 2007 and student Jackson Meyer knows for sure that October 30th 2009 is going to be the worst day of his life. His beautiful girlfriend Holly will be shot by two ruthless gunmen and it will all be his fault... unless he can go back to the future and save her.

This intriguing dilemma is the launch pad for Tempest, the first of a thrilling new young adult trilogy from debut novelist Julie Cross, and it comes as no surprise that readers are already chomping at the bit for the next instalment.

A complex and captivating mix of time-travel, romance, action, suspense and mystery form the basis of this amazing sci-fi epic which blends the love elements of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife with the computer-hacking antics of The Matrix.

Jackson Meyer has discovered that he can travel backwards through time and finds it useful for having fun with girls.

That is until his girlfriend Holly is shot when two men break into her college room in an attempt to kidnap Jackson. Before he knows what is happening, he has jumped back two years and this time there is no way to get back.

He’s back at high school and has to start courting Holly all over again ... with the complication of knowing that two years down the line she will be gunned down in cold blood unless he can find a way to rescue her.

Cross has a fresh and invigorating writing style which makes her dialogue fizz and enables an engaging cast of distinctive characters to become palpably real.

Coupled with a unique, morally and socially aware time-travel plot, fascinating science theories, ingenious twists and turns and plenty of tender and tear-jerking emotion, this is a book guaranteed to keep teens and adults alike on the edge of their seats.

Cross has discovered a winning formula, one which is sure to make this series a reading sensation.

(paperback, £6.99)

Debutantes by Cora Harrison

The Roaring Twenties, a big country house, a clutch of beautiful sisters all desperate to be part of the new age of jazz, dancing and parties...

If you liked Downton Abbey, then you’ll love Cora Harrison’s teen romance set in the whirligig of London’s high society when the country was shaking off the shackles of the past and moving into a fresh and exciting future.

Debutantes is a big, beautiful story which puts fun, fashion, flappers, fluttering hearts and feisty females into a dazzling historical framework.

It’s 1923 and London is alive with the sound of music. Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away.

The Derringtons have been reduced to a state of genteel poverty by the lack of a male heir but, undeterred, the girls each have a plan for escaping their humdrum country life. Rose wants to be a novelist, Poppy a jazz musician and Daisy a famous film director.

Violet, however, has only one ambition – to become the perfect debutante so that she can go to London, catch the eye of Prince George, the most eligible bachelor in the country, and rescue the family.

But a house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans, in fact ruin everything, forever.

A sparkling pastiche of Downton Abbey, the House of Eliott, Pride and Prejudice and Little Women, Debutantes is a brilliant story for girls who yearn for that perfect combination of romance, history and mystery.

(paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Call Down Thunder by Daniel Finn

Kids have it all these days ... thrilling stories with sophisticated themes, exciting dystopian worlds and fast-paced adventures rich in atmosphere and character. Call Down Thunder, a classy tale of bravery, corruption and survival from the author of the critically acclaimed novel Two Good Thieves, is just such a book.

Challenging dialogue, an original slow-burning plot and a gritty cast of players make this one of the summer’s most exciting reads for younger teens.

Reve and his sister Mi are alone in the world. Their father is dead and their mother has abandoned them. They live in Riconda, a small fishing village that is controlled by the irascible Calde. Cross swords with Calde and the punishment is deadly.

Eight years ago, Reve and Mi’s father was drowned, his body wrapped in a fishing net and left in the street as a warning to others. Their mother was arrested, has never been seen again and is presumed to be dead.

So now Reve has to learn to be a man – to fight, to fish, to live. He must protect Mi from the rest of the world because she is special. A sixth sense allows her to hear voices, see things and call down thunder, a gift that Calde regards as witchcraft.

A dream leads the youngsters to the big city to search for their long-lost mother but Reve and Mi get sucked into the squalid underworld where danger lurks around every corner and each day is a fight for survival.

Realistic, gritty and brilliantly written, Call Down Thunder is a treat for discerning young readers.

(hardback, £12.99)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce

It’s almost 50 years since James Bond author Ian Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a bedtime story for his son Caspar and now the little car is ready to fly again thanks to the trademark wit, warmth and storytelling talents of scriptwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce. When the Tooting family find a vast abandoned engine and fit it to their old camper van, they have no idea it used to belong to an extraordinary magical flying car and it wants to get back on the road again... fast! The Tootings can tug the steering wheel and pull the handbrake as hard as they like, but their camper van now has a mind of its own. Fast-paced, entertaining, fun-filled and laced with wry humour, Chitty’s 21st century adventures are ideal for readers who love fun and quirky cars.

(paperback, £6.99)

Green Glass Beads: A Collection of Poems for Girls

Chosen by Jacqueline Wilson

When it comes to poetry, there’s no rhyme or reason why youngsters shouldn’t make an early acquaintance with this beautiful literary form of writing. So full marks must go to Jacqueline Wilson whose prolific output of top-class books recently saw her voted English children’s favourite author. ‘The joy for me is that this is my anthology, and I love every single poem in this book,’ she says of this stunning collection of classic and modern poems which girls are guaranteed to refer to throughout their lives. Wilson has taken great delight in selecting and arranging her favourite poems for Green Glass Beads, and you can almost hear her voice in the beautiful poems she has chosen, making it a truly personal collection. From Fleur Adcock to WB Yeats, there are over 100 poems to make you smile, laugh, frown and cry, and poems that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Proof, if proof was needed, that you are never too young to become well versed in poetry.

(paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

I’m Dougal Trump... and it’s not my fault! by D. Trump

Is there a boy at your house who is reluctant to read? Would he like to meet a ‘pal’ who is funny, fun-loving and can’t help getting into the most outrageous scrapes? Well, introduce him to Dougal Trump, a lovable, roguish cross between Bart Simpson and Just William! Dougal is a hilarious new anti-hero for trouble-magnet youngsters who want to read about boys just like themselves. In the first episode of his extraordinary life, Dougal believes that although he’s not actually dead, he soon will be if he’s not very careful. Football-loving Dougal is convinced he’s in serious danger from the mysterious creature living in the garden shed. Nobody believes him but as a precaution, he sets about writing his will, rewarding those who help him and disinheriting those (like his ‘moany’ sister Sybil) who get on his bad side. Naturally, he’s now having to field constant pleas from friends and associates like George who says the will is ‘cool’ and can he have Dougal’s PlayStation if the worst happens? Meanwhile, as limbs and windows alike are broken by stray footballs and unhinged canines, Dougal finds himself in all sorts of trouble... Oh, and Dougal would like to point out that he has a bit of help with his writing from an author named Jackie Marchant whose wicked sense of humour and insight into the world of little boys make his books such a naughty delight.

(paperback, £5.99)

The Dotty Dalmatian by Anna Wilson

Forget 101 Dalmatians and instead meet the one and only Dotty Dalmatian who is baffling the staff at the Pooch Parlour and creating havoc around Crumbly-under-Edge. Welcome back to the mad, mad world of Anna Wilson’s dog salon where pets get pampered and canine mysteries get solved. The follow-up to The Poodle Problem follows the same fun formula with crazy adventures, lots of laughs, animals galore and some very quirky characters. Business is booming at the Pooch Parlour so Mrs Fudge hires a cool new assistant who is an instant favourite with all the dogs. Pippa Peppercorn isn’t so sure, however. She thinks there’s something strange about the new girl. Meanwhile, a string of unsolved burglaries and a mysterious spotty dog are causing a stir. Will Pippa and Dash the talking dachshund save the day? A magical mixture of dogs and detectives.

(paperback, £5.99)

Age 5 plus:

Lucky Stars: The Best Friend Wish by Phoebe Bright

Little girls who love magic and jewellery will be thanking their Lucky Stars for a sparkling new series of books in which wishes really do come true. The Best Friend Wish, the first of the series, includes a free charm bracelet to delight young readers and there will be a free charm to hang on it in the next five books. Here we find Cassie gazing at the twinkling night sky when suddenly a shooting star zooms into her bedroom and transforms into Stella Starkeeper. Stella and Cassie fly to the secret world of the stars, and Cassie discovers she is destined to be a Lucky Star – someone who can grant real wishes. But first Cassie must collect six magical charms and use their powers wisely – helping other people’s wishes to come true. Only then will she become a fully fledged Lucky Star. With delightful illustrations by Karen Donnelly, a puzzle to solve in each story and a super free gift, Lucky Stars look set to glisten and glitter on many a girl’s bookshelf!

(paperback, £3.99)

Picture books:

Matilda’s Cat by Emily Gravett

If you haven’t got room or garden for a pet at home, then enter the magical animal world of Emily Gravett and discover the next best thing! Here you will find cuddly cats, winsome wolves, charismatic chameleons and dogs of every description. Gravett’s award-winning stories are written and illustrated with flair, affection and a freewheeling sense of fun which tumbles out of every page. Here we meet Matilda’s cat who confounds everyone by not liking anything. Matilda is sure her cat will love climbing trees and playing with wool, but he doesn’t seem very enthusiastic. Undaunted, she thinks up new ways to amuse her reluctant playmate. Tea parties? Dressing up? Or what about a nice bike ride? As the beleaguered cat goes from nonplussed to terrified, Matilda gets more and more frustrated. After all, what use is a pet if it doesn’t want to play? Gravett’s imagination goes into overdrive in this funny, endearing and perceptive take on the relationship between a little girl and her cat.

(hardback, £10.99)

The Pirate House by Rebecca Patterson

When it comes to action, fun and colour, nobody does it better than Rebecca Patterson, a rising star in children’s picture books. Her fresh, busy, adventurous stories pack in so much illustrative detail that each page seems to tell a different tale. The Pirate House is packed with a street full of inquisitive little characters who are trying to work out who lives in that house on the corner. So when a flock of noisy seagulls fly on to the roof, Sam Turner is convinced it must be pirates. In fact, Sam tells his friends all sorts of things – they mustn’t look at the pirate washing or they will turn into jellyfish, at night the whole house glows like an aquarium, and if the door ever opens a huge wave will come out. And that’s not the half of it. According to Sam, not only are there pirates living on their street, but a family of monsters are moving into Number 2! Surely Sam Turner is just a little boy with a big imagination ... or is he? Hours of fun for pre-school tots.

(hardback, £10.99)

Me and My Cat by bEkaterina Trukhan

Outsize and highly original illustrations, a quirky little heroine and a smiley-faced cat that looks like he got the cream ... just some of the irresistible attractions of Ekaterina Trukhan’s debut picture book. From playing games to eating dinner and reading their favourite bedtime story, this little girl and her cat do everything together. And they are always there to help each other out – because that’s what best friends do. Me and My Cat is a story full of character, charm and toddler appeal. The easy, warm narrative is kept to a bare minimum making it a quick and easy read for little ones with a short attention span and ideal for wind-down at bedtime. A heart-warming story with themes of friendship and fun which help to encourage a special bond with animals.

(hardback, £10.99)

My Grandpa by Marta Altés

There’s no-one quite like grandpa! What child can resist a story book about one of their favourite people? Marta Altés knows all about the deep love between the youngest and oldest generations of a family and here she celebrates that relationship with a moving and heart-warming picture book. Little teddy bear knows his Grandpa is getting old but that’s how he is, and that’s why he loves him. Sometimes Grandpa can’t see properly, sometimes he gets lost and sometimes he feels alone so little teddy must be his eyes and ears, and show him where to go. Simple but touching illustrations provide a unique and memorable look at the confusion and forgetfulness of old age through the eyes of a child. Poignant and beautifully observed, My Grandpa is an impressive and insightful picture book debut from an exciting new writing and illustrating talent.

(hardback, £10.99)

Farmer Clegg’s Night Out by Peter Bently and Jim Field

When you are the winners of last year’s Roald Dahl Funny Prize, creating a book that’s totally bonkers is just what a captive young audience expects! And Farmer Clegg’s Night Out, a laughter-filled, zany menagerie of madcap animals and their dotty owner, will not disappoint. The atmosphere is electric out in the farmyard. Old Farmer Clegg may be tucked up for the night, but there’s a talent show about to take place and all the animals are desperate to win. Will a break-dancing horse take the top spot? Will the pop-singing sheep twins be offered a record contract? Competition is fierce, but nobody’s counted on a certain farmer with a sleepwalking habit! Magical pictures and a witty and wonderful narrative from top team Peter Bently and Jim Field make this one of the liveliest and most energetic picture books you are likely to find.

(hardback, £10.99)