Super space, cake crime and the joy of books - book reviews

Easter is on the horizon and Macmillan Children’s Books have a cunning plan to banish holiday boredom for your little ones… a sunshine selection of entertaining new picture and board books!

Monday, 25th March 2019, 11:49 am
Updated Monday, 25th March 2019, 11:53 am
First Facts and Flaps: Super Spaceillustrated by Lon Lee

Age 3 plus:

First Facts and Flaps: Super Space

Illustrated by Lon Lee

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Blast off into space with this clever, colourful book which is brimming with flaps and facts, and lets little ones make their own out-of-this-world discoveries!

First Facts and Flaps: Super Space gives pre-schoolers a playful and original introduction to space with beautifully illustrated scenes, over thirty flaps to lift and learn, an intriguing turn-and-learn wheel and a giant fold-out ending.

Find out fascinating facts about the stars and planets, the Moon, space stations and space travel.

With colourful scenes by illustrator Lon Lee and rhymes to introduce each topic, plus all the flaps to lift and a wheel to turn, there is entertainment all the way right through to the fold-out finale.

All the facts are age-appropriate, picture-led and checked by Jacqueline Mitton, an experienced astronomer and former editor of the Journal of the British Astronomical Society.

Discover more titles in the First Facts and Flaps series with Amazing Animals and Giant Dinosaurs.

Learning and playing in perfect harmony…

(Campbell Books, board book, £9.99)

Age 3 plus:

Terry and the Brilliant Book

Nicola Kent

Book yourself in for a brilliant story that celebrates… books!

Author and illustrator Nicola Kent, who worked for ten years as a television producer at the BBC and Channel 4 before turning her talents to picture books, has fun with this playful and subtly educational tale which puts reading firmly in the spotlight.

Terry and Sue are best friends and every year, for their birthdays, they give one another a ball.

They love playing ball together. But then, one birthday, Sue gives Terry… a book!

At first Terry is confused. You can’t bounce a book, and you can’t bat a book.

What on earth is he meant to do with it?

But when he eventually starts reading it, he finds the book is so good that he just can’t put it down. And this brings a host of problems all of its own…

Warm, witty and wonderfully clever, Terry and the Brilliant Book speaks volumes about the delights of sharing, and the joy to be found in reading books as well as playing with friends.

Kent’s imaginative and creative story is brought to vivid life by her use of bright, jewel-like colours which are the hallmark of her distinctive, eye-catching illustrations.

A verbally clever and visually stunning picture book…

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Ducktective Quack and the Cake Crime Wave

Claire Freedman and Mike Byrne

If your little ones fancy themselves as super sleuths, then get on the case with Ducktective Quack!

Claire Freedman, award-winning author of the Aliens Love Underpants series, teams up with partner in crime, the talented illustrator Mike Byrne, to serve up a deliciously funny missing cakes mystery which lets youngsters play detective.

There’s a cake crime wave in the town and Ducktective Quack needs your help to solve the mystery. Follow the clues in the pictures and see if you can work out whodunit!

Someone has been helping themselves to all the cakes and sweet treats in the shops and cafes, and it’s down to Ducktective Quack and her sidekick, Constable Crackling, to catch the culprit.

Freedman’s action-packed, rhyming story is filled with fun, laughter and some very sticky situations, while Byrne’s witty and wonderfully bright and busy illustrations add extra life and colour to the comedy crime trail.

With clues to spot and a thief to uncover, budding detectives will go quackers for this tasty treat!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Go-Away Bird

Julia Donaldson and Catherine Rayner

Inspired by a real African bird, much-loved Gruffalo creator Julia Donaldson lets her imagination take flight in an enchanting new picture book.

The crested go-away bird has a distinctive and loud alarm call which sounds like it’s saying ‘go-away’ and Donaldson has harnessed this unusual feature for a beautiful rhyming story about friendship and learning the advantages of working together.

Her exciting new ‘team-mate’ for this exhilarating jungle adventure is illustrator Catherine Rayner, winner of the prestigious CLIP Kate Greenaway Medal, whose trademark bold, vibrant and painterly illustrations help the story spring to glorious life.

‘The Go-Away bird sat up in her nest, With her fine grey wings and her fine grey crest.’

One by one, the other birds fly into her tree, wanting to talk or to play, but the Go-Away bird, who wants to be left alone, just shakes her head and sends them all away. But then the dangerous Get-You bird comes along, and she soon realises that she might need some friends after all…

Donaldson’s witty and addictively repetitive verse blends perfectly with Rayner’s colourful, characterful and richly detailed illustrations making this the perfect picture book for reading aloud with little ones.

A high-flying story to ground your youngsters at bedtime!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

Little Bear’s Spring

Elli Woollard and Briony May Smith

‘The sun shimmers out through the cold winter’s gloom, And the buds open up and burst forth into bloom.’

Spring has arrived and here’s a beautiful, lyrical picture book story about a little bear waking up to the wonders of nature that will certainly put a spring in your step!

Little Bear’s Spring, written by the super-talented Elli Woollard and breathtakingly illustrated by Briony May Smith, is a glorious reminder for both children and adults about the wonders of the natural world, and a celebration of friendship, however unlikely it may seem.

Little Bear has just woken up from his long winter sleep.

But when he pokes his head out of the den, the world around him is vast, frozen white and silent.

The only thing he sees is a smooth little stone, just as alone in the snowy wilderness as he is.

He nestles it in tight to his fur and off they go in search of friends, and springtime which, they are assured, will change everything.

Woollard’s exquisite rhyming story is a gentle and intriguing introduction to the magic of spring and what happens to the natural world when the seasons change.

Smith’s stunning and atmospheric artwork brings the sun-dappled springtime landscape to glorious life as it subtly changes from a winter palette to a riot of colour and light.

Little children will love the surprise when Little Bear’s ‘stone’ hatches into a little chick… the perfect ending to a perfect story!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Five More Minutes

Marta Altés

They say time flies when you’re having fun… but that depends whether you are a child or an adult!

Award-winning author and illustrator Marta Altés explores our different concepts of time – and how slowly or quickly we think it passes – in a clever, comical picture book that will touch a nerve with readers of every generation.

Five More Minutes represents a wonderfully warm and quizzical child’s-eye-view of time highlighting beautifully how children and adults experience the abstract concept of time differently… and often to hilarious effect.

Time is a funny thing for one little fox cub.

Dad talks about it a lot, but the cub is certain he knows more about time than he does.

Dad always asks for ‘five minutes more’ when his children wake him in the morning, believing that isn’t a very long time. But the cub thinks five minutes is a very long time because they can make dad’s breakfast for him… albeit with disastrous results!

So little fox gives his time-starved dad some wise advice about what ‘time’ really means, and how to make the most of it… even if that is eventually falling asleep over a bedtime book.

Altés is a perceptive writer and this charming and witty romp – brought to vivid life with her lively, charismatic illustrations – is packed full of acutely observed snapshots of family life.

An enchanting book that is destined to be read time and time again!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Nature Girls


It’s never too early to learn about the natural world.

Join a group of intrepid girls as they head off into the big wide world on a joyful mission to discover and explore all the wonders of nature, whether that’s in the sea, in the desert, in the forest or on the frozen tundra.

French author and illustrator, Aki, otherwise known as Delphine Mach, sets off into the great outdoors with an inspirational band of all-female explorers in this fun-filled, rhyming picture book that takes us on whistlestop tour of natural wonders.

‘We’re Nature Girls! We must explore. We pack our bags, we’re out the door… ‘

The bold Nature Girls are ready for whatever nature throws at them! Join them as they pack their bags and start their journey, exploring natural habitats around the world.

They swim in the sea, explore the desert, discover the harsh Arctic tundra and spot some amazing creatures.

Aki’s simple rhyming verse perfectly conveys the thrill of exploration and travel, and the gallery of colourful, well-delineated illustrations plunges young readers straight into the worldwide adventure.

An easy-to-understand summary spread of fun nature facts about biomes at the back makes this the ideal book to both entertain and educate your youngsters.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Steves

Morag Hood

Two puffed-up puffins compete to be the Number One Steve in this clever and comical new picture book from the super-talented Morag Hood.

Creator of the hilarious Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea and I Am Bat, Hood’s wry humour and gift for bold and visually exciting colours are at their best in this glorious, cautionary tale about a pair of feuding puffins.

When Steve meets Steve, neither can believe it. Surely one of them must be the first Steve, the best Steve, the Stevest Steve. The claims of each puffin become sillier and sillier as the argument descends into name-calling… until both Steves start to realise that there is really no need to fall out over a name after all.

The warring puffins demonstrate perfectly the familiar arguments between children but, through subtle wordplay and fun-filled illustrations, the Steves come to see how pointless they are.

Hood, who uses collage and printing techniques, says she loves a freshly sharpened pencil… and this sharp and astute story certainly gets to the point.

The bold and inventive use of colour, eye-catching designs and a story full of wisdom, dry humour and a child’s-eye-view of the world, are guaranteed to win the hearts of readers young and old.

(Two Hoots, paperback, £6.99)

From birth:

Dear Zoo Snuggle Book

Rod Campbell

Snuggle up with a super-soft cloth book that was just made for your precious little ones!

Rod Campbell’s irresistible animal lift-the-flap book, Dear Zoo, has been delighting pre-school children for over 35 years and Macmillan have produced this beautiful, boxed cloth book gift edition of the timeless classic.

Each new generation has thrilled to the story of a child who writes to the zoo asking them to send a pet and receives variety of wild animals, including a monkey, a lion and even an elephant. The elephant is too big, the lion is too fierce, the giraffe is too tall… but the perfect pet is there somewhere!

Created by Rod Campbell for the very youngest animal fans, the Dear Zoo Snuggle Book features all the animals from the zoo in a soft and cuddly fleece snuggle book.

The perfect introduction to the much-loved story and packaged in a high quality patterned gift box, the Dear Zoo Snuggle Book is a delightful gift for babies and toddlers.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, cloth book box set, £12.99)

Age one plus:

Farm 123 and ABC Zoo

Rod Campbell

Also from Rod Campbell, the trusted name in early learning, are two cheerful and chunky lift-the-flap animal counting and alphabet books.

Farm 123 is a bright and colourful first numbers book filled with puppies, piglets, sheep, geese and other familiar farmyard creatures. Young children will love lifting the flaps to discover their favourite farm animals, all the way from one cat to ten naughty rabbits!

And ABC Zoo is an eye-catching first alphabet book full of all sorts of exotic creatures. Simply lift the flaps to discover children’s favourite zoo animals, from bear, camel and dolphin all the way to Z for zebra.

With bright, bold artwork, a simple, engaging text and a whole host of different creatures to enjoy, Farm 123 and ABC Zoo are the ideal introduction to numbers and counting, and the thick board pages, chunky-cased cover and sturdy flaps make them easy to use for small hands.

The joy of discovery on every page!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, board book, £5.99 each)

Age one plus:

First Stories: The Ugly Duckling

Illustrated by Dean Gray

Watch little faces light up as they enjoy a bright and colourful interactive introduction to a classic fairy tale. Push, pull, slide and turn the mechanisms to bring the story of the adorable Ugly Duckling to life and introduce your little ones to one of the best-loved traditional stories.

This well-loved fairy tale of the ugly, grey duckling, who is spurned by other ducks until he discovers he is actually a beautiful swan, is creatively and colourfully imagined for a new generation by children’s illustrator Dean Gray.

The Ugly Duckling is the new addition to the ever-popular First Stories series which also includes Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Jungle Book, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Nutcracker, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio and Puss in Boots.

(Campbell Books, board books, £5.99 each)