Archives for category: Macmillan Children’s Books

Image result for highland falcon thief leonard

Published by Macmillan Children’s Books

NY Published: Thursday 5th March

M.G. Leonard – the author of the phenomenal Beetle Boy series has collaborated with Sam Sedgman for this new book – a proper adventure – of the old school. Just as good as Beetle Boy – but about steam trains. 

Stupendous – a crime / adventure story for all of  M.G. Leonard’s fans, but also for those out there who are ‘into’ steam trains… It is the start of a series of four books – and you really need to get on to this from the beginning.

Harrison’s adventure starts as he joins a royal train, taking its last run through Scotland, before being retired. He is the only child on the train – and initially he’s really not that interested.

All that changes as the journey progresses and a bracelet goes missing…

You can pre-order copies of this now. It’s brilliant.

Image result for highland falcon thief leonard


Image result for shadows of winterspell

Published by Macmillan

October 2019

This is a magical book – quite extraordinary.

Stella has been living on the edge of Winterspell for years. In the old days her Nan and she would search the woods, but more recently it has become difficult. Dark. Not to say dangerous. The villagers too won’t visit and avoid the woods whenever possible.

Stella though is curious. Not least as she is bored. She is desperate to enrol in the local school. To have, as much as possible a normal, regular part to her life. That though is highly unlikely, with the way things are.

This is a story of magic. Of the fae. Of a family secret and of friendship.

It is brilliant – wild and mysterious. Everyone should read this one – buy it for an Autumn read as the wind whistles around the house…


NB. If this is to be the cover – it doesn’t do justice to this wild and extraordinary book. Then again, you never judge a book by its cover – at least I hope you don’t.

Published by Macmillan

Not yet Published – 5 September 2019


Except for the sound in the ivy, his movements were silent. He prowled like an animated shadow. He smelt wonderful, part smoke, part caramel. His leaps looked like slow motion. When he turned his head to look at Louis, an amber power traced patterns on the nerves beneath Louis’ skin. From his very first visit he had taken ownership of Louis’ room, Louis’ bed and Louis’ mat (on which he sharpened his claws)…

Iffen banished loneliness. His arrogant sorting through the offerings on the windowsill made Louis smile. Either they vanished completely, or were flicked scornfully into the ivy. They were not enough. Lately Iffen had taken to bringing his own supplies…

I have just finished the proof of this quite extraordinary and enticing wondrous book. Really, quite one of the most evocative, brilliant pieces of writing that I have read for years

Everyone should buy copies of this – Magic. When I say magic, I mean the primeval, and dare I say it, real magic of nature – of wildness and of books – how I wish I had been brought up, just for a little while in an ivy-covered house… The power of books, of words and of course of pictures… Absolutely wonderful.

Image result for chauvet cave drawings

The cover to this book, doesn’t reflect the depth, wildness and enticement of this wild, extraordinary tale. Buy it. Perhaps in years to come someone will design another more fitting. In the meanwhile, know that there is something extra to this tale – the English is wonderful – a book of real magic…


Image result for swimming against the tide butterworth

Published by Orion Books

I have two siblings, both older than I. A sister and a brother. Both in their separate ways have (I think) at various times felt ‘responsible’ for me. I remember a skiing holiday – which was perhaps the best skiing holiday I have ever had. Not that I have had many, but it was special for so many reasons. A highlight was skiing between two valleys with my brother so I could para-glide down from one of the mountain ridges later that morning.

I hope I didn’t often worry them as Avery does in this book of mystery, sisterly love and alligators.

Avery and Eliza live in a fishing village in Louisiana. Their lives revolving around the seasons of shrimping and the rising waters. An area filled with birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and the legendary loup-garou. An area of storms. A place not to go after dark. Particularly with a possible hurricane on the way. Certainly not a place to disappear into, to trace strange footprints in the mud.

Atmospheric. Captivating and a story of siblings, friendships and bravery. A book for everyone. Jess Butterworth’s third book, perhaps her best…but that is for you to decide.


Image result for mirror magic claire fayers


Published by Macmillan

‘It’s better to be shaped by our kindness than our fears’

Two worlds separated by mirrors. Mirrors are strange things. Recently watching Flog It Trade Secrets (6 am M-F BBC 2) I was informed that you can check whether a mirror is old, by applying the tip of a pencil on it. If there is a little space between that and its mirror image, then it is an older piece. If they meet, it is a modern mirror. I haven’t tried this yet – and I have been wondering why this would be the case. Where is the reflection? What makes it? They are fascinating.

Of course there is the famous ‘mirror’ book by Lewis Carroll – Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there, which was published in the 1871 a few years after Alice in Wonderland. This though, is a thoroughly modern story. 

This is the story of two towns. Wyse and the magical town of Unworld.

There’s a covenant between the two worlds, and people can move from one to the other, when invited.  Except some of these mirrors are failing, and are no longer portals. Things are changing and not for the better.

The book is full of somewhat eccentric characters, enchantments, skeletons, traitors and a book – a book that can foretell the future; sentient and full of opinions. Ava meets Howell, on the other side of a mirror, and they begin an adventure to find out about why the magical mirrors are no longer working.

This is a new title by Claire Fayers – she has written three others, but this is perhaps the darkest.  The cover doesn’t, I think reflect this – a book of evil doings if there ever was one…

Published in the UK by Macmillan Children’s books, in the US, by Scholastic

I read the proofs publishers send me without reading their blub. This is essentially to ensure that I don’t start a story with any preconceived ideas. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised (a cover can be very misleading), sometimes disappointed.

I read this proof over 24 hours or so. It had a rather simple cover, just a drawing of a skeletal hand reaching up towards the night sky. Simple and effective.

The story reminded me a little of Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls. It left me in tears at work as I read the last few pages. Then again, I am a bit of an emotional wreck at the moment, post Pakka. That said, it is beautifully written and quite superb and as I explained to a mother and daughter recently, sometimes books that make you cry are the best books and shouldn’t be avoided.

Enjoy this, simply and beautifully written story of life and everything that goes with that – and if you haven’t read A Monster Calls read that too…

Sadly Kim Ventrella lives in Oklahoma City and so isn’t available for events…it would be superb if she were…. Looking for pictures of the cover, I came across the one above which is ‘connected’ (I don’t know what the correct term is) to Kim’s Internet site – I assume the dog is hers…he looks rather lovely. The cover above is the one Scholastic are using for their American edition of the book – to be honest I hope ours is similar to the design on my proof – more in tune with story…with a hint of darkness…

The Macmillan edition is out on the 21st of September 2017

Published by Macmillan Children’s Books.

I recently organised a school event for Elizabeth Laird and at the end one of the boys asked Elizabeth Laird which was her favourite book, that she had written. It was obviously a very difficult question; her reply much the same as many parents’ – she loves them all, however, she did go on to say that the character Ben, in the story, was based around her younger brother, and so perhaps, if pushed this is her favourite.

This is the story of Anna’s family – her Mum, Dad, little sister, Katy and their new baby brother Ben. It is a tale of growing up, of accepting responsibilities, of acknowledging who you are, and who other people are too – along with realising that love comes in many forms and ways. It is a story of a family dealing with someone special, who though severely disabled, has a massive impact on the family.  Sometimes in a good way, and at other times taking all the attention.

The preface explains just a little about Elizabeth’s relationship with her brother Alistair – the positives and the negatives. Superb.


Published by Macmillan Children’s Books.  I thought I would start this post with a quote from the book.

‘I’ve got a time-out card.’ I say this almost under my breath, turning away so that the only people who can hear me are the teacher and Tabassum. It’s not a state secret, but my parents seem to think life will be easier if my Asperger’s is on the need-to-know basis. I’m not sure it works, but nobody bothered to ask me….

I knew this would happen when Miss Young laminated this time-out card. Half the teachers are terrified in case I start climbing on the tables or setting fire to the desks….’

Grace’s father travels… He works on television, producing natural history programmes. Often he is away for months. Grace’s mother on the other hand is making sure that everything runs properly at home & that the ‘situation’ that is Grace, is being taken seriously. Leah her younger sister observes all this with a wry look on life that made me laugh as I read this wonderful tale of a family being a family – with all the challenges that brings and a few extra on top.

It is superb.

The illustration above is one of Edward Gorey’s pictures – I am a fan of his work (see the Gashlycrumb Tinies post) – and since there isn’t a reasonable picture of the proof, let alone the cover to be used for this book – I thought I would use this…as a sort of stand in for an image.

The proof states that The State of Grace is due to be published on the 6th of April 2017



Published by Macmillan January 2017

I hope that Macmillan will publish this book in such a way that it looks as though it has been covered by a hoar frost. This is the story of the turning of the seasons, the power of Autumn, of frost, and the power of Spring and of nature itself. It is a remarkable and wonderful tale of trickery, death, hope and of friendship. It is the tale of spirits, of life itself. I loved this. There are some aspects that are similar to the Percy Jackson series (Rick Riordan) – however, I prefer this – a more elemental story, darker in some ways and something I can really relate to having walked my estate this morning through a hoar frost; the grass a pale green, crunchy under foot.

This book should give the designers at Macmillan a chance to really make something of it. The proof I read had a lovely owl on the cover, but not quite the owl that I would have chosen. It does not depict the dark side as much as it should and there is little or no frost – just some snow like designs dotted around the bird of prey. I have searched the Internet in my usual way to give you a picture of what the actual published book will look like – and the above seems to be the design that Macmillan are using.

I’m afraid, I hope this isn’t the case.

Whilst owls are important in the story, surely this book is about frost, that spiky extraordinary stuff that makes designs on metal, leaves, grass and water… Some while ago I wrote a post on this blog about rime – the patterns found on cars – perhaps Macmillan can find something of the sort to make this volume really stand out – it certainly deserves something of the sort. Something that makes you think it will be cold to the touch – not shinny – cold… We will see what they can do! The pictures below are copies of those I took early one morning of the ice patterns on the tops of cars… I would be very happy for them to be used for this volume…

2014 Mobile Pictures Car Frost 011

2014 Mobile Pictures Car Frost 022

2014 Mobile Pictures Car Frost 013

2014 Mobile Pictures Car Frost 020


Published by Macmillan January 2017

Elizabeth Laird has always written gripping tales based more often than not on facts she has gathered to give substance and reality to her stories.

This volume is no exception. This is the story of Omar and his family, the story of the Syrian refugee crisis and it is the story of people. It is pure luck that I live in a society that at the moment allows me some freedom of speech. Certainly more than many others. I write a blog about children’s books. I have the freedom to write what I like. I go to work where  I encourage children to read, to think about their society whilst doing so – about what is right, wrong and the responsibilities we have to  one another. My sister trained as a doctor and became a consultant – our circumstances could and would have been so different if we had just lived somewhere else. This is a story of a family whose life is the other side of the coin. Omar at the beginning of the book dreams of selling postcards; enough postcards so that he can perhaps purchase a donkey. Then a whole herd. He is bright, not in a school sense perhaps, but with common sense and with the habit of working hard as a back bone to his beliefs. When things change dramatically in Syria, those dreams are quickly and irrevocably destroyed.

This is a story of immense bravery and hardship and is a tale of those whose lives this Christmas aren’t like ours. I wonder how my family would have survived. If I am honest, I am not sure we would have. There are many books being published about dystopian societies – many extreme examples. This small volume’s story, however, is more poignant and has more impact than they have.

Everyone should read this. Should you purchase a copy of the hardback of this book, (and at just £9.99 there is no reason why you shouldn’t) 50pence from that sale will go to an international agency supporting the Syrian refugee crisis. Not much, perhaps, but every little counts.

Elizabeth Laird is an author who choses stories that are often edgy and strong.. They are often based in fact and deal with issues most of us will never have to face and often would prefer not to acknowledge. This book is a must read. If you purchase no other book in 2017,  (which I admit is unlikely), but should that be the case, then it should be this one.

A moving and extraordinary tale of bravery, resilience and families.

Her last comment is to propose that we might wonder what happens next to Omar and his family after the end of the story. She observes that that is down to us.

Other titles she has written include: The Garbage King, The Prince who Walked with Lions, Oranges in No Man’s Land, Red Sky in the Morning and Kiss the Dust.