What We Are Reading Right Now #31… The Pan MacMillan Edition.

Our readers have been asking and asking for book posts… yesterday we posted a galactic list of great reads, classics and contemporaries, for all ages and stages of reading. And today we are bringing you hot off the press reads… the latest and greatest books that you will find on the shelves in books stores right now. Some of them are enduring books, republished again and again and perfect for gifting and others are new and ready to launch… happy reading…


A Family Book:

Guinness World Records 2015: Well if this book doesn’t define summer holiday reading… I think I have spent summers lounging on the couch and dipping into the Guinness World Records my entire life. Snippets and facts, things to amaze and wonder at and things that you just cannot believe… This is the 60th edition… and just filled with more amazing things than ever before. There is a whole page dedicated to how you can become a record breaker. There is a whole page dedicated to finding all that you need to find online, social media links and how the free 3D app works. Also did you know there is a Guinness World Record site for kids… Just saying. On to the book: It follows the same formula, several ordinary looking categories: space, earth and so on… and then the pages are just stuffed… stuffed with facts. It is very much a case of the more you read, the more you want to know and hours later you find yourself having just read a page or two. This is the kind of book to leave on the coffee table for a daily read, months later you will still find new and amazing things to read. Prepare yourself to be blown away: the largest soda can collection in the world, the longest golf club, furthest arrow shot using your feet… and so on, and on, and on… you simply cannot help being amazed at the lengths folk will go to be the first, the biggest or the most incredible. The Guinness World Records is, let’s face it, an institution and the annual book will never cease to impress year after year.

The Mother Person:

Saving Grace by Jane Green: If I were ever to write a book, I would like it to be a book with recipes woven through it. This is such a book and why it appealed to me to begin with. This is the story of Ted and Grace, he is an author and she is a homemaker. They have been married for twenty-five years and it appears that they have reached that comfort zone of “the perfect marriage, family, life.” We all know that there is no such thing as the perfect life, and appearances really can be deceiving. Turns out Ted is prone to dramatic and terrifying mood swings and Grace is living under a cloud of fear. When his personal assistant has to leave suddenly for personal reasons a new replacement appears to be ready and waiting eagerly in the wings. The new gal is really rather too good to be true and when she begins to edge slowly and subtly encroach into Grace’s life you can’t help wondering if this isn’t a well orchestrated plan. There is a flavour of psychological manipulation, is Grace imagining things or is there malicious intent? What keeps you reading is the “need to know” that Grace gets through this all okay, certainly you are on her side from the start. This is a good weekend read, a quick escape.

The Hoods Are Reading…


Hood #1:

You Say Potato: A book about our accents by Ben and David Crystal. For the person who loves words and language, this book is just a fabulous and eye opening read. It is written by the father-son team Ben and David Crystal. The chapters alternate between authors to give you the impression that you are reading a conversation. While you might be surprised that you even have an accent, you will be amazed at just how much there is to learn about them. This book is not a great read because it is an especially intriguing topic, we all know accents exist, or because the authors have a gripping and engaging tale to tell… this book is an excellent read because of the way that they present their material, making a topic that is somewhat specialised accessible to anyone with a trace of curiosity. Anybody who likes learning something new, or who enjoys fascinating facts and collecting trivia, will really enjoy reading this book. If you would like to join in and say potato and see how folks all over the world say potato then follow this link.

Scavenger: Zoid by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell: This is the team that wrote the deeply loved, that’s child speak for literally types, who would write ‘highly acclaimed,’ Edge Chronicles and Muddle Earth Series… and went straight onto the “keep forever” pile of books. Of course it is riddled (!!!) with heaps of fantastic and just incredible illustrations. This is an adventurous romp of a book, of the sci-fi-futuristic variety, rather than their more typical fantasy genre. This book takes place on an earth sized spaceship. where generations ago humans and robots left the earth behind them. Years later the robots rebelled and the humans became under constant attack. There is a problem: the survival of little pockets of humanity under constant threat; there is a hero: York, a young scavenger… and there are close to 250 pages to turn before they get close to a solution. Gripping stuff, read it in a sitting kind of a book.


Hood #2:

Mobile Library by David Whitehouse: This is an unusual story, not your typical read to say the least… relationships are complicated and awkward all at the same time and the world, lets face it, a difficult place to get along in. This book is about a twelve year old boy called Bobby Nusku… to escape his abusive father he takes refuge in a mobile library. He is not the only one trying to get away from it all, the library cleaning lady and her disabled daughter are also escaping from the world… it looks like a kidnapping, but it is an escaping. They manage to collect a drifter on their journey as well. Together this motley cast of characters spend months on the road and all the while reading their way through piles of classic books, found in the library of course. This book, like the cast of characters is complicated and awkward to read… but worth pursuing right to the last word for the very cool ending.

The KingFisher Encyclopaedia of Life: We have reviewed this book before, but this has been repackaged as a soft cover. This book is an incredible resource for anybody interested in life on earth… it is packed with incredible facts and beautiful and engaging photographs. The feature of this book, that makes it different to other books about plant and animal life, is that it is sorted into sections according to the life span of the animal. So the book begins with amoebas and goes onto bugs and insects, with a life span of less than a day… then you wander your way through the entire “life-span-range” of the most incredible creatures, giant tortoises and koi fish… bristle cone pines to coral reefs, and a whole lot of weird and wonderful creatures in between. Interspersed along the time line are “Did you know?” pages covering absolutely anything and everything that they couldn’t fit into the timeline ages. The topics are covered concisely and the writing is in short snippets, so readers of any age will be engaged. This is a great reference book for dipping into and digging deeper.


Hood #3:

Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death by Chris Riddell: It is no secret that we absolutely love and adore Chris Riddell, and the Goth Girl feels like a member of the family. This series of books is so beautifully created, from the gilt edge pages, and the beautiful inlaid cover to the perfect teeny tiny book hidden inside the back cover. The pages are filled with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations, that are integral to the story… newspaper cuttings, letters and little notes, maps and pages filled caricatures and characters… and that is just the appearance. The story surrounds Ava and the familiar characters from the previous book… in this edition they are preparing for a massive garden party, “The Fete.” There is a bake-off of the “Best British” kind…between celebrity cooks of the most magical kind and of course some”foul” characters behaving suspiciously. The biggest problem appears to be that in the chaos everyone has forgotten Ava’s birthday. The book contains a mysterious mystery, some ghoulish ghosts and of course heaps of witty wit. This is the sort of book that you will absolutely not mind reading aloud to your kids and they will love reading for themselves as well. Everything about the Goth Girl series of books is an absolute win.

The Great Kitten Cake Off by Anna Wilson: This story begins with friends Ellie and Mads chatting away. Ellie is lamenting her life, her younger brother is annoying, her mother embarrassing and her father is no help at all. To cheer her friend up Mads suggests that Ellie enters the regional Cake-Off, and Ellie in a moment of weakness says “yes.” The story unfolds along the theme of the Cake-Off… the girls have to learn new baking skills and conquer their fears. Ultimately Ellie leaves her friend behind as she heads in to the competition. Then there is the complication, that Mads has her eye on Ted, a boy in the grade above theirs. Actually the book appears to be about the cake-off, not to mention a Ellie’s mischievous kitten, KitKat… but actually this book is about the ins and outs of friendship. This book is easy reading for girls who enjoy baking, not to mention a particular television show, and the ins and outs of teen/tween friendship. Sweet, uncomplicated, easy reading.


Hood #4:

I am not sure where I have been and we may well have been missing out, how have we not been familiar with the children’s writer Eva Ibbotson before? I absolutely love this quote from her, “It’s my belief that one should be in the same place each day, so that if an idea is hovering it knows where to find you.” And it seems fitting that we dive in and discover more of her books.

The Secret of Platform 13, has a certain appeal before we even begin, because it is Platform 13 on King’s Cross Station and we have stayed near there and our gang is familiar with King’s Cross and its surrounds. This edition is the 20 year anniversary… and still reads as if it were written yesterday. Anyway there is a secret door, or a gump, that only opens every nine years, and wasn’t open when we were there… that leads to a magical island. Four rather quirky and somewhat magical characters emerge from the door and find themselves on the streets of London, they are looking to rescue their prince, who was stolen the last time the door was open. Of course the prince is now nine and thoroughly spoilt and doesn’t think he needs rescuing at all… and of course the door is only open for “so long” before it closes again. And so there is a little rush-on to get the story resolved. If your children are on the brink of diving into fantasy books then this would be a good, sweet (read really not scary at all) place to start.

A couple of eccentric elderly sisters take care of the most unusual creatures on a magical island… they decide that it is time to get some help. They head for London to “choose/kidnap” some children, who will not be missed. Children will of course believe the magic and if they make a good selection they will be hardworking as well. The three children: Minette with the bickering parents, Fabio a very young gentleman in training, from Brazil, and a thoroughly spoilt Lambert. Minette and Fabio turn out to be excellent helpers and not surprisingly, Lambert is not. One thing you have to say about Eva Ibbotson is that she is very good at creating characters with words. This book is a feast of words… and the good guys are very good and the baddies are thoroughly horrid. In typical Eva Ibbotson style the real world and fantasy are interwoven in a most natural way. This book was written ahead of its time, the theme is conservation, these folk are all about rescuing rare and incredible animals from extinction, long before the world was focusing on conservation. You could dig a hole lot deeper into this one and consider all the issues raised, or you can read it as it was written… a fun and fanciful tale, where the good conquer the wicked and then live happily forever after.

MountWood School for Ghosts by Toby Ibbotson: This book is written by Eva Ibbotson’s son, and a story based on a shared idea. Two children, Daniela and Charlotte, appeal to the Mountwood School for Ghosts in desperate need of help. A developer is threatening to demolish their street and local park… The ghosts owe them a favour, previously the children returned a lost young ghost to his home. And so the not very scary, ghostly ghosts… attempt to rush to the rescue. Let’s just say their intentions were good… and they are attending a school in the hopes that they become more frightening ghosts. The unexpected happened and the school of feeble ghosts do conquer the wicked developers and the land is saved, houses and homes remain safe… and life goes on. Amusing in places, and lots of new ideas to think about.


Hood #5:

For the child that loves reading classics, and the feel of the book really counts: Pan Macmillan has a collection of classic and favourite children’s books that they are republishing as a collection. They are beautifully presented, they feel old and they smell delightfully like a good book shop. Now that we have covered all the senses…

The Island of Adventure by Enid Blyton: This is the 70 year edition of the Island of Adventure and has a forward by Cressida Cowell and she is quite a favourite over here, and needs no introduction. Cressida Cowell has a way with words that leaves you fascinated and intrigued… and apparently she read heaps and heaps of Enid Blyton as a child… no wonder we love her so. Needless to say, The Island of Adventure… comes from one of the best Enid Blyton series ever. A great mystery and a fantastic holiday read… Four children and their talkative parrot, holidaying in a sprawling manor on the coast of Cornwall. Of course, everything looks lovely on the surface… but there is something afoot in the neighbourhood and these naturally curious children keep stumbling upon “things.” You cannot believe the scrapes and adventures that these children get into… this gets full marks as a page turning mystery.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling: Another classic in the PanMacmillan classics publications… with the same lovely fabric spine and a ribbon bookmark, these things do matter in the making of a beautiful book. In this book the forward is by Ben Fogle, a Brittish adventurer, who grew up wishing he could explore the Indian jungle, and just the right man for the job. On to the actual book, The Jungle Book, actually needs no introduction either. My kids have all wanted to read this book at some stage or other and have found it quite difficult to read themselves. So it is on our list of let’s read this together, every other year or so, books. We read it as a family a chapter at a time… and it flies. Let’s just say, who doesn’t want to know more about Mowgli or let beautiful words like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, wash over them. These are truly beautiful stories, the words are really English as my granny would have spoken, and well worth the effort of reading them… Classics are classics for a reason, the shining excellence in the art of writing this book make it an absolute keeper.


Hood #6:

Claude on the Slopes by Alex T. Smith: Because we love Claude, so… if you haven’t met Claude or you haven’t read a Claud book before, then do so. If you need an excuse to read it… find a child in the beginner reader category and settle in and read it to them. You will laugh your way through it and emerge laughed out and refreshed. Claude is a plump dog that wears a beret, and that beret is a bit like Mary Poppin’s bag… anything and everything that might be needed on an adventure is hidden in there. Claude lives with Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes and his best friend is his pet bobblysock. All the books in this series are about sweet little adventures that Claude undertakes and in this book he discovers snow for the first time. Claude determines to know everything there is to know about the sport of snow… with snowball fights and sledding, not to mention skiing. He very quickly learns about the “spirit of the game.” And in true Claude style heads home for a little rest and tea. Claude is a gentleman through and through and well worth reading again and again.

Mrs. NoodleKugel by Daniel PinkWater: This is a great first chapter book… it is an easy reader, with chapters about three pages long and heaps of illustrations on almost every page. This is the sort of book that can really capture the imagination of its readers. It is the story of Nick and Maxine, who have recently moved to an apartment building surrounded by other sky-high apartment buildings. The children discover that if they stand on their chest of drawers and lean to the right that they can see a magical world, the world of Mrs Noodlekugel. Of course they find a way to enter her world and they spend a glorious afternoon baking cookies with Mrs. Noodlekugel and her talkative cat. Because of this book we will spend an afternoon making little gingerbread mice cookies, only ours will not get up and go scampering into the garden!!!


Hood #7:

Recipe for a Story by Ella Burfoot: If you haven’t met Ella Burfoot yet then rush to your nearest library or bookstore… This is easily one of our favourite picture books of the year, well ever. It is delightful, epic – it tells a story, poetical – because it rhymes, and incredibly clever. Each word has been carefully placed and thoughtfully selected. The illustrations are delightful, witty, and the word placing incredibly clever… if you are fond of shape-poems, or onomatopoeia then you will love this book. You can see the mixture gurgle, you can see the words in the mixing bowl ready to be stirred and her pantry is full of literary delights. This book has already presented heaps of crazy ideas to us, things to do with words and of course things to bake. In fact we may just have to figure out how to bake this very wordy cake…. This book is an inspiration and we love it!!!

And the se7en + 1th Books:


Hood #8:

Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Schaeffler: It was lovely to get this book in our pile of review books, it is a very old favourite in our house and our previous board book version was literally loved to death. This is the “10 year special edition” with a special note from the author, Julia Donaldson, and spreads of Axel Scheffler’s illustrations as he prepared to illustrate this book. The story begins with Charlie Cook reading his favourite book; and in his book a pirate discovers a treasure chest with a book inside it; and in that book, which is Goldilocks and the three Bears, baby bear finds Goldilocks in his bed reading his favourite book; and so it goes books cleverly found within books… you just can’t go wrong, with the rhythm and the rhyme and of course ultimately… someone is reading a book about a boy called Charlie Cook, who is reading his favourite book. Books about books… just can’t be beat!!!

The Gruffly Nature Trail by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler: When hood #8 saw this book he grabbed it with glee, it is a nature spotter, activity type of book… packed with pages of colourfulness and of course stickers. There are plenty of spotter’s pages, as well as pages for collecting things… and we have spent ages finding a natural rainbow to stick into the book. This book is well worn and loved, even though it has only been in the house a short while. A well worn book is a good book in my eyes. There are also simple nature activities that little people can make on their own – a leafy crown and sticks and stones “tic tac toe.” There are tips for following a trail and lots of blank pages for making your own notes and filling in things that your little naturalist might want to remember for posterity. An activity book all about the great outdoors, with the Gruffalo and all his friends to encourage you on your way. Loved it.

We would really like to thank Pan MacMillan South Africa for providing us with the fantastic pile of books to review for this post. We would like to declare that we were not paid to do these reviews, just provided with books. All the opinions are as usual, entirely our own!!!

6 Replies to “What We Are Reading Right Now #31… The Pan MacMillan Edition.”

  1. What a great stack of books. And great reviews. I love that you take the time to tell some of the quirks and challenges of the books. We’ve added many of them to our list. “Monster Island” looks like a renaming of Eva Ibbotson’s “Island of the Aunts.” I wonder about the others. My kids are always sad when they think they’ve found a new book by a favorite author, only to have already read it under a different name.

  2. Hay Christi, Thanks so much for stopping by and the loads of comments… made my day. So many good reads are out at the moment – fun times!!!

  3. Yes Pamela, Thank you – these posts are a fair amount of work to put together… fun reads and a lot of sifting!!! Not to mention, you are so right… Eve Ibbotson had two publishers, one on each side of the ocean… you need to check that out in the Amazon reviews… Monster Island is indeed the same as Island of the Aunts. When you look at her titles on Amazon, a quick squiz at the reviews will tell you that those two books are the same. The other one looks unique, though I would just check it out on Amazon first. Happy hunting and have a great day!!!

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