Book review: Let the sun shine in with OUP Children’s Books

Summer’s here and Oxford University Press Children’s Books have a superb collection of sunshine sparklers to keep holiday boredom at bay.

Monday, 15th July 2013, 10:00 am
Let the sun shine in with OUP Childrens Books
Let the sun shine in with OUP Childrens Books

Whether it’s a funny, whimsical celebration to mark the birth of a new royal baby, an adventure that is simply out of this world or the first of a hilarious new series about a madcap schoolgirl from a mum and daughter double act, there is a book here for all ages and tastes.

Age 2 plus:

The Royal Baby by Tony Bradman and Tony Ross

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There’ll be no baby blues for toddlers who want to join in the fun of a new royal baby when they get their hands on this adorable picture book which celebrates the anticipation and excitement of a new arrival.

Everyone in the kingdom is thrilled when it’s announced that their favourite princess is going to have a baby. What will the baby be like, will it be a boy or a girl, will it be tall or short? Will it be hairy like the old king or sporty and fearless like the knights? The questions go on and on as the Princess grows larger, but soon the Prince and the Princess don’t care any more. They know that they will love their baby whatever it is like…

Set in a timeless kingdom and brimming with quirky, action-packed illustrations, this is an irreverently funny and heart-warming story which can be read time and time again, and will appeal to any child who is looking forward to a new baby in their own family.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Hugh Shampoo by Karen George

And if babies don’t float your toddler’s boat, why not give them a brush with Hugh Shampoo, the hairdressers’ son whose adventures will make your hair stand on end!

Hairier than Hairy Maclary, dirtier than Dirty Bertie, more shocking than Shock-headed Peter, Hugh Shampoo is a boy who will make you gasp, laugh and wish for a hair-care regime to rival Justin Bieber’s! Hugh Shampoo won’t go near scissors, brushes or shower attachments and he simply hates having his hair washed, combed or tampered with in any way. In fact, he’s not a particularly unusual little boy. What is unusual is that his parents are both hairdressers. Poor Hugh! But when his parents decide to enter the ‘scissor showdown’ contest, things are about to change for Hugh… and his messy head of hair.

Karen George’s cautionary tale, told with her boundless sense of fun and energy, tackles the familiar tussle over hair-washing which every frustrated parent and child will recognise. Retro-style illustrations, a fast and funny story and Hugh’s hairy escapades will have little ones itching to turn the pages.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Wendy Quill is a Crocodile’s Bottom by Wendy Meddour and Mina May

Author Wendy Maddour and her talented 11-year-old daughter Mina May are a top team when it comes to imaginative flair. The two have collaborated on this wonderful new series about a little girl with big ambitions, and it looks set to be a family favourite in more ways than one.

Wendy’s plans don’t always work out but that’s never stopped her having the best time ever! When she fails to get the lead part in the school production, Wendy stuns the audience with her debut as a crocodile’s bottom! Next thing Wendy finds herself being dragged along to her best friend Florence’s tap-dancing class and somehow manages to wow the teacher with her dancing skills, landing a part as a tap-dancing munchkin in their show. (And if Florence Hubert hadn’t had an allergy, Wendy would have been famous for a whole summer season.) Then when Wendy dresses up for a school project she makes the headlines, all thanks to Kevin, the school rat, and a ‘Primary Plague Fiasco!’

With three amazing stories and three amazing adventures in this quirky, pocket-sized book, all brimming with laugh-out-loud humour and visually exciting, eccentric illustrations, Wendy Quill celebrates the vagaries of family life with warmth and real affection.

Ideal for children who are getting ready to read alone.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £5.99)

Mulberry and the Summer Show (Meadow Vale Ponies) by Che Golden and Thomas Docherty

Another new series for younger readers introduces horse-mad Sam and her mischievous pony Mulberry who has a nose for getting into trouble. Written by Che Golden whose cast list of horses is based on animals she has actually ridden, these are funny and heart-warming stories sure to thrill all pony-mad girls.

Sam dreams of being a brilliant rider but her nerves often get the better of her, even when she discovers that she has a secret weapon… she can actually talk to horses. Mulberry is a beautiful black pony but she’s so grumpy that no one wants to ride her – except for Sam. Can Sam conquer her fear of falling off and ride Mulberry to victory in the Meadow Vale Summer Show or will Mulberry’s bad behaviour ruin everything for them both?

Golden’s sparkling story is beautifully brought to life by Thomas Docherty’s lively black and white illustrations and for those who just can’t get enough horse play, there are plenty of fun horse facts in the back as well as a pack of free stickers.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £5.99)

Age 9 plus:

Moon Bear by Gill Lewis

Gill Lewis has got into the rather enviable habit of writing future classics and Moon Bear, the moving story of a boy and his bear, is no exception. Lewis’s trademark is handling serious wildlife and conservation topics with a light touch and here she shows how the efforts of one small boy can make a big difference in a world ruled by greed.

When 12-year-old Tam is sent to work at a bear farm in the city, he has never felt so alone. He hates seeing the cruel way the bears are treated, but speaking up will mean losing his job. And if he can’t send money home, how will his family survive? When a sick cub arrives at the farm, Tam secretly nurses it back to health and they develop an unbreakable bond. Tam swears to return his beloved cub to the wild, but how will they ever find a way to be free?

Emotionally powerful, savagely truthful and unforgettably beautiful, Moon Bear is a lesson in compassion, hope and bravery against overwhelming odds which will touch the hearts of readers young and old.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £8.99)

Age 10 plus:

Out of This World by Ali Sparkes

How about an adventure story with some sci-fi thrown in and an extra special extra-terrestrial twist? Ali Sparkes, author of the superb Shapeshifter series, puts an enviable energy into all her prize-winning stories and Out of This World will have young readers hooked from start to finish.

Thirteen-year-old Ty Lewis is a bit of a misfit at school which makes him a target for the bullies. His mother is a singer in a band on cross-channel ferries and he lives with his Aunty Dawn who likes watching TV reality shows and eating cheesy curls.

His aunt is cheerful company, doesn’t tell him off but doesn’t really notice him. So he spends a lot of his time with Sam, the local countryside ranger, who is brilliant company and completely mad about insects.

Ty spends most of his time now outdoors but when he is messing about in the woods, trying to keep out of trouble, he stumbles upon something weird ...a glowing lump of rock or metal. Whatever it is, it gives him the amazing power to move things with his mind.

It’s all very cool at first until Ty’s new powers start attracting attention and soon he is being followed by two sinister agents who will stop at nothing to steal his special gift. But Ty has no intention of letting that happen. So now he’s got to run…

Out of This World packs in tension, action, adventure, mystery and a wonderful cast of credible characters, confirming Ali Sparkes as one of the best contemporary children’s authors.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)


After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross

This gripping survival thriller from Carnegie Medal-winning author Gillian Cross is the ideal read for discerning teenagers who enjoy a thought-provoking story which both excites and challenges.

What if you woke up tomorrow and everything had changed? Money is worthless. Your friends are gone. Armed robbers roam the streets. No one is safe. For Matt and his little brother, Taco, that nightmare becomes a reality…

Matt lives with his mother, stepfather Justin, his grandmother and little brother Thomas, nicknamed Taco, in an English town destroyed by rioting after a banking collapse. Money is tight and the shops are empty so Mum starts to hoard food but violent, angry locals accuse her of being a ‘scadger’ and raid their home.

When Matt discovers that someone has put their details on a website called ScadgePost, Mum decides they must move to France where life is reported to be much safer. But when gran is hurt in a fall, Justin and the two boys have to set off alone.

But danger waits on the other side of the Channel, and Matt and Taco find themselves homeless refugees in an alien country… What will they do, can they survive and what would you do if you were in their shoes?

There are plenty of life lessons here, all presented in a thrilling adventure story and posing important ethical and moral questions about how we approach problems and reach decisions.

A clever and compelling book.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Waiting for Gonzo by Dave Cousins

Early teen years are a reading minefield, particularly for boys who are reluctant to pick up a book. So what could be better than a story that features a fairly regular kind of teenager who has got a talent for trouble and a budding interest in girls?

Dave Cousins marries affairs of the heart with action and crazy humour in the satirically titled Waiting for Gonzo, featuring Oz who is having problems getting to grips with the frustrations of everyday life. He attracts trouble like a magnet but his heart is always in the right place (well, nearly always).

Uprooted from his friends and former life, Oz finds himself stranded in the sleepy village of Slowleigh. When a joke backfires on the first day at his new school, Oz attracts the attention of Isobel Skinner, the school psycho, but that’s just the beginning.

After causing an accident that puts his mum in hospital, Oz isn’t exactly popular at home either. His older sister is no help, but then she’s got a problem of her own, one that’s growing bigger by the day. Oz knows he’s got to put things right, but life isn’t that simple, especially when the only people still talking to you are a hobbit-obsessed kid and a voice in your own head!

Packed with action, heart and humour, Waiting for Gonzo takes you for a white-knuckle ride on the Wheel of Destiny as it careers out of control down the Hillside of Inevitability. The question is, do you go down laughing? Or grit your teeth and jump off?

Packed with action, that irreverent brand of teenage humour, a frisson of romance and some serious life issues, this is the ideal book to tempt laidback teens.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)