Book review: Happy days, a naughty fairy and furry racers with OUP children’s books

There are stories old, new and simply out of this world in a glittering collection of children’s books from Oxford University Press this month.

Happy days, a naughty fairy and furry racers with OUP childrens books
Happy days, a naughty fairy and furry racers with OUP childrens books

Travel back in time to an age of youthful innocence with legendary Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, meet a fairy with a wonky wand, get ready for killer cupcakes, rev up with a pack of speedy animals and learn how to write your best story ever.

Age 6 plus:

Happy Times in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren and Tony Ross

Nostalgia really is what it’s cracked up to be in this utterly enchanting story of a group of children growing up in the golden days before mobile phones and the internet.

Happy Times in Noisy Village, a gorgeous adventure story set in a quiet rural village, was first published in 1949 and is the work of the late Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, best known for her much-loved classic Pippi Longstocking.

This beautiful new edition, with illustrations by the talented Tony Ross, continues the adventures of Lisa and her friends, which began in The Children of Noisy Village and offers a different story in each of the short chapters, ideal for newly confident readers or for reading aloud at bedtime.

In the middle of the countryside there are three farms, all in a row, where Lisa, her two brothers and their friends live. With so many children out and about and always having fun, it’s a very noisy place indeed! They race their sledges on the slopes, hunt for treasure, and keep a watch for pirate ships from their robber’s den. In fact, every day is a happy day for the children of Noisy Village.

The children’s wild and wonderful adventures in a land where it is safe to roam far and free are packed with fun and some charmingly quirky characters, opening the eyes of today’s youngsters to life in a very different age.

(OUP, paperback, £5.99)

Age 5 plus:

Nixie the Bad, Bad Fairy by Cas Lester and Ali Pye

There are good fairies, and then there’s Nixie… the funny, feisty fairy with mischief in her magic!

What little girl can resist a fairy who is a disaster with a wand? Cas Lester spent many years working in children’s television with CBBC, and her star-dusted new series featuring adorable Nixie certainly packs a dramatic punch with its vivacious, visual antics.

Nixie the bad, bad fairy isn’t really that bad… at least, she doesn’t think she is. But sometimes she has to be a teeny-tiny bit bad because that goody, goody fairy, Adorabella, is just too … well … just too good. Fairy dust and magic are fine but when your wonky, wilful wand is just as naughty as you are, sometimes you have to rely on your own genius inventions to get you out of trouble!

Ali Pye’s action-packed black-and-white illustrations add an extra sprinkling of magic to this warm and comical story which gives little girls a refreshing new slant on the wonderful world of fairies and is perfect for either reading alone or enjoying as a bedtime story.

And there’s one thing certain… fun-loving Nixie will cast a spell on all those fairy-loving youngsters who know that being good all the time is just pure fiction!

(OUP, paperback, £5.99)

Age 13 and under:

How to Write Your Best Story Ever! by Christopher Edge

Once upon a time, writing your own story seemed very, very difficult… until the top tips and trade secrets from those amazing Oxford word experts turned storytelling into an open book.

Budding young writers need look no further for literary inspiration than between the highly illustrated pages of this amazing new manual which contains everything you need to write your best story… ever.

Written by children’s author Christopher Edge, here is the perfect book to get kids enthused about creative writing. Whether they already love writing stories, or struggle with words or ideas, children will find plenty of handy tips to help them on their way.

The book is authoritative but not intimidating and is linked to curriculum requirements. From writing for your audience or for a specific purpose and overcoming writer’s block to writing in different genres and using words to best effect, this book gives children the tools they need to make writing an enjoyable experience.

Using findings from Oxford University Press’s own Children’s Corpus, a unique database of thousands of words written by and for children, Edge’s humorous and inspirational book will awaken the author in every child, unlocking their story ideas and giving them hints and tips to create their own stories.

Children can learn how to use wonderful and weird words, invent new words and write powerful sentences using metaphors, similes and idioms.

Laid out in a fun and engaging style that will help all readers to see themselves as writers and encourage them to achieve their creative writing goals, How to Write Your Best Story Ever! is ideal for home and schools, primary and lower secondary.

There could be no better guide to helping young imaginations take flight…

(OUP, paperback, £9.99)

Age 7 plus:

Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Lock away your mixing bowl, hide the baking tins and starting weighing up the enemy… killer cupcakes, batty Battenbergs and marauding muffins!

Yes, writing legend Philip Reeve and his picture perfect partner Sarah McIntyre are back with another amazing adventure packed with eccentric characters and zany humour.

The creators of the much-acclaimed Oliver and the Seawigs have cooked up a delicious concoction of food and fun with their new book, Cakes in Space, a jammy dodger journey into the unknown with time-travelling galaxy girl Astra.

Astra and family are all snoring in their sleeping pods aboard their spaceship and heading for a new life on the faraway planet Nova Mundi.

But Astra is actually wide awake and along with her robot friend Pilbeam, she goes off exploring only to discover that the ship is in deep trouble. It has been knocked off course and invaded by a gang of Poglites, an alien salvage crew searching for spoonage (they just love collecting spoons!).

However, even the Poglites need Astra’s help when they discover something far more sinister lurking in the canteen. They’re cakes but no one would ever describe these cakey monstrosities as sweet.

Now Astra and Pilbeam are the only ones standing in the way of the ship’s destruction…

Cakes in Space, featuring pages of Reeve’s laugh-out-loud escapades and an eye-catching riot of two-tone illustrative colour from the pen of Sarah McIntyre, offers a visual and narrative feast for children aged seven and over.

So why not jet off into space… and live to tell the terrific tale!

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Fast and Furry Racers: The Silver Serpent Cup by Jonathan Emmett and Ed Eaves

On your marks, get set, go… the Furryville animals are on track for the race of a lifetime!

Fresh from the success of his brilliant picture book The Clockwork Dragon, award-winning author Jonathan Emmett returns to enchant his young readers with a charismatic cast of speed-loving creatures.

The master of rhyme will have his pre-school fans chanting along merrily to an exciting, high-energy story which features a wild and wacky air, sea and land race to be the proud winner of The Silver Serpent Cup.

There are honking horns, roaring engines, whooshing boats, rocketing cars and soaring planes as the animals head off in all kinds of strange contraptions on an all-action ride to faraway Featherport. There is just one rule for the souped-up contestants… to win the race you have to get there first!

Ed Eaves’ superbly detailed and colourful illustrations will capture the imaginations of racers young and old and maybe provide some off-the-wall inspiration to come up with their own bizarre mega-machines!

With its clever, addictive rhymes and vibrant illustrations, this is a book to read aloud… and return to time and time again!

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Mighty Small by Timothy Knapman and Rosie Reeve

It’s mighty good being a superhero… even if you’re a mouse and you’re mighty small!

Meet Max Small, a bespectacled mouse who has set his sights on discovering his superpowers and tracking down some mighty bad baddies. Of course, the best laid schemes of mice (and men) often go astray… and that’s when the fun starts.

Max is the star turn in a whimsical and wonderfully amusing new picture book from popular author Timothy Knapman, creator of the hugely successful Mungo books.

Children will love mad Max, the superhero who is not quite as heroic as Superman but still sports a cape and wears his underpants over his trousers. The problems is that baddies just won’t take Max seriously… until the circus comes to town and our tiny crusader spots the clowns stealing bars of gold from the bank. Max (almost) fearlessly leaps into action, crying ‘Baddie pants, beware,’ and follows the naughty clowns all the way back to their Big Top hide-out where their boss Mr Big the elephant is waiting to fill his trunk with gold. Will Max be able to overthrow scary Mr Big and finally trumpet his victory over the laughing clowns?

Packed with the big, brilliant illustrations of Rosie Reeve, this hilariously anarchic and action-packed story promises plenty of mighty big laughs as well as subtle messages to youngsters about the power of society’s smallest, no matter how big the obstacles may be.

Three mighty big cheers for a lovable little hero!

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)