Book review: Turning over a new leaf with Oxford Children’s Books

A new year is here and time to enjoy a fresh and exciting range of children’s books from Oxford University Press.

Turning over a new leaf with Oxford Childrens Books
Turning over a new leaf with Oxford Childrens Books

A little mouse takes on a giant-sized foe, a baby elephant makes a splash at bathtime, a headstrong girl gets lost in the pages of highly original picture book and there’s a feast of evil pizza fun with two marvellously madcap youngsters with the anarchic names of Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face.

Picture books:

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, hardback, £11.99)

Small Elephant’s Bathtime by Tatyana Feeney

It’s in at the deep end with a baby elephant who loves water… but not when it’s in a bath!

Author and illustrator Tatyana Feeney has a simple but effective message to help banish bathtime fears in this charming and gently funny story about a cute but tantrum-prone elephant.

Mummy Elephant uses various incentives to entice Small Elephant into a bath but nothing works and he goes into toddler meltdown before escaping behind the curtain. Luckily, Mummy has one more trick up her sleeve to get him over his sulk and into the suds. Before long, Small Elephant is laughing all the way to the bath tub… and it’s all down to very silly Daddy in some rather fetching trunks and trying to squeeze into a baby-sized bath!

Using a light touch, minimal words, her understated wit and very individual artwork, Feeney captures the emotions of a typical toddler tantrum and allows them to evaporate in the warmth and fun of a bathtime escapade.

The appealing characters and a subtle storyline are the perfect antidote to bathtime blues.

(OUP, hardback, £11.99)

This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne

Here’s a book – complete with a devilish disappearing act – that’s going to steal the show.

Watch as inventive, innovative children’s author and illustrator Richard Byrne turns the middle of his book into a dangerous black hole which magically swallows up unsuspecting little Bella and her outsized dog. What is needed is a brave little reader to show this naughty book just who is boss!

Bella’s troubles begin when she takes her dog for a stroll across the page but halfway there, he disappears. The emergency services arrive but they too succumb and never make it to the other side. There’s only one thing left to do… Bella marches toward the dangerous middle of the book, only to disappear herself. Only little movers and shakers can solve her dilemma…

Original, simple but with a witty and clever concept, this interactive picture book page-turner is as intriguing as it is entertaining by transforming the book into a character in its own story.

Quirky and eye-catching, this is the perfect story to share with mums and dads…

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face and the Evilness of Pizza by John Dougherty and David Tazzyman

Books don’t have to be boring… particularly when Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face are orchestrating all the action.

Author John Dougherty and illustrator David Tazzyman are pitch perfect in this zany series which is guaranteed to tempt even the most reluctant young reader with its hilarious pictures, appealing, quirky font styles and anarchic plotlines.

The short, action-packed, fast-paced stories promise kids the funniest collection of characters ever known to mankind and their antics are delightfully surprising, witty… and very, very silly.

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face live on the little island of Great Kerfuffle where absolutely nothing is normal. Our anti-heroes have a secret that you’ll really want to know. It’s a good one, they promise… honestly. In fact you’ll never believe it because it’s so unbelievably unbelievable and so, so secret. You have to promise not to tell anyone and cross your heart and hope to die (or at least pass out for a few minutes). OK, here goes. You know those badgers, the ones you’ve met before? You’ll never guess what they’ve been up to this time…With more twists and turns than a pizza delivery guy on an oil slick, this amazing adventure will leave youngsters hungry for more… well, pizza.

Strange places, embarrassing jokes, outlandish humour, easy-to-read adventures… what more could little boys want?

(OUP, paperback, £5.99)

The Meadow Vale Ponies: Mulberry Gets up to Mischief by Che Golden and Thomas Docherty

What’s the next best thing to owning your own horse? Saddling up with young rider Sam and her lovable, misbehaving pony Mulberry!

Che Golden’s funny, heart-warming Meadow Vale Ponies series about a naughty pony and her long-suffering owner Sam has captured the hearts of horse-mad girls everywhere with an addictive and enchanting mix of mischief and adventure.

In the fourth book in this sparkling series, Mulberry is still Sam’s star pony but when a new pony arrives on the yard, Mulberry risks losing the limelight and she’s not happy about it. Mulberry sets about making the new pony look silly but when a joke goes too far, does Mulberry have the courage to be a friend to a pony in need?

Golden’s charismatic horses – based on animals she has actually ridden – are brought to vivid life by Thomas Docherty’s lively and characterful illustrations and, as an added bonus, there are informative horse facts and entertaining pony puzzles at the back of the book.

Horse heaven for your pony-mad little angels…

(OUP, paperback, £5.99)