Book review: Fun, facts and romance with OUP Children’s Books

It’s a new year and a new term but learning doesn’t have to be dull…

Wednesday, 29th January 2014, 9:00 am
Fun, facts and romance with OUP Childrens Books
Fun, facts and romance with OUP Childrens Books

The clever boffins at Oxford University Press have put together a brilliant package of entertaining and educational books to put some sunshine into the dark winter months.

From a hippo with a penchant for skating to a mischievous pony, an atmospheric Scottish mystery and an exciting spelling and grammar kit for primary school children, there is a book to instruct, inspire and amuse.

My Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Kit by Annemarie Young, Roderick Hunt and Alex Brychta

There aren’t many youngsters who haven’t shared learning adventures with Biff, Chip and Kipper, the much-loved characters from the Oxford Reading Tree series which is used in 80% of primary schools.

And with a new emphasis on the teaching of grammar and a new test called the English grammar, punctuation and spelling test for children in Year 6, there has never been a better time to branch out with the ‘tree’ gang.

My Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Kit, a brilliant collection of workbooks, flashcards and fun activities, means that you don’t need to wait until your child is in their final year at school before beginning to support them in their learning.

This wonderful selection of educational aids provides hours of hands-on educational play for children aged six and over who are eager to practise the knowledge and skills they will need to become clear and effective communicators of language.

The kit has been specially designed to provide fun practice and support of spelling, punctuation and grammar in line with the new National Curriculum. It contains three work books with enjoyable activities which provide lots of spelling, punctuation and grammar practice and a set of flashcards which can be used to revise and consolidate learning through games.

There is also a colourful reward chart with stickers to help build a child’s confidence and an accompanying leaflet with helpful hints and tips.

With its eye-catching cards, creative format and confidence-building exercises, this is the perfect way to share learning time with your children. If only all lessons could be this much fun!

Read with Biff, Chip & Kipper is now the UK’s best-selling home reading series and is supported by free eBooks and advice at

(OUP, paperback, £12.99)

Age 11 plus:

Sea of Whispers by Tim Bowler

Whilst many authors of teen novels are busy creating parallel worlds full of hi-tech gadgetry and superhumans, Tim Bowler continues to plough his prize-winning furrow through a mesmerising trail of haunting psychological thrillers.

Grounded in reality but teetering so piquantly and precariously on the borders of the paranormal, Sea of Whispers is his latest enthralling mystery – a seductive tale of loss, despair, determination, bravery and the search for identity.

Fifteen-year-old Hetty lives on Mora, a remote island where the sea is both its lifeblood and its angel of death. The 97 inhabitants find it difficult to live in harmony with the wild ocean on their doorstep, instead co-existing with it under an uneasy truce of fear and guarded respect.

Centuries-old traditions and superstitions fuel a distrust of strangers, none more so than in 100-year-old Per, the oldest man on Mora and the fountain of all folklore.

A storm at sea took the lives of Hetty’s parents when she was just a baby and she has grown up in the care of her grandmother in a tight-knit and insular community where feelings run deep and outsiders are not welcome.

Hetty is a loner, a dreamer, haunted by her loss, the mysterious visions in her polished sea glass and sea whispers which tell her that her future is set to change course.

Shortly after old Per warns that ‘there’s an evil coming to Mora... and it’s already on its way,’ a small boat crashes on the rocks.

Hetty is the first to help with the search for survivors but only one person is washed up on the shore, a frail, strange old woman who is barely alive and whose face has been darkening Hetty’s sea glass.

But death and disaster come with her and it is clear to many that the old woman is a bad omen and the bringer of evil prophesied by old Per.

As the islanders grow hostile, Hetty knows that she must take matters into her own hands. The solution is wild, dangerous and frightening and as she heads out to sea, a storm is breaking and the whispers that she’s heard before are louder than ever.

Can she save the old woman and will she ever be able to silence the voices?

Sea of Whispers is a slow-burning, atmospheric story from the winner of the Carnegie Medal. Bowler handles grown-up themes with insight and sensitivity whilst delivering an intriguing, wildly romantic and compelling mystery.

(OUP, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Mulberry For Sale (The Meadow Vale Ponies) by Che Golden and Thomas Docherty

Saddle up again for another gallopingly good adventure with horse-mad Sam and her mischievous pony Mulberry who just can’t help getting into trouble.

This sparkling series for younger readers comes from the pen of Che Golden whose cast list of horses is based on animals she has actually ridden. And her funny, heart-warming stories are a transport of joy for little girls who dream of having a pony of their own.

Here we find Sam broken-hearted when she learns that her favourite pony Mulberry is going to be sold. Fortunately for everyone concerned, Mulberry has decided to be very fussy about the home she goes to and sets about causing some serious mischief!

Sam is the only rider who can really talk to and understand Mulberry. They want to stay together but is their special bond strong enough to persuade Sam’s mum to buy the naughtiest pony at Meadow Vale Stables?

Charmingly illustrated by Thomas Docherty’s cosy, characterful illustrations and with horse facts and an entertaining ‘pony-mad’ quiz at the back of the book, these action-packed stories are horse heaven for little girls.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £5.99)

Age 2 plus:

I Totally Don’t Want to Play! by Ann Bonwill and Simon Rickerty

Growing up is a minefield for little children and learning about friends and friendships is one of the biggest steps we make.

So where better to turn for a gentle, reassuring lesson about caring and sharing than the two unlikely and lovable playmates, Hugo the Hippo and Bella the Bird.

Their amazing adventures and heart-warming messages are ideal for capturing the imaginations of the family’s youngest members who revel in their games and antics.

Hugo has his routine and part of that involves going skating with Bella. In fact he always does everything with Bella so when Bella makes a new friend and announces she’s going to the playground with Cressida the crocodile instead, Hugo is understandably miffed.

At the playground, everything seems to be made for two including the swings, the see-saw and playing leapfrog. However the friends pair up, someone always feels left out. But there is something that they can all enjoy together and, when they discover what it is, it proves that three really is better than two!

Ann Bonwill’s simple but effective read-aloud text is brought to life by the wonderfully bold and quirky illustrations of new talent Simon Rickerty.

A big, beautiful picture book that was just made for sharing…

(OUP, hardback, £11.99)