Book reviews: A winter wonderland of books with Oxford University Press

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Put away the Xbox, switch off the telly and discover the true spirit of Christmas in a sparkling selection of children’s book from Oxford University Press.

Their fabulous festive collection includes a feisty fairy having a (snow) ball, an injured baby rabbit in need of some Christmas cheer, an adventurous guinea pig, everyone’s fun-loving favourite Pippi Longstocking and a lyrical wildlife story from a gifted author.

Age 5 plus:

Nixie: Wonky Winter Wonderland by Cas Lester and Ali Pye

Put on your warmest hat, find a cosy pair of gloves and head out into the snow with Cas Lester’s irrepressible Nixie… the funny, feisty fairy with mischief in her magic!

What little girl can resist a fairy who is a disaster with a wand? Lester spent many years working in children’s television with CBBC, and this super, star-dusted series featuring adorable

Nixie certainly packs a rib-tickling punch with its vivacious, visual antics.

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

This time, we find naughty Nixie causing a fun-filled snow storm with her wonderful wonky wand in a winter-time adventure.

Is there anything more exciting than looking out of your bedroom window and discovering a world covered in snow? For Nixie, the bad, bad fairy it can mean only one thing… fun! And while the rest of the fairies are busy preparing for the Midwinter Midnight Feast, Nixie is off for some sledging, skating and snowball battles. And no one is safe from Nixie’s expertly aimed snowballs or her mischievous wand!

But things go from fun to fiasco when Nixie decides to use her wonky wand to add some winter excitement. Can she prove that she’s not such a bad, bad fairy but actually a rather ingenious one?

The lovely and lovable Nixie continues to cast her special spell on all those fairy-loving, adventure-seeking youngsters who know that being good all the time is just pure fiction!

(OUP, paperback, £5.99)

Age 6 plus:

Lucy’s Magic Snow Globe by Anne Booth

The true spirit of Christmas spirit comes alive with warmth and wonder as Anne Booth serves up another of her feelgood festive fantasies.

Following on from last year’s winsome winner, Lucy's Secret Reindeer, Booth sprinkles her stardust again over the adventures of little Lucy, a girl who loves to help sick or abandoned animals.

With beautifully atmospheric black-and-white illustrations by Sophy Williams, this is an irresistible tale for youngsters starting to read on their own and perfect for sharing with parents on cold winter nights.

Lucy has found a tiny baby rabbit, injured and all alone. With a house full of visitors from Australia, looking after him is going to be difficult, and it seems like only a miracle can save him.

But with the help of her special snow globe, and a sprinkle of magic stardust, Lucy might just reunite him with his own family in time for Christmas Day.

Packed with the magic of Christmas time and the traditional message of goodwill, Lucy’s Magic Snow Globe is written in simple language and short chapters making it an easy and enjoyable read for younger children.

And with its sparkly cover to add an extra glow and pages of fascinating facts, activities and pet care information, this is the perfect stocking filler for all little animal lovers…

(OUP, paperback, £4.99)

Age 5 plus:

Olga da Polga by Michael Bond and Catherine Rayner

Lovable Paddington Bear is not the only animal star creation of veteran author Michael Bond… a guinea pig called Olga da Polga has also been stealing children’s hearts for over 40 years.

Olga, a tall tale teller with a colourful cast of quirky friends who made her first appearance on the pages of children’s book in 1971, was named after the Bond family’s real guinea pig and her adventures are the stuff of legend.

And from the very beginning there was not the slightest doubt that Olga da Polga, a cheeky, fun-loving, curious creature, was the sort of guinea pig who was destined to go places.

Following the style of famous 18th century German storyteller Baron Munchausen, exaggeration is what Olga does best and it is this entertaining facet of her irresistible personality that makes her so loved by parents and children alike.

This sumptuous, beautifully produced gift edition is packed with over 100 pictures from award-winning illustrator Catherine Rayner who brings new life and her own special animal magic to the amazing adventures of the gregarious guinea pig.

In this collection of stories from Bond, now aged 89, Olga has left the pet shop to start a new life with her owners, Mr and Mrs Sawdust and their daughter Karen. Her home is now a large and airy hutch and it’s not long before she meets Noel the cat, Fangio the hedgehog and Graham the tortoise. Her garden companions soon discover that Olga loves an audience and from the moment she arrives she tells them tales about her wild and exciting adventures. Although they are not always sure whether to believe everything Olga says, one thing is certain… since Olga moved in, life is never dull!

Nosy, mischievous, boastful and permanently hungry, Olga da Polga is as unforgettable as her stories.

Ideal for reading aloud and sharing, or as a read-alone book for more confident youngsters, this is the perfect present for all animal lovers.

(OUP, hardback, £12.99)

Age 4 plus:

Super Happy Magic Forest by Matty Long

Five brave heroes, an epic quest through forests, graveyards, dungeons and frozen wastelands…

Soon all will be ‘crystal’ clear… this outsized book and outsized adventure has already been dubbed Tolkien for toddlers!

Where do you start telling the story of major new picture book talent Matty Long whose distinctive, quirky and funny debut has got everybody talking… not least about his incredibly detailed artwork.

There is so much to see and talk about on every page of this amazing story about five unlikely heroes (a unicorn, a gnome, a fairy, a faun, and a mushroom) who go on an epic quest to save their home, the amazing Super Happy Magic Forest, after the happiness-giving Mystical Crystals of Life are stolen. Our five brave adventurers will have to dig out the root of all evil if they are to restore the crystals, and peace and tranquillity, to the forest…

Children will love exploring the illustrations and getting to know the outlandish cast of characters and an irreverent fantasy world which pays homage to the landscape of Tolkien. To help youngsters on their way, the inside cover features a map that allows readers to follow the adventure through the Super Happy Magic Forest world.

Every busy, bold page features new ideas and concepts but the story remains simple, highly imaginative and carefully crafted.

A true work of art…

(OUP, hardback, £12.99)

Age 7 plus:

Do You Know Pippi Longstocking? Written by Astrid Lindgren and illustrated by Ingrid Nyman

Some storybook characters never age ... take Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, the eccentric girl whose adventures have been thrilling children since 1945.

Lindgren, who died in 2002, grew up at a farm in the south of Sweden. She began her writing career in 1944 after she won a children’s book competition, with Pippi Longstocking appearing a year later. She published more than one hundred books in her lifetime and is still the most popular children’s author in Sweden.

In a raft of new Oxford University Press editions to mark 70 years of her best-loved, irrepressible supergirl, a new generation of children can enjoy Pippi’s mischievous escapades and the joie-de-vivre that never fail to enchant youngsters of every age.

This gorgeous picture book introduction to Pippi, complete with Ingrid Nyman’s original colour illustrations, has a superb retro look and feel.

When Pippi moves in next door to Tommy and Annika, they are totally amazed by their new playmate. Pippi is cheeky, courageous and completely unpredictable. She lives alone with a monkey, a horse, and no rules whatsoever! In fact, everything is fun with Pippi around. Watch her as she performs at the circus, uses her super strength to stop two robbers, and throws a very unusual birthday party.

There is mayhem and madness galore as the invincible Pippi turns the adult world upside down (literally in some escapades!) and makes life joyous for all the children who come into her orbit.

A magical introduction to the weird and wonderful world of Pippi…

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Rising by Tom Moorhouse

Last year, Oxford University zoologist Tom Moorhouse took the world of children’s books by storm with a stunning debut novel charting the trials and tribulations of a group of water voles.

The River Singers, a lyrical, emotion-packed story, paid homage to the fragile beauty of the natural world as well as delivering a thrilling adventure about a species of animal that is classed as seriously endangered.

And now the sequel has arrived, returning Moorhouse’s army of fans – young and old – to the banks of the mesmerising Great River and the vivid animal world where excitement and danger are only ever a heartbeat away.

An incredibly evocative and beautifully detailed gallery of black and white illustrations add life and vigour to Moorhouse’s gripping story which is punctuated by his trademark wry humour, timeless messages about the importance of family and friendship, and an almost ethereal portrayal of the countryside.

What started out as a ‘chilly splatter’ blown in on freshening breeze has become an endless deluge spreading across burrow walls, soaking bedding and turning floors to mud… the adult voles on the Wetted Land believe their river god Sinethis is ‘drinking from the sky.’

Youngsters Kale and Strife are excited by the unexpected arrival of their favourite uncle Sylvan but he has come to warn the vole family before it’s too late to escape.

Little do Kale and Strife realise it but soon they will be running for their lives as a new danger threatens to destroy everything and everyone they care about. They will need all their strength and courage to survive the journey into the unknown. But the shadows are full of enemies, and still more surprises lie in wait… will they ever make it back home again?

The Rising shows us nature in its stark ‘red in tooth and claw’ reality, a place where staying alive is a constant battle and where animals must work together to build homes, protect their young and evade their many predators.

But above all, it delivers a beautiful, uplifting story full of excitement, lyricism and peril, and allows children a glimpse of Britain’s amazing but ever-shrinking colony of water voles whose future survival constantly hangs in the balance.

An exceptional series from an exceptional author…

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

Age 12 plus:

Railhead by Philip Reeve

Don’t miss the train! Carnegie medal-winning author Philip Reeve is back in the driving seat with his long-awaited new blockbuster novel and this is a journey no teen reader would want to miss.

For ten years, Reeve has been imagining and planning Railhead, a fantasy science-fiction story set in an advanced futuristic galaxy of worlds linked by a system of rail networks.

In a deliberate move away from post-apocalyptic stories, Reeve brings us a universe peopled by incredible intergalactic trains and extraordinary beings like Motorik robots, spy and maintenance drones, Station Angels and sentient trains.

The girl in the red coat had said ‘Come with me, Zen Starling.’ But how did she know his name? The Great Network is a place of drones and androids, maintenance spiders and Station Angels. It’s the place of the thousand gates, where sentient trains criss-cross the galaxy in a heartbeat.

Zen Starling is a petty thief, a street urchin from Thunder City. So when mysterious stranger Raven sends Zen and his new friend Nova on a mission to infiltrate the Emperor’s train, he jumps at the chance to traverse the Great Network, to cross the galaxy in a heartbeat, to meet interesting people… and to steal their stuff. But the Great Network, governed by an elite class with the shadowy consent of Guardians, a god-like group of intelligent beings, is a dangerous place, and Zen has no idea where his journey will take him...

Fast moving, packed with scintillating science-fiction and all set in a world that is wonderfully immersive, emotive, scary and exciting, Railhead is a brilliant piece of writing for readers both young and adult.

And with the film rights already sold to Warner Brothers, expect to see more of Zen and his wild and dangerous world…

(OUP, hardback, £9.99)