Book reviews: Adventure, learning and fun with Oxford University Press

Visit an out-of-this-world fairground, discover the fun way to learn at home, and follow a flight of fancy with a girl who is half-fairy and half-vampire.

Wednesday, 3rd May 2017, 1:17 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:53 pm
Adventure, learning and fun with Oxford University Press
Adventure, learning and fun with Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press have a fantastic selection of children’s books this May, all guaranteed to entertain, educate and enlighten. From outrageous adventures and embarrassing dads to a whimsical picture book and activity packs that help prepare for SATs tests, there is a whole galaxy of reading to enjoy.

Age 7 plus:

Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

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Hold on tight, there’s a thrilling new adventure from the amazingly creative Reeve and McIntyre team… and it’s going to be a rollercoaster ride!

Much-loved children’s author Philip Reeve and talented illustrator Sarah McIntyre are the dynamic duo who brought us Oliver and the Seawigs, Cakes in Space and Pugs of the Frozen North, and now they are back to delight and entertain with their fourth fun-packed outing.

Jinks & O’Hare Funfair Repair, a high-octane sci-fi odyssey, features their now trademark mix of fantastic storytelling, extraordinarily vivacious illustrations, knockabout humour, extrovert characters and rip-roaring action.

Emily loves living on Funfair Moon, a wonderful place which has the highest helter-skelters, the longest rollercoasters, the bounciest trampolines, the scariest ghost train and the most delicious candyfloss in the entire galaxy.

Ever since she hatched out of a pale blue egg left on the Switchback of Doom, she has been happy living on her own in the little room over the Lost Property Office. And there’s nothing she likes better than popping next door to help Jinks & O’Hare, the extraordinary repair team who keep Funfair Moon running smoothly.

But when chaos strikes during a crucial funfair inspection, Emily is determined to lend a hand even if no one has actually asked her to. But she will have to act fast if she is to deal with a violent fudgesplosion, a gravity inversion, and a marauding candyfloss creature. Does this finally spell doom for Funfair Moon?

Reeve and McIntyre are on top form in an inventive and highly imaginative story brimming with amazing aliens, bizarre creatures, madness and mayhem.

Ideal for children moving on from short chapter books to longer-length novels, this is just the kind of adventure book to make reading fun, entertaining… and addictive.

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

Age 4 plus:

I Can Read with Biff, Chip and Kipper Pack Series created by 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.

To complement the series, educational experts have designed a selection of imaginative and home activity and learning packs which include books, flashcards and fun activities, allowing parents to support their youngsters throughout their primary school years.

These wonderful educational aids provide hours of hands-on learning play for children who are eager to practise the knowledge and skills they will need to become clear and effective communicators of language.

Packed with fun activities, stories and facts about Biff, Chip and Kipper and their dog Floppy, the I Can Read kit has been specially developed to help your child succeed at reading. Created by experts and based on current teaching practice, it reinforces your child’s reading lessons at school.

Phonics practise and First Stories are the two major learning strands in the I Can Read activity pack. The phonics books are entertaining stories which enable children to practise their letters and sounds just as they do at school. First Stories are two motivating stories which help new readers practise reading everyday words and develop vocabulary.

Discover what Biff, Chip and Kipper’s real names are, who is in the same class as Biff and Chip at school, who is Kipper’s best friend and who likes playing with Floppy.

Also included is a Fact File, an exciting guide to the world of Biff, Chip and Kipper and their friends, and a fun neighbourhood poster with stickers. Discover where Biff, Chip and Kipper live and then fill in the missing images with stickers.

There are invaluable tips for parents to help their children to read in a fun and engaging way, to build confidence as they work through the pack and to inspire a lifetime love of reading. And there are free eBooks and advice at

If only all lessons could be this much fun!

(OUP, hardback, £12.99)

Age 5-7:

My Telling the Time Activity Kit Series created by Roderick Hunt and Alex Brychta

Reading is not the only fun activity in this inspirational series… youngsters can also learn to tell the time with Biff, Chip and Kipper.

Children learn best when they are enjoying themselves and this My Telling the Time Activity Kit is the ideal way to learn and practise time-telling skills in line with National Curriculum guidelines.

The entertaining pack introduces children to the concept and language of time through fun, interactive activities and they can develop confidence in telling the time in the company of Biff, Chip and Kipper, characters they know and love.

The Kipper Tells the Time storybook lets parents read and share with children to build an awareness of routines, sequences and the language of time, while the Telling the Time workbook features a fun activity and sticker book for children to practise telling the time on both analogue and digital clocks and flashcards help to develop skills through interaction and play.

Time passes quickly when you’re having fun!

(OUP, hardback, £12.99)

Age 5 plus:

Isadora Moon Gets in Trouble by Harriet Muncaster

Half-vampire, half-fairy Isadora Moon is on another flight of fancy in her latest sparkly adventure.

The unique and adorable Isadora, complete with fangs, wings and a crazy family, is the much-loved creation of author and illustrator Harriet Muncaster and a uniquely different and dynamic storybook heroine.

Full to its sparkly covers with crazy capers and enchanting pink and black illustrations, this magical series of first chapter books is perfect for early readers who like their glitter with a bit of bite!

Isadora’s mum is a fairy and her dad is a vampire and she is a bit of both. There is nothing Isadora likes better than adventures so when her cousin Mirabelle comes to stay, the madcap little girl is really excited. Mirabelle, who is a witch, is older than Isadora and always has the best ideas for things to do. So when she suggests Isadora takes a dragon to the Bring Your Pet to School Day instead of her magic cuddly toy, Pink Rabbit, Isadora ignores her worries and goes along with the plan. But looking after a dragon at school turns out to be a little bit harder than they had expected!

Isadora and her out-of-this-world family are perfectly created for little girls who are getting bored with run-of-the-mill fairies and princesses, and are eager to get their teeth into something new and exciting.

Clever, imaginative, funny and positively fizzing with fairies and vampires, Isadora’s adventures always leave youngsters hungry for more!

(OUP, paperback, £5.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Dressing-Up Dad by Maudie Smith and Paul Howard

Dads come in all shapes and sizes… and sometimes they can be so embarrassing!

Enjoy the fun and games in this warm-hearted and funny picture book about a little boy who loves his dad dressing up for his parties, but starts to wonder what it would be like to have, well, just an ordinary dad.

Award-winning illustrator Paul Howard provides the brilliantly playful and evocative pictures for a touching story from writer and performer Maudie Smith which celebrates the eternal joys of being – and having – a dad.

Danny loves dressing up and so does Danny’s dad! Whether it is robots at a robot party or superheroes in the supermarket, they’ll dress up anywhere, at any time, whatever the occasion. At Danny’s pirate party, his dad was the most piratey pirate of them all… but sometimes Danny wonders what it would be like to have an ordinary everyday dad like other people have. So on his next birthday, he tells his dad not to dress up but to come as an ordinary dad. But when the party doesn’t go with a swing, Danny soon learns that ordinary dads aren’t half as much fun as a dressing-up dad!

Little ones will adore Danny’s dad and all his wonderful costumes, and will enjoy spotting Danny’s pet dog in a host of adorable costumes, from a fish to a shark and a ladybird, whilst learning important lessons about being yourself, even if it means you don’t always fit in.

The perfect book every child who ever cringed at dad’s antics… and the ideal gift for Father’s Day!

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

A Home for Gully by Jo Clegg and Lalalimola

Meet a seagull who desperately wants a new home… and ends up with a new family instead!

Author Jo Clegg takes youngsters on a magical journey through a busy, bustling city, from the grandeur of a swanky hotel to the quiet surroundings of the city library, in a warm and whimsical picture book brimming with laughter, loyalty and love.

Gully is a plucky little seagull doing his best to get along in the big city. He would love to find a home that doesn’t get swept away every morning by the city park keepers. On the day that he decides to look for a new home, he is joined by Fetch, a raggle-taggle but helpful sausage dog, Madison, a haughty but nice underneath alley cat, and Zachary, a clever but kindly rat. And before long, he discovers something much more important… a ready-made family who would just love to share their lives with him!

Talented Spanish-born illustrator Lalalimola provides a gorgeous gallery of pitch perfect, intricately detailed, retro style pictures which bring to life the urban landscape, gregarious Gully and the lively, lovable bunch of animal friends who are all part of city life.

Brimming with the feelgood factor, Gully’s story emphasises the importance of family – no matter who or what makes up that family – as well as celebrating the joys of friendship and shared experiences.

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)