Book review: A walk on the wild side with OUP children’s books

Survival is the name of the game in some exciting new books to tempt young readers this summer.

By Pam Norfolk
Monday, 6th July 2015, 10:00 am
A walk on the wild side with OUP childrens books
A walk on the wild side with OUP childrens books

Oxford University Press children’s books, whose mission is to lay the foundation for a life-long love of reading, have put adventure, mystery and good old-fashioned fun at the heart of a sparkling new line-up.

Celebrate 70 years of everyone’s favourite quirky heroine, Pippi Longstocking, go wild with a bunch of footballing ‘misfits,’ help to track down a very special cat, enjoy a lyrical tribute to family love, meet an alien who is actually a human and go ape with a sleepless toddler.

Age 8 plus:

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Charlie Merrick’s Misfits in I’m a Nobody, Get Me Out of Here! by Dave Cousins

Charlie and his football-mad gang are back for more mayhem and madcap fun in the second of Dave Cousins’ exhilarating Charlie Merrick’s Misfits series.

This hilarious, slapstick series kicked off last year to coincide with the excitement of the World Cup Finals, and now the ill-assorted team of misfits are heading off for a new adventure… and this one is definitely on the wild side!

And with the multi-talented Cousins orchestrating all the action, the antics on a survival camp week are all brought to glorious life by cheeky chappie Charlie’s own hilarious words and outlandish doodles.

‘Help! Somebody get me out of here! This is all a huge mistake! I can’t believe we ended up in this mess! Well, actually I can. To be honest I’m not at all surprised. This is exactly the kind of thing that always happens to us!’ Instead of the expected soccer camp, Charlie and his gang have ended up at the ‘Go Wild’ survival camp for a whole week.

Scar-faced leader Survival Clive, complete with glass eye and bitten ear, splits them into teams and dumps them in the middle of the forest. They’ve got just three days to make it back to base camp. But there’s a rumour that a wild beast is on the loose, rival team the Wild Warriors, are pinching their stuff, and Charlie and Nature just don’t mix! If they’re going to make it back home, the Misfits will have to use all their skill and guile to survive.

A honey trap for kids who like their books to be easy to read and visually exciting, Cousins packs this brilliantly funny adventure story with different illustration styles, from sketches and eye-catching fonts to quirky comic strips.

There are also plenty of Bear Grylls style real-life survival tips like building a shelter, navigating without a compass and making your own camp fire.

Funny, accessible and deliciously irreverent, Charlie’s Misfits are the perfect fit for thrill-seeking boys and girls of all reading abilities.

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

Age 10 plus:

Shadow Cat by Gillian Cross

Carnegie Medal-winning children’s author Gillian Cross returns to her much-loved animal theme in this spellbinding adventure story featuring two mismatched youngsters with a shared secret.

Nolan has an up-and-down sort of life, mainly because his mum suffers from bipolar depression. For days, she is so miserable that she can hardly make it into work, and the next thing she is buzzing about the place, full of smiles and surprises. This time, she had dyed her hair green – bright emerald green to be precise – sold everything they own, and announced that they are both going on a road trip, destination unknown.

Feather, meanwhile, travels in private planes and expensive cars, tagging along with her rock star father. Every minute of her life is planned, and she hates it. When the two meet up, they have nothing in common, until an escaped African wild cat, a serval, leaps into their lives. Together they vow to secretly protect the beautiful, dangerous cat. But someone else wants the serval too, and she will stop at nothing to get it…

This is a beautiful, clever and funny story, combining a gripping adventure, a desire to help endangered wildlife and a new and refreshing perspective on the realities of child carers living with adult illnesses. Cross also shows us that the other man’s grass is not always greener than our own, and that material possessions do not necessarily bring happiness.

A compelling mix of real life issues and exciting fiction…

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

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 2 plus:

Betty Goes Bananas in her Pyjamas Written and illustrated by Steve Antony

She’s back… and no one is going to get any sleep!

Author and illustrator Steve Antony works his magic and mayhem again as his hilarious, sleepless, tantrum-prone toddler gorilla Betty goes bananas again… this time in her pyjamas.

When it’s time for bed, Betty goes ape with her noisiest toys. Far better to play the flute, bang the drums and blow her trumpet than head off to bed. Mr Toucan tries everything he can to get her to go to sleep but Betty just wants to play with her toys. Maybe a soothing bedtime story will help…

Mums and dads will laugh out loud at Betty’s very recognisable antics while your own tireless toddlers might just have ‘paws’ for thought as they build up their own bedtime head of steam.

Antony’s witty artwork and brilliant observations have made his anarchic ape a picture book star, and captured the hearts and minds of parents and children everywhere.

Fun for all the family!

(OUP, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

My Alien and Me Written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and illustrated by Tom McLaughlin

Being the outsider is no fun, especially when everyone thinks you are an alien!

Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Tom McLaughlin turn the whole concept of ‘aliens from outer space’ on its head in a comical and clever picture book with touching messages wrapped in its beguiling little story.

A strange alien creature has crash landed, all the way from planet Earth! He doesn’t understand Jupiter jellyfish or solar surfing, and he just doesn’t fit in. But suddenly, the human ‘alien’ and his green-coloured adversary discover that they have quite a few things in common, like playing games and having lots of fun.

This endearing, action-packed tale about the journey from hostility to friendship celebrates our individuality and proves that we can be friends no matter what planet we come from.

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

I’ll Catch You if You Fall Written by Mark Sperring and illustrated by Layn Marlow

Row, row, row your boat… all the way to dreamland!

Mark Sperring and Layn Marlow set sail with the perfect bedtime story as a little boy on a little boat, on a big ocean, asks a star to keep them safe.

Warmth, love and reassurance oozes from the pages of this delightful picture book which is guaranteed to calm bedtime blues and ease night time fears.

Big or small, near or far, we all need someone to watch over us. When a little boy asks ‘Who will keep me safe?’ there are plenty to answer ‘I will.’

Layn Marlow’s enchanting illustrations perfectly capture the mood and atmosphere created by Mark Sperring’s lyrical prose which speaks loudly of the importance of family, parental love and security.

A beautiful story with a powerful message…

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)