Our favourite children’s books

To celebrate International Children’s Book Day on April 2, we asked the OUP Australia staff to name their favourite children’s books.

There were books that made us laugh and made us cry, but can you guess the only book that was mentioned by two staff members?

Sophie

My favourite book as a child was Elizabeth Honey’s 45 + 47 Stella Street and everything that happened. The characters’ adventures taking place in Australian suburbia made me feel like I could see myself in the book, and as if everyday life had a lot more mystery!

Alex

I’ll go for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It’s about a boy who has the worst day ever – nothing seems to go right. And at the end of the day, when he’s feeling very dejected, his mum just tells him, ‘Some days are like that.’ It’s a good thing to remember, even when you’re an adult!

Amanda

I loved The Tiger Who Came to Tea – this story it used to make me laugh so much that a tiger was sitting down to eat tea and cake! And I loved the illustrations, I can remember my year 1 teacher reading me this in quiet time and I loved it so much I went home and asked for it for my birthday! I read it to my children now and they love it to and laugh at the same parts that I did.

Marta

I remember loving Unbelievable by Paul Jennings. I’m pretty sure I borrowed it from the school library many times. I also loved the books by June Factor (Unreal Banana Peel, Far Out, Brussel Sprout!, All Right, Vegemite! And Real Keen Baked Bean) because I found the poems funny and cheeky. I read and re-read these books many times. I also enjoyed the spooky Goosebumps books.

Emma

My daughter and I loved The Tiger Who Came to Tea, a quirky English classic I think, you never really do find out just why the tiger came or where it went afterwards. At a recent ‘Book Day Dress-up’ parade at my daughter’s school, one of the preppies arrived in a tiger suit holding a teapot. I think my daughter and I were the only other people there who knew who that character was!

Elisabeth

I loved (well, still do love) Magic Beach by Alison Lester. My family has a beach house, and this book always reminds me of spending holidays there with all of my cousins. Sometimes we would read it while there, and we would all choose a different character from the book to be.

Angela

I was part of the generation who got to grow up alongside the Harry Potter kids, and I treasured every one of those books. Of course, part of the joy is in the fantastical adventures. But, I also loved how important it was that the characters learned new things along the way – about magic, but also about each other, and about themselves.

When in doubt, go to the library.

Nami

One of my favourite books to have read aloud to me as a child was The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover from ‘The Little Golden Books’ series. It’s a great interactive book that breaks the fourth wall by having Grover (from Sesame Street) try to prevent the reader from turning the pages of the book for fear of a monster at the end. Spoiler, the monster is him.

Lucas

My favourite books were: Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss and Water Wings by Morris Gleitzman.

Fleur

I only just discovered The Giving Tree when my daughter received it for her birthday. I can’t decide whether it warms my heart or makes me feel sad – let’s just say that it is bittersweet. It is about the relationship between a tree and a child, and how that changes as the child grows up. I also loved The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton and Dr Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go – another book that is hopeful and heartbreaking at the same time. As I got older, I loved Bridge to Terabithia and Came Back to Show You I Could Fly.

Sharlene

My favourite children’s book is Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner. This is a magnificent piece of Australian storytelling describing the turbulent life of a family with seven children who live in early outback Australia. The seven children are an entertaining cast of characters and at times prove to be sources of frustration for their father, the very strict, Captain Woolcot, and his new young wife, not much older than his oldest daughter. My favourite character was the lively Judy who always found herself displeasing her father by finding herself at the centre of some sort of mischievous and troublesome activity. In the book we are introduced to (or reminded of) the growing pains children and young adults are confronted with, many of which are relevant and resonate with modern readers.

Melpo

I remember The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters by Allan Ahlberg being the most coveted book in the school library – the reserve list was insane! The reason it was so popular was because it was interactive (letters in envelopes) – a new feat in the early 90s. Very much worth the wait time.

One year for my birthday my Godparents bought me the audio book (in cassette-form) of Josie Smith by Magdalen Nabb. It was read by George Layton whose voice was so charismatic and diverse that it was incredibly easy to imagine Josie’s world in a small British town.

The series that made me fall in love with reading was Baby-sitters Little Sister by Ann M. Martin. It was a spinoff of The Baby-sitters Club for a slightly younger audience. The protagonist Karen Brewer was imaginative, assertive, sassy and my first literary role model.

Geraldine

When my kids were little, we loved reading a book called Dog In, Cat Out by Gillian Rubinstein and Ann James. The story perfectly captures domestic life with small kids and animals. There are four words in the book: cat, dog, in, out; but the detail in the pictures makes it fun to read over and over.

Joe

As a tiny tot I was obsessed with the illustrations of different types of families in The Baby’s Catalogue by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. In kindergarten I moved on to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, even though it spooked me a bit. In Primary School I loved anything by Roald Dahl, but particularly Boy and Fantastic Mr. Fox.


Answer: The Tiger Who Came to Tea was Amanda and Emma’s favourite.

How dictionaries can help children become independent readers

The first time a child reads a chapter book on their own is an exciting milestone in their literacy journey. Suddenly, they can explore the world of books at their own pace, without always relying on having an adult beside them. But is there a way of encouraging and supporting children in their early years of independent reading to ensure their love of books continues?

In my household, one of the signs of my seven-year-old son’s emerging ability to read independently was a new fascination with words, such as tremendous and astonished, which are rarely heard outside of Enid Blyton books. Similarly, we could all tell that my niece had also been reading Blyton’s books when she started calling her brother’s behaviour ‘horrid’.

However, it is not just quaint words from old English that have emerged as new words for my son since he started reading independently. I have also been surprised by his use of unusual and sophisticated language found in David Walliams’  bestselling books.

In Mr Stink, there is an item which the titular character has purloined and a cloud which is malevolent. The tramp is described as not just smelly, but malodorous, and Christmas songs play incongruously in the background.

In his books, Walliams does not talk down to children and uses words that might challenge the most literate of parents. And I think this is a good thing. It is extremely valuable for children to build their vocabulary, especially when reading unfamiliar words in the context of a sentence within a book they are enjoying.

But while I was happy my son was building his vocabulary, I worried that his need to keep getting out of bed to ask the meanings of words might frustrate him and stifle his enjoyment of reading.

One way that I found to solve this problem was to offer him a children’s dictionary so he could look up words he hadn’t seen before on his own. My seven-year-old son has started grabbing his Early Years Dictionary to find the meanings of unfamiliar words, and the very act of looking up and reading the correct definitions has become part of the fun of reading. The dictionary has proved to be a useful tool to encourage and support his independent reading and build his vocabulary.

In a paper titled Vocabulary, written as a Closing the Gap Initiative, Anne Bayetto wrote of the importance of the  increased vocabulary children gain through reading widely.

“The link between vocabulary and comprehension is strong and significantly influences academic success,” she wrote.

“Vocabulary knowledge is fundamental to being an independent and successful reader and writer and is comprised of the words that are understood when heard or read.”

As mentioned before, building one’s vocabulary does not have to be boring, and discovering new words is often part of the fun of reading.  In an article published in The Chronicle, Alberto Manguel remembers the experience of asking a teacher what a word meant and being directed to the dictionary.

“We never thought of this as a punishment. On the contrary: With this command we were given the keys to a magic cavern in which one word would lead without rhyme or reason (except an arbitrary alphabetical reason) to the next.”

And so, with the help of some good books and a dictionary, I am enjoying watching my son discover new words and broaden his vocabulary – even if it might involve describing his sister as ‘horrid’.

Definitions according to Oxforddictionaries.com

Tremendous, adjective

1             Very great in amount, scale, or intensity.

‘Penny put in a tremendous amount of time’

‘there was a tremendous explosion’

Astonished, adjective

1             Greatly surprised or impressed; amazed.

‘he was astonished at the change in him’
‘we were astonished to hear of this decision’

Horrid, adjective

1             Causing horror.

‘a horrid nightmare’

Malodorous, adjective

1             Smelling very unpleasant.

‘leaking taps and malodorous drains’

Purloin, verb

1             Steal (something)

‘he must have managed to purloin a copy of the key’

Malevolent, adjective

1             Having or showing a wish to do evil to others.

‘the glint of dark, malevolent eyes’

Incongruous, adjective

1             Not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something.

‘the duffel coat looked incongruous with the black dress she wore underneath’

 

The Oxford children’s dictionaries are available from Oxford Australia.

 

Oxford First Dictionary

The lighter side of the Oxford Children’s Word of the Year

The word ‘equality’ might have been the Oxford Word of the Year, but not all entries tackled the big issues of our time.

Many of the entries from primary school students across Australia were funny and imaginative, bringing a smile to our faces as we read through the stories to put together our shortlist of words for the judges.

‘Slime’ featured in more than one entry (“it was brown and ugly. It felt watery and sticky.”), while alongside ‘freedom’, ‘refugee’, ‘loyalty’ and ‘bullying’, there were stories about ‘sausages’, a ‘rooster’ and a talking ant.

Unsurprisingly, fidget spinners were mentioned, but more unexpected was the fact that they were the theme of just one story.

In the spirit of Roald Dahl, made-up words included ‘mungry’, defined as ‘more than hungry’ and ‘hoodash’, which was a collection of letters two boys found in their adventures around Australia.

Here are excerpts from some of the entries that tickled our fancy, including a story about an ant who talked too much:

CWOTY ant

Food was also a hot topic, from macaroni to chicken nuggets:

CWOTY chicken

We loved reading the quirky rhyme submitted by one of the students:

CWOTY zoo

Thank you to all of the schools who entered the Oxford Children’s Word of the Year competition. We look forward to hearing from you in 2018!

Find out more about the winners of the Oxford University Press Children’s Word of the Year primary school writing competition.

 

Thirty years of Winnie and Wilbur: author Q&A

The much-loved duo of Winnie the witch and Wilbur her cat have celebrated their 30th year.

Friday the 13th of October marked three decades since Oxford University Press published the book series. Winnie and Wilbur are popular around the world, including in the UK, where they stared in a stage show in Birmingham and debuted on television, voiced by famous actors Katy Brand and Bill Bailey.

To celebrate the milestone and the release of the paperback Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa today, we asked author, and Australian ex-pat, Valerie Thomas about her writing life.

When did you decide to become a writer? I think I always wanted to be a writer, and to publish at least one book.

How many books have you had published? I’ve had about 25 books published.  I signed the contract with OUP Australia just before they decided not to publish children’s fiction any more. Leigh Hobbs was the illustrator.

How did you meet illustrator Korky Paul? I met Korky Paul when the editor at OUP gave Korky my story, Winnie the witch, to illustrate.  It won a prize and so we kept doing more stories.

How long does it take you to write a book? Some stories take a long time. It’s thinking up the ideas that is hard. Once I have the story in my head it doesn’t take too long to write down.

What are you working on now? I am working on the next Winnie and Wilbur story at the moment, and thinking about the one after that.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? I have two writing tips. 1. Read as much as you can.  2. Write as much as you can. The more you write, the better your writing should be, but there are no guarantees on that.

 

Celebrating World Teachers’ Day with the best and worst teachers in literature

More than a few famous writers started their professional lives as teachers, or taught at schools or universities between books.

Before Dan Brown wrote his bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, he taught English and Spanish, while William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies might have been inspired by his experience teaching high school English and philosophy. Frank McCourt, Joanne Harris and Philip Pullman were among the other best-selling writers to have spent some time as teachers.

So, there is little wonder that teachers have frequently appeared in books, often inspiring or protecting their young students. But, not all fictional teachers are presented in such a favourable light.

To mark World Teachers’ Day, here are some of the most memorable teachers in literature.

Miss Honey (Matilda by Roald Dahl)

Matilda was surrounded by horrible adults, from her self-absorbed parents to her terrifying headmaster, Agatha Trunchbull. But Miss Honey provided a ray of light for Matilda, protecting her from the worst of her parents and the cruel headmaster. Every child dreams of a kind and gentle teacher like Miss Honey taking them under their wing.

Miss Temple (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)

What is it about teachers standing in for absent or neglectful parents? In Jane Eyre, Miss Temple gives Jane one of her first tastes of kindness and love, doing her best to shield her from the cruelty of the headmaster and showing her small kindnesses that Jane has rarely experienced before.

Miss Harris (The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson)

Like the best teachers in real life, Miss Harris is kind and patient, and identifies Gilly’s intelligence. While Gilly, like Matilda, had few solid and reliable sources of support at home, Miss Harris provided a sense of benevolent stability.

 

These teachers were respected and adored by their students. However, not all depictions of teachers in literature are quite so positive.

Sheba and Barbara (Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller)

Both Sheba and Barbara have their own flaws in Notes on a Scandal. While Sheba embarks on an affair with her student, Barbara also displays worrying behaviours, from her obsession with her colleague to her vindictiveness on finding out about the affair and satisfaction on reporting it. Sheba might be unstable, but Barbara is cruel. They are two teachers that most parents would prefer not to have in front of their children’s classroom.

Julian Marrow (The Secret History by Donna Tartt)

In some ways the perfect teacher – passionate, inventive and knowledgeable, in other ways, Julian Marrow is one of the worst. He draws his students in, ultimately betraying them. Was he the mastermind behind the book’s central crime? Or was he merely a narcissist? Either way, he is far from the ideal teacher he might seem to be.

Agatha Trunchbull (Matilda by Roald Dahl)

Matilda might have eventually come under the protection of the lovely Miss Honey, but before that, she fell victim to Agatha Trunchbull. With her heaving chest and her huge presence, she despises children and dolls out cruel punishments including making a student eat an entire birthday cake on his own, in front of the class, and spinning a girl around by her pigtails. Miss Trunchbull is the stuff of children’s nightmares.

Who do you think are the best and worst teachers in fiction?

Rendunculous Dahl-inspired words from the Oxford Roald Dahl Competition

celebrating-roald-dahlWe would like to thank everyone who participated in the Oxford Roald Dahl Competition. The response was overwhelming – we received over 3000 entries – and all entries were very entertaining.
We took great pleasure in reading through the hopscotchy, phizz-whizzing and rendunculous Dahl-inspired words – there are no limits to a child’s imagination!
One school got in the Roald Dahl spirit and celebrated the end of term with a genuine ‘Roald Dahl Norwegian Breakfast’ and took delight in eating boiled potatoes, salmon, hard-boiled eggs and old-fashioned lollies.

Oxford Roald Dahl Competition winners

Congratulations to the following schools for their winning entries. Each of the winning schools have received a selection of fantastic fiction and an Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary:

St Gabriel’s School, Traralgon, Victoria
Sparktastic
You look sparkling and smell good.

Woodend Primary School, Woodend, Victoria
Gnob twizle
A very yuck lolly.

Williamstown North Primary School, Williamstown, Victoria
Fuzzle bottom
When someone is being bored and not wanting to do anything

Toukley Public School, Groken, New South Wales
Thinkleminkle
When you dance while you’re thinking about what is for dinner.

Mitcham Primary School, Mitcham, Victoria
Flabbersquirt
A menace or someone who is naughty. For example, “The flabbersquirt pranked his mum.”

St Maroun’s College, Dulwich Hill, New South Wales
Sumboloolumboloo [prounounced sum-boloo-lumb-oloo]
To eat food with your toe while picking your nose. For example, “One time while watching Barbie I sumboloolumboloo.”

Taroona High School, Taroona, Tasmania
Quinstocktottle
To transform an extremely boring situation into an extremely fun one. For example, “He completely quinstocktottled that assembly.”

rd9780192736451Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary
Illustrated by Quentin Blake, contributions by Susan Rennie & Roald Dahl

9780192736451
Harback
RRP $19.95
This is not an ordinary dictionary.

This is an extra-unusual dictionary full of everyday words and extraordinary inventions to inspire a lifelong love of reading, writing and language.

Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary

rd9780192736451To mark the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth this week we are publishing the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary. Books including Matilda, The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Twits have inspired generations to play with language and make up words.

Some Dahlesque words for your everyday:

A word for the weekend…

Hopscotchy – adjective

If you feel hopscotchy, you feel happy and cheerful, as if you have drunk a whole bottle of frobscottle.

‘Whenever I is feeling a bit scrotty,’ the BFG said, ‘a few gollops of frobscottle is always making me hopscotchy again.’ – The BFG.

A term for those you know who let all their hair grow…

Hirsute – adjective

Hirsute is a very useful word to describe The Twits because it means hairy or untrimmed, so Mr Twit is hirsute and so is Mrs Twit’s unweeded garden.

A compliment…

Splendiferous – adjective

Splendid, marvelous.

‘Your grandad,’ he said, ‘my own dad, was a magnificent and splendiferous poacher. It was he who taught me all about it.’ – Danny the Champion of the World.

Did you know? The word splendiferous was not invented by Roald Dahl. It is an old word that was first used more than five hundred years ago. Another old word with the same meaning is splendacious.

A snack…

Snozzberry – noun snozzberries

A type of berry you can eat.

‘Lovely stuff, lickable wallpaper!’ cried Mr Wonka, rushing past. ‘It has pictures of fruits on it – bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, pineapples, strawberries, and snozzberries…’ – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary
From aardvark to zozimus, a real dictionary of everyday and extra-usual words.
RRPA$19.95
9780192736451

Available now from all good bookstores.

Using humour to inspire young writers

Hey, want to hear a joke?
Novice pirates make terrible singers because they can’t hit the high seas. 
(Cue collective groan)

Sometimes humour can be in-your-face and silly (like the joke above), and other times it can be more subtle. Whether it’s a pun, a child’s knock-knock joke, a funny movie, or situation comedy on television, we all enjoy a good laugh. Given this natural human tendency to appreciate humour, how might we, as educators, leverage humour in our teaching?  This idea deserves further attention.

Consider how social humour is. Think about the last time you watched a funny movie or television show with someone. When something funny happens on screen we turn to the person beside us as if to say ‘did you get it?’ It’s almost as if sharing the joke or funny situation enhances its humour.  The same is true with children, especially with their reading. Think about when you were a child, and saw a group of other children huddled together around a book, laughing.  How did you respond to that situation? You probably wanted to know what was so funny!  We all want to know what’s so funny. We all want to be part of the joke. Humour is a social phenomenon.

I observed this firsthand when I researched how humorous children’s literature engages young readers.  My research revealed that humorous literature is a huge motivator for children to read. When they read humorous books, they want to read more in general, and more specifically they want to read books by that author or other funny authors.  Also, when they do read something funny, they want to share it with someone immediately, whether they are a friend, family member, or teacher. This has classroom implications for teachers around the globe, because humorous literature can reach both struggling and reluctant readers.

In a related research project, I found that humorous children’s literature also motivates young readers to become writers of humour.  This was more than just wanting to copy their favourite author’s style of writing, but a need to be creative and write funny stories as well.  That is why in my latest book there is an entire chapter discussing humorous texts and their value in the classroom, and what teachers can do to harness these texts in developing young writers.

Some tips to help promote writing using humorous texts:

  • Expand your definition of ‘genre’ to include humorous texts (comics, joke books, etc.).
  • Value and include comics in your classroom activities.
  • Read and learn about blended narratives (Zbaracki & Geringer 2014) such as the 13-Storey Treehouse.
  • Allow students to write their own comics, perhaps using technology, websites or apps, and read each other’s creations.
  • Use technology (such as the ‘Pun of the Day’ app) to encourage students to explore the multiple meanings of words.
  • Explore parodies of well-known fairy tales and nursery rhymes to inspire students to create their own parodies.

So, it’s important to remember that humour, in addition to being fun, has great benefits helping students in both reading and writing.   ‘Sigmund’, a grade five student in my research study summed it up best:

… all books kind of have some humour, and if you don’t, I’m not saying that you should put like all humour in the book, it’s just if you don’t it’ll be kind of dull, and it won’t … well, it’ll be like the cake without the icing.

He’s so right! Keep eating that cake with icing, and reading and writing those funny texts!

Matthew Zbaracki is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at Australia Catholic University (Melbourne) and the author of Writing Right with Text Types (2015).

 

Featured image credits:  [1] OUP 9780195519068; [2]Shutterstock ID 144699151

 

Oxford Festive Gift Guide for Kids

The festive season is fast approaching – have you organised your Christmas gifts yet? If not, don’t fret, we’ve got you covered! We have a range of wonderful books for kids, from beautiful picture books to award-winning literary fiction. We’ve handpicked some gift books that will capture the imagination of young boys and girls, and will inspire a lifelong love of reading. Don’t miss the special Christmas offer below!

Pugs of the Frozen North9780192734570
9780192734570
Hardback | RRP $17.95
For the pug-lovers, Pugs of the Frozen North is the exciting new adventure from Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre featuring Snow Trolls, Hungry Yetis and 66 pugs pulling a sled to the top of the world.

 

 

What a Wonderful World 9780192736918
9780192736918
Paperback | RRP $15.95
Inspired by one of the greatest songs of all time . . .
Follow one little boy on a wondrous journey through our beautiful world. A truly special book featuring the lyrics from What a Wonderful World, accompanied by a CD and beautiful illustrations from Tim Hopgood.

Short Christmas Stories
9780192794703
9780192794703
Paperback | RRP $11.95
Featuring over 40 short (very short!) Christmas tales drawn from gift-givers, folk tales and narrative jokes around the world; Short Christmas Stories is perfect for Advent bedtime stories and classroom activities.

 

 


9780192742957Super Happy Magic Forest

9780192742957
Paperback | RRP $13.95
The hilarious and epic journey of five brave heroes – a fairy, a unicorn, a faun, a gnome, and a mushroom – who must go on an epic quest to reclaim the Mystical Crystals of Life and save their home.

 

The Wind in the Willows
97801927324399780192732439
Paperback | RRP $17.95
Take to the road with Mr Toad!
With stunning illustrations from David Roberts, this is a glorious picture book edition of The Wind in the Willows. This is the perfect book to introduce a really young audience to Mole, Ratty, Badger and, of course, Mr Toad.

 

Special offer for Christmas
20% off and free delivery*
Discount code: xmas15
To take advantage of this special offer, visit the Oxford University Press website and enter the discount code xmas15 at the checkout.

*Online offer only available to Australian customers. New Zealand customers free call 0800 442 502 or email cs.au@oup.com to receive the same discount on the NZ price. Offer only on selected titles above. The discount cannot be combined with any other offers. Offer expires 31st December 2015.

Pippi Longstocking Colouring-in Competition

Last month Oxford University Press held a colouring-in competition to celebrate 70 years of the irrepressible Pippi Longstocking.

Every day we received a new parcel of pictures, and by closing date we had more than 600 entries from primary school students across Australia. There were many inventive entries that colourfully captured the characters from Astrid Lindgren’s tales, including Pippi (of course) as well as her friends, the mischievous monkey Mr. Nilsson and neighbours Tommy and Annika.

Choosing a winner was tough, so we hosted an office morning tea where everyone could vote for their favourites. After much deliberation, four winners were chosen:

1st - Thomas

In first place: Thomas – Year 5/6

2nd - Mitchell

In second place: Mitchell – Year 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In third place: Iris - Year 4/5

In third place:
Iris – Year 4/5

In fourth place: Alice

In fourth place:
Alice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each winner will receive a limited edition print for their class, featuring Pippi Longstocking and signed by illustrator Lauren Child.

Other highly commended entries were:

Iris

Runner up: Iris – Year 3/4

Runner up: Rebecca - Age 11

Runner up:
Rebecca – Age 11

Runner up: Riley - Age 9

Runner up:
Riley – Age 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to all the schools who entered, it was clear that a lot of creativity and effort went into making these beautiful pictures.