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.

Adventures in the Frozen North

Our books are all about different characters and different places, but they all have one thing in common: they are about ADVENTURES. And we have adventures while we’re making them. As you can see below, we’re ready for anything. Our latest outfits are designed for travelling to the Arctic, where the latest book, Pugs of the Frozen North, is set. If you’ll read it, you’ll find that all sorts of adventures lie in wait there, from hungry krakens to tasty snow-noodles which might turn you into a yeti…

Frozen North costumes

Some of Sarah’s relatives have a house in Alaska, in a small town called Seldovia. That inspired the town of Snowdovia, which is the starting point for an extremely adventurous sled-race to the North Pole in Pugs of the Frozen North. The picture in blue below is the one that appears in the finished book, and the others show how Sarah developed it from a very simple sketch, to a rough sketch, and then the finished pen-and-ink drawing.

Sarah's drawings

Sometimes, to save Sarah some time, Philip does the rough drawing and then Sarah finishes it in her own style. Here’s a yeti rough by Sarah, and a kraken rough by Philip. (You can check through the book and see if you can spot the other pages which Philip drew the rough for, but we’re not telling!) Making a book together is quite an adventure in itself.
Sarah's drawings 2

When we’re not busy writing and drawing we try to have real adventures, too. Sometimes they have to be quite small adventures. When Sarah is working too hard to go off exploring, she stays in her studio and explores strange new flavours by doing the #MYSTERYDRINK CHALLENGE, in which she tastes strange soft drinks so that the rest of us don’t have to. She says that so far, most of them have been Quite Nice. She hasn’t found any that have turned her into a yeti yet, but if one does, we’re prepared.

Mystery drink

Yeti repellent

Sometimes we find time to go on big adventures, too. This summer, Philip’s family went to stay with stay with Sarah’s family in the USA. Here we are hiking in the Cascade Mountains. Who knows what future book ideas that will spark off? (As you can see, the hike was a bit too much for Philip’s son Sam…).

Hiking

hiking 2

We came back to England to start our next adventure – touring all over the country to tell people about Pugs of the Frozen North. You can find a list of the events we’ll be doing in England. And if you want to know how to draw your own pug, here’s Sarah’s step-by-step guide.

Happy adventures!

Reeve & McIntyre

Adventures

Philip Reeve wrote his first story at the tender age of five about spaceman called Spike and his dog Spook. He is now best known for his Mortal Engines quartet but is also a talented illustrator and has illustrated several titles in the Horrible Histories series.
You can find out more about Philip’s books here: http://www.philip-reeve.com/
Sarah McIntyre once applied for a job as a ship’s rigger, intending to run away to sea, but instead, she found herself studying illustration at Camberwell College of Arts and graduated in 2007. She has since become a writer and illustrator of children’s books, picture books and comics.
She also blogs prolifically, and aims to post on her blog every day: http://jabberworks.livejournal.com/

Originally posted on the Oxford Children’s Books Voices

Puppy Academy or Dr Kittycat?

Here at Oxford we share a love for many things – books, baking, cheese and our beloved pets. Many desks are decorated with pictures of our furry best friends, and in honour of two new series from our Children’s division, we asked the staff a very important question:

Are you team Puppy Academy or team Dr Kittycat?

How would you vote? Click on the pictures to learn more about the pets at Oxford.
9780192739223
9780192739223
Puppy Academy: Star on Stormy Mountain
$9.95

_

9780192743336

9780192743336
Dr Kittycat is ready to rescue Daisy the kitten
$9.95