Tag Archives: Oxford University Press

The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea

The Hounds of the Morrigan: Pat O'Shea (Oxford University Press, 1985)The Hounds of the Morrigan: Pat O’Shea (Oxford University Press, 1985)

It was with a little trepidation that I started to re-read this book. I first read it aged 12 (my copy is a Puffin paperback, dated 1987) and I’ve lived more than three times longer than when I first read it. Re-reading childhood favourites is a bit hit-and-miss, many of the picture books have been wonderful, but I re-read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen last year and found it too derivative of Lord of the Rings in its magic ring bracelet and quest, that I just didn’t enjoy it enough to want to read The Moon of Gomrath or contemplate Boneland.

I then started re-reading Over Sea, Under Stone but my memory of The Dark is Rising sequence starts with Will and I got confused that the book wasn’t about him. I do still want to re-read those, now I’m prepared for a different story than the one I expected. I am not the me who read and loved these fantasy novels in the late 1980’s aged between ten and fourteen. I am an approaching-forty me with two children and around a quarter century more life experience. It’s a different me who reads my childhood favourites, and I’m approaching them more warily as I don’t want to lose the love I hold for them.

In the case of The Hounds of the Morrigan, I needn’t have worried. Pat O’Shea wove a wonderful tale based in myths and legends and set in the land of my ancestors. Pidge and Brigit are wonderful child characters, both having important parts to play in the narrative. I was surprised at how funny the dialogue is, I hadn’t remembered that. The police sergeant’s experiences especially. Perhaps that’s an adult view of the dialogue, or perhaps I just forgot it was funny too.

I love all the mythology behind The Hounds of the Morrigan, and when I originally read it I think I then read books of Celtic myths and legends. Although I did always love myths and legends as a child, and one of my early memories is of my dad telling me the tale of Cuchulainn and asking me to re-write it. I’m therefore pleased that I still loved this book on re-reading.

For anyone who loves fantasy, myths and legends, and Ireland. Ages approx 9+.

Ways into Reading: Oxford Children’s Book Group Conference 2013

Oxford University Press

image from Wikipedia

I am sitting here with about eight A4 pages covered in notes from the Oxford Children’s Book Group conference, wondering how to even start writing it all up. In summary: it was excellent. All of the speakers were interesting and informative and everything ran smoothly. The conference was held at the Oxford University Press offices, which was the perfect venue.

The day was split into ninety minute sections for the speakers. There were drinks and pastries on arrival, the same at mid-morning break and then a delicious buffet lunch. The OUP museum was also open for viewing, which I managed briefly after lunch, and Mostly Books were supporting with their travelling bookstall of relevant books.

My camera battery died at lunchtime so I have limited pictures but I spent more time making notes than taking pictures because the talks were so informative. All the talks were on the theme “Ways into Reading”, and the different methods available to encourage and support children to become readers.

The first speaker was Victor Watson, a retired lecturer and current author. His interest was in series fiction, which a child had described to him as entering a “room full of friends”. Series fiction is comforting to readers, you are returning to characters and places that you’re familiar with and you want to know more. He talked about how series fiction is often sidelined as being worthless, but argued against this premise. The series fiction author must provide a story that regular readers want, but make it different each time. He described the difference between progressive and successive series and the effect that time had on series written over long periods – for example the effect of the second world war and the sixties on series started in 1940’s and completed in 1970’s – and how different authors approached these changes. It was a fascinating talk, and I’ve requested his book Reading Series Fiction: From Arthur Ransome to Gene Kemp from the library.

Oxford Children's Book Group Conference 2013

Victor Watson, Caro Fickling, Tracey Corderoy, and some props!

Andrea Quincey from Oxford University Press talked about the perception of reading schemes and the aims of the Project X scheme. This was a great continuation from the theme of series fiction because reading schemes are series, however Andrea pointed out that becoming too attached to one series can have a negative effect so the aim is to create an interest in all kinds of reading. For some children, reading schemes are the only books that they come across in their lives so it was important to create something that will hold interest. Research states that the clearest indicator for a child’s future success is not economic status, family background or other social indicators but their ability to read. The details behind creating a 21st century reading scheme to hook children and the challenges faced in ensuring that the series can be read in any order but still make sense was fascinating.

As a picture book aficionado, Tracey Corderoy was my most anticipated speaker, and she didn’t disappoint. With a suitcase packed with props she exuded enthusiasm and wit. She talked about her childhood growing up in what she described as a grey and smoky Welsh town, in a school that was often closed due to chemical spills, and a childhood with few books. But being unconventional she turned into a literature student, a teacher, a parent and an author with 38 published books in three years. Tracey’s talk was all about setting children’s  “senses on fire” – using colour, props, crafts and singing to pull out a story and make it an experience. She talked about how she tells children that if they write stories then they are writers just like she is; this particularly spoke to me because it’s something that I do with my children. Tracey was incredibly inspirational, and a very humourous speaker. This was the highlight of an amazing day.

Tom and Caro Fickling talked about comics, and specifically The Phoenix. Tom talked about how comics are a way into reading that works because the child ‘owns’ the books by discovering themselves. As adults we’re allowed to look at pictures but children are expected to dump pictures at a certain age. Caro wondered whether declines in literacy were correlated to the lack of decent children’s comics in the last few decades and about how today’s ‘comics’ are thinly veiled marketing devices based on characters with printed matter not designed to stand up on its own and are thrown with relief into the recycle bin – I could completely relate to this having small children who are only interested in the plastic tat attached to the front! They talked about the medium of telling stories visually and how positioning and page turns affect how a story is read. Another fascinating insight.

Oxford University Press Museum

Oxford University Press Museum

Vineeta Gupta from Open University Press talked about the Oxford Children’s Corpus. This is not a term I’d actually come across before but with a background in analysis I now want to work for them! The Corpus is an enormous database of words used in writing for children and, more interestingly, in writing by children. The writing by children was collected in collaboration with Radio 2’s 500 words competition which gave them access to 160,000 samples of writing and over seventy million words to analyse. The Corpus is used to create dictionaries full of words that children actually come across in daily life, and to give real-life examples. Analysis of connections between words (for example, how often a word is used ‘near’ another word) means that, for example, ‘zoom’ can be illustrated by Harry Potter zooming around a Quidditch pitch making dictionaries relevant for today’s children.

Andy Mulligan only just arrived in time for his talk, having a journey cursed by public transport problems (Trains? Today? Of course they’re not running…) His theme was dangerous books and contemplating at what point children go from wanting to read “Shadow the Sheepdog” (Enid Blyton) to “The Fault in Our Stars”, and is something like The Fault in Our Stars a children’s book? Should children read books that don’t offer them reassurance that everything is going to end well? His talk was fascinating and engaging and covered a range of experiences. I now have all his books on my wish list too, especially The Boy with Two Heads and Trash. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, do go.

Finally the day was rounded off with Bill Laar, educational consultant, whose passion for sharing books and words spun into the room of fairly tired attendees. It is quite lovely as a ‘grown-up’ to have picture books and poetry read to you by such an enthusiastic reader. The perfect end to a packed day!

Thanks must go to everyone at Oxford Children’s Book Group who put together such a smooth-running and informative event whilst keeping costs low; and to all the speakers and publishers who provided their services, especially Oxford University Press. I had an amazing day, got to meet up with some people I usually only know on Twitter, and learnt so much.

Friday Pick{ture Book}: Three Month Roundup

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed choosing my books every Friday, and am hugely greatful to everyone who has joined in. This post is a roundup of the first thirteen weeks of Friday Pick{ture Book}.

In future, I’m going to avoid numbering the weeks (other than mentally), and depending on how popular the linky gets I will also try to do a roundup like this every three months, or a selection if there are too many 🙂

Aaaarrgghh, Spider! – Lydia Monks (Egmont) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
Alphabet Explosion – John Nickle (Landmark) reviewed by Menai Newbold
The Big Katie Morag Storybook – Mairi Hedderwick (Random House Children’s Books) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
Black Dog – Levi Pinfold (Templar Books) reviewed by Read it, Daddy!
Brave – Disney Pixar reviewed by Menai Newbold
Catch Us If You Can-Can – Alex T Smith (Hodder Children’s Books) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
The Champion Hare – InteractBooks LLC (InteractBooks LLC) reviewed by Capptivated Kids
Class Two at the Zoo – Julia Jarman & Lynne Chapman (Hodder Children’s Books) reviewed by BookARoo
Colours – Shirley Hughes (Walker) reviewed by Mini Bookworms
Come to School Too, Blue Kangaroo! – Emma Chichester Clark (HarperCollins Children’s Books) reviewed by Mini Bookworms
Denver – David McKee (Andersen Children’s Books) reviewed by Read it, Daddy!
Dogger – Shirley Hughes (Random House Children’s Books) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
Duck Sock Hop – Jane Kohuth & Jane Porter (Dial Books) reviewed by Menai Newbold
Ella – Alex T. Smith (Scholastic) reviewed by Overdue Books
Farmer Duck – Martin Waddell & Helen Oxenbury (Walker) reviewed by Hertfordshire Mummy
The Fearsome Beastie – Giles Paley-Phillips & Gabriele Antonini (Maverick Arts Publishing) reviewed by The Little Wooden Horse
Grandma Bendy – Izy Penguin (Maverick Arts Publishing) reviewed by Read it, Daddy!
The Green Line – Polly Farquharson (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books) reviewed by Mini Bookworms
Haunted House – Jan Pienkowski (Walker) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
A Hundred Cartloads – Devika Rangachari & Bindia Thapar reviewed by Menai Newbold
I Like It When… – Mary Murphy (Egmont) reviewed by Menai Newbold
In the Forest – Sophie Strady & Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud (Tate) reviewed by The Little Wooden Horse
The Jelly That Wouldn’t Wobble – Angela Mitchell & Sarah Horne (Maverick Arts Publishing) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
The Jelly That Wouldn’t Wobble – Angela Mitchell & Sarah Horne (Maverick Arts Publishing) reviewed by Natasha Worswick
Miffy’s Garden – Dick Bruna (Egmont Books) reviewed by Capptivated Kids
Monkey & Me – Emily Gravett (Macmillan Children’s Books) reviewed by Overdue Books
The Monster at the End of This Book – Jon Stone & Michael J. Smollin (Random House) reviewed by Capptivated Kids
The Monster Machine – Nicola L Robinson (Pavilion Children’s Books) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
Monstersaurus – Claire Freedman & Ben Croft (Simon & Schuster Childrens Books) reviewed by Mini Bookworms
Mother Goose Remembers – Clare Beaton (Barefoot Books) reviewed by Mini Bookworms
Muffin and The Birthday Surprise – Clara Vulliamy (Orchard Books) reviewed by A Mummy’s View
Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! – Dr Seuss (HarperCollins Children’s Books) reviewed by Capptivated Kids
Owl Babies – Martin Waddell & Patrick Benson (Walker) reviewed by Hertfordshire Mummy
Rhino? What Rhino? – Caryl Hart & Sarah Horne (Hodder Children’s Books) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
The Scallywags – David Melling (Hodder Children’s Books) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
Six Dinner Sid – Inga Moore (Hodder Children’s Books) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
Stuck – Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children’s Books) reviewed by Bookaholic Mum
The Super Sandwich – Catherine Vase (Campbell Books) reviewed by Menai Newbold
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes – Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury (Walker) reviewed by Menai Newbold
The Tiger Who Came To Tea – Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children’s Books) reviewed by Menai Newbold
Tip – McKee Readers (McKee Readers) reviewed by Menai Newbold
Topsy and Tim at the wedding – Jean & Gareth Adamson (Puffin) reviewed by Menai Newbold
Wanted: The Perfect Pet – Fiona Roberton (Hodder Children’s Books) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
Where’s My Sock? – Joyce Dunbar & Sanja Rescek (Chicken House) reviewed by Bookaholic Mum
Winnie’s Dinosaur Day – Valerie Thomas & Korky Paul (Oxford University Press) reviewed by Child-Led Chaos
The Wrong Book – Nick Bland (Scholastic) reviewed by Capptivated Kids

Click on the image above or here to see all links visually in Blogpinner. Huge thanks to:
Menai Newbold
Capptivated Kids
Mini Bookworms
Read it, Daddy!
Overdue Books
The Little Wooden Horse
Bookaholic Mum
Hertfordshire Mummy
A Mummy’s View
BookARoo
Natasha Worswick

Friday Pick{ture Book} #10: Winnie’s Dinosaur Day

Winnie's Dinosaur Day: Valerie Thomas & Korky Paul (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Winnie’s Dinosaur Day: Valerie Thomas & Korky Paul
(Oxford University Press, 2012)

This is quite a special Winnie the Witch book. Not only is it published in Winnie’s 25th anniversary year but it’s the 13th picture book in the series, and Valerie Thomas & Korky Paul have really excelled themselves with both a wonderful story and some of my absolute favourite illustrations so far.

Her drawing looked exactly like the triceratops.
Well, it looked quite like the triceratops.

It helps that I am Oxfordshire born and bred, because the first page just jumps out for me: it’s the Natural History Museum! Or to give it the correct title, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Instead of twelve roof windows, there’s thirteen (of course) but what a lovely sight for an Oxford girl like me! Er, yes, there’s apparently tons of Oxford references in all of Korky’s illustrations, but I’m a bit slow… 😆

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Museum from Winnie's Dinosaur Day

Museum from Winnie’s Dinosaur Day (image from Wikipedia)

Korky’s illustrations really make the Winnie the Witch books and Valerie’s text is perfect with some subtle dry humour for older readers as well as being enjoyable stories from a young age. In Dinosaur Day, Winnie and Wilbur are coming back from the library when they see something happening in the museum courtyard: a drawing competition! Winnie wants to win, and being Winnie she takes a non standard route to enter. Poor Wilbur unhappily tags along, but in the end everyone is happy even without winning.

I don’t know where to start with how perfect this book is. It’s got dinosaurs; and drawing; and visiting museums & libraries; and not having to win to be happy; and thinking ‘outside the box’ to solve problems; and dinosaurs! Did I mention the dinosaurs?!

DG is a fidget when it comes to reading, she always wanders about, and she talks about all the pictures whereas MG listens to the story first and then wants to go back through. DG also questions everything:

“… Winnie got out her drawing book and her coloured pencils. …”
“Is not pencils, is a paint brush! Look!”
“Yes… But there are pencils there too…”
“Okay.”

MG said the book was both “Brilliant!” and “Magnificent!” I didn’t even know she knew the word magnificent. Her favourite parts were the end papers (if you’ve not read any Winnie the Witch books, all the end papers are drawn by various children); “Big dinosaurs, enormous dinosaurs, gigantic dinosaurs!”; and the final double spread (which is another moment of comic brilliance but I won’t post a picture so as not to ruin the ending.)

'I think we all know who has won the competition.'

One of my favourite parts is all the different dinosaur pictures for the competition, and the lovely little touches like the number 25 appearing on all the paint tubes 🙂

At time of posting, the hardback is only £3.99 with Red House (free P&P if you’re an Extra member, or if you spend over £15), so there’s no reason not to buy several copies to give to every child you know 🙂

Grab the badge code and see the rules here, and enter your link below: