It’s Time for Halloween Magic with Winnie the Witch!

Halloween will soon be upon us – the perfect time to organise a Winnie the Witch Halloween Party!

Or, if you’re a big Winnie and Wilbur fan and are looking for fun, creative activities about your favourite characters, then look no further.  Download this great new party pack, full of great Winnie and Wilbur games and crafts suitable for schools, bookshops, libraries or home use, including: draw your own spell, make your own pop-up cards and finger puppets and a Winnie the Witch quick draw challenge!

Plus, you’ll find lots more Winnie fun, as well as dressing up ideas (in the Play area) at

Happy Halloween everybody!

The brand new Winnie the Witch adventure, Winnie’s Haunted House is out now.


Baddies are Best: My Top Three Supervillains of All Time

Ben Davis, YA author by day and superhero extraordinaire by night, shares his top three super villains of all time in celebration of his new series, Danny Dread.

Greetings! I’m Ben Davis – author, citizen, eater of pies – and I am here today to talk to you about my latest book, Danny Dread. It’s the swashbuckling story of a useless supervillain and his twelve year old son, who secretly wants to be a superhero.

I'm sure he'll grow out of it

I’m sure he’ll grow out of it.

Despite the embarrassing photo above, I’ve always been drawn to the baddies. When I was a kid in the playground, I would play the villain. I was the best at it. Kids would say, ‘Ben, you can be Silencio the Evil Wizard. His special power is sitting on his own in the corner quietly and not bothering us for the entire lunch break.’ And do you know something? I totally nailed it. Every single time.

Anyway, to celebrate the publication of Danny Dread, I have decided to share with you my all-time top three supervillains.

  1. The Penguin

Yeah, I could have gone for the Joker, but come on, that would be too obvious. Plus, Penguin is my favourite Batman villain. I think it’s because he does dangerous stuff and doesn’t care about the consequences.

I mean, look, he's opening an umbrella indoors. What next, walking under ladders?

I mean, look, he’s opening an umbrella indoors. What next, walking under ladders?

Another reason why he makes my top three is that he’s a psychotic criminal named after a completely harmless animal.


Well, mostly harmless.

  1. My so-called best friend, Fat Barry

That’s right, Fat Barry – you are the second biggest supervillain of all time. How does it feel? You can’t say it hasn’t been a long time coming. I mean, remember my last birthday, when you got me NOTHING? Well, not nothing, it was just a scrap book filled with these really old photos of us when we were kids, but still, I bet it hardly cost you a thing. And after I got you that £5 Nandos voucher for your birthday, as well. Well, this year, you can forget it. This is your present, you evil, evil man.

  1. Dad Dread

Yeah, I’ve put my own character in at number one. Want to make something of it? Now you might be thinking that that is an incredibly boastful thing to do, and I’m only doing it so I can write ‘named best supervillain of all time by Oxford University’ on publicity materials, but hear me out.



Larry “Dad” Dread is the son of the fearsome Phileas Dread, world conqueror and now, head in a jar. Larry has spent his life trying to live up to his father’s reputation to no avail. His failed schemes have included kidnapping Donald Duck, and brainwashing all of the world’s sharks. With the latter, he failed to take into account the fact that their tiny fish brains meant that they would quickly forget that they had been brainwashed. And that is when they started to get bitey.

The book sees Larry take on a dastardly new assistant, and soon, his dreams of world domination are within his grasp. Only one person has the ability to stop him – and he is much closer to home than he thinks.



That is all from me – I will now return to my secret lair* to hatch some evil schemes of my own.** Goodbye!

* shed.

** hide all the stuff I “borrowed” from my so-called best friend, Fat Barry.

Danny Dread is out now.

Danny Dread


Ben Davis studied English at University, which was quite easy because he was already fluent in that. Since then, he has written jokes for everything from radio shows to greeting cards and fulfilled a lifelong ambition by writing books for young adults. He now lives in Tamworth with his wife and his wimpy dog.

The A-Z of Railhead. K is for K-Bahn….

We are very excited to host a guest post from master storyteller Philip Reeve as part of his A-Z of Railhead tour!

K is for K-Bahn


When I realised that interstellar trains were going to be at the heart of Railhead, one of the first things I did was look up teleportation, in the hope of finding some nifty way that a train could be flipped from one side of the galaxy to another. One of the first things I stumbled across was the concept of Kwisatz Haderech, or ‘the shortening of the way’. This is a concept from Jewish mysticism. Certain very enlightened rabbis, it was believed, were able to transport themselves supernaturally from one place to another…


To science fiction fans, Kwisatz Haderach has another connotation, because it’s one of the names given to the messiah figure in Frank Herbert’s classic space opera Dune. “I can’t use that,” I thought, “because everybody will think it’s a reference to Dune…” But after exactly 0.5 seconds of serious thought I decided I didn’t care: I liked the sound of those words; they were too good not to use. And the initial K seemed useful. I knew that in German-speaking cities there are often railway lines called the U-bahn and the S-bahn. My interstellar empire would be linked by the K-bahn, whose trains would go through K-gates and flash across a dimension called K-space to reach their far destinations.

Railhead is brought to you by the letter K…


Gnomes, unicorns, and bare-chested, goat-legged men: welcome to Super Happy Magic Forest

Debut picture book author and illustrator Matty Long shares his love of fantasy and bringing brand new magical worlds to life in his first picture book, Super Happy Magic Forest.

Super Happy Magic Forest is a tale of brave heroes, fearsome enemies, epic landscapes and sweet, sweet fig rolls. The idea came about a couple of years ago when I was struggling to think of a project that I could work on and take to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair to show to publishers. I began filling sketchbook pages with gnomes, unicorns, and bare-chested, goat-legged men. Or ‘fauns’ as I guess they’re more commonly known. And then I was drawing fairies, bunnies, trees with faces. It wasn’t until I drew the words SUPER HAPPY MAGIC FOREST in a mushroom that I suddenly had a home for these creatures, and the thought that I may actually have an idea worth developing. There were a few times when I dismissed it all as too outlandish and not sensible enough (It isn’t). But that was half the fun! It was useless to resist.

Picture 1

I have always been a huge fan of fantasy. There is unlimited potential in worlds filled with magic, monsters, good and evil. And there are no rules! Penguins can be warriors. Mushrooms can talk. Goblins don’t HAVE to be bad.

Picture 2

One of my favourite parts of making Super Happy Magic Forest was designing the detailed locations that the Heroes have to fight their way through. It is a great opportunity to really make their world come alive. On some of these pages there are prompts to look for certain items or creatures. It’s a device that hopefully acts as another level of engagement while ensuring the reader sticks around a little longer to take in everything that’s going on.

picture 3

I’ve always appreciated detail, and images that reward you for taking the time to really look at them and uncover their secrets – Martin Handford’s Where’s Wally? books are a great example.

As much as I adore fantasy, I can’t deny that there is also a degree of silliness to fairies and unicorns, and in some of the overblown cliché’s within the genre: A dark lord rising. Items of great unimaginable power. Brave heroes of virtue and courage. It’s a lot of fun to play around with these conventions, and while the main worded narrative pays tribute to them, often the pictures tell a slightly different story.

Picture 4

I really hope that Super Happy Magic Forest can introduce readers to the world of fantasy and can give them at least some of the pleasure that I’ve taken from it over the years.

picture 5

Super Happy Magic Forest is out now.

SHMF front cover 300dpi

Matty Long April 2015

Matty Long has a First Class Degree in Illustration from Southampton Solent University and a Master’s Degree in Children’s Book Illustration from Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge School of Art). He graduated from Anglia Ruskin in 2011 and has since been working at a bookshop in his home town of Cambridge, developing picture-book ideas in his spare time.

Matty is twenty-seven years old. Super Happy Magic Forest is his debut picture book. He’s currently working on the sequel!

Gorillas, Coltan and Mobile Phones

Gill Lewis, the multi-award-winning author of the amazing animal stories Scarlet Ibis, Moon Bear, Sky Hawk and White Dolphin has been called ‘The principal contemporary writer of animal stories’ by the Telegraph, and her new novel Gorilla Dawn is no exception (‘a thrilling, thought-provoking adventure’ Daily Mail). Here, Gill explains the horrifying reality that inspired her new novel.

Gorilla Dawn was inspired by reading an article that stated in bold letters, your mobile phone is killing gorillas. Unaware of the connection, I read on to discover that needed in the manufacture of nearly every electronic device we use are the minerals; tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. A proportion of these minerals are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the forest home of the eastern lowland gorilla. Many of the mines are under the control of armed groups who terrorise communities and destroy the forests, in addition to poaching gorillas for bushmeat. Political instability and world greed perpetuate the violence and the damage to the environment. Five million people have died as a result of the fighting and it is estimated that less than 10% of the gorillas’ original habitat will remain by 2030. It’s bad news for people and gorillas, and ultimately the rest of the world, as the tropical rainforests drive our weather patterns, regulate global climate and sequester vast amounts of carbon, thus combating climate change. The forest are vital for us all.

IMG_1756I felt there was a story wrapped up with gorillas, people and the landscape. As I researched deeper, I listened to and read testimonials of former child soldiers and of their struggle to reintegrate back into society. It was then that Imara’s voice entered my head. Imara, the main character in Gorilla Dawn is a kadogo, a child soldier. Like all child combatants, she must keep her tears inside. Kindness is a weakness and friendship is forbidden. Imara’s story only revealed itself to me as I wrote. Her past only revealed itself to both of us at the end.

As a consumer of electronic devices, knowing the link between gorillas, people and mobile phones makes me feel uncomfortable. It questions each individual’s responsibility to people and animals affected by the mining of raw materials for electronic products. Our continued use of technology causes the problem, but it also provides the answer too. Our mobile phones and laptops give us a voice; a voice to demand that governments pass laws to ensure fair-trade, conflict-free minerals, a voice to tell electronics companies that we won’t buy their products unless they responsibly source their raw materials and a voice to speak out for those who have no voice of their own.

If you would like to find out more about conflict minerals and how you can add you voice, please visit my website page on conflict minerals and the Congo Calling website.

9780192793553_SCARLET IBIS_CVR_MAY13moon bear9780192756244_SKY_HAWK_CVR_JAN129780192756213_WHITE_DOLPHIN_CVR_JAN13

 Gorilla Dawn is out now.



Before she could walk, Gill Lewis was discovered force-feeding bread to a sick hedgehog under the rose bushes. Now her stories reflect her passion for wild animals in wild places. She draws inspiration from many of the people she has had the fortune to meet during her work as a vet, both at home and abroad. She lives in Somerset with her young family and a motley crew of pets. She writes from a shed in the garden, in the company of spiders. Visit Gill’s website.


Yippee! The brand new Reeves and McIntyre Production Pugs of the Frozen North is out now! If you’re a fan of Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space, it’s time to get excited. Very excited. Let’s go on an adventure with Philip and Sarah…
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…


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.


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.


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.


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…).


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 here. And if you want to know how to draw your own pug, here’s Sarah’s step-by-step guide.

Happy adventures!

Pugs of the Frozen North is out now.



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:

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:

Inspiration Station

Christopher Edge tells us about the inspiration behind his new book How to Write Your Best Story Ever! 

A bank-robbing banana being chased by a police pigeon, an accident-prone spy with the nickname Double Oh No!, a crime-fighting baby who googles for clues… These are just a few of the fantastic ideas that children have come up with when I’ve visited schools to talk about writing stories.

How to Write Your Best Story Ever

As a writer of children’s fiction, one of the most common questions I get asked is ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’  The answer is, of course, I go into schools and steal them. (Only joking!) But the creativity that children show when I work with them in writing workshops or chat to them after author events is truly an inspiration to me. When I was at school, I thought that books were made in factories and there weren’t any authors popping in to my classroom to reveal the secrets of the writing life. To me the idea of meeting a writer was as strange and exotic as the idea of meeting an astronaut. (Another childhood ambition, as yet sadly unfulfilled!) 274352_BEST_STORY_EVER_95_FINAL_APPROVED

Nowadays children’s authors such as J.K. Rowling and David Walliams are celebrities and with literary festivals popping up every other minute, the power of stories can be seen everywhere. But sometimes in schools, the pressures of tests and exams can squeeze the pleasure out of reading and writing. So when I go into schools as an author, one of my goals is to help banish the fear of the blank page and put the fun back into writing stories. I want to demystify the creative process and help every child realise that they can be a writer too. From inventing unforgettable characters to creating thrilling plots, I share tips and trade secrets, working with children to write their own action-packed adventures, spooky tales and amazing mash-up stories. 274352_BEST_STORY_EVER_26_64_dupe

And so when Oxford University Press got in touch about creating a book called How to Write Your Best Story Ever! I jumped at the chance of getting involved. Working with the brilliant team there and with illustrations from the fabulous Nathan Reed, we’ve tried to create the ultimate creative writing guide. There’s an avalanche of ideas and advice about writing a story from start to finish and hints and tips about how to write different types of story too, from thrillers and mysteries to animal adventures and comic book scripts. There are ‘Word Webs’ to help children find the right words for their story and inspire their own creative vocabulary, ‘Author says’ tips to help conquer any bad cases of writer’s block, and even a ‘Red Alert’ feature that gives the lowdown on any essential spelling, grammar and punctuation help  that the reader might need.


One of my favourite features in the book, is the ‘Inspiration Station’ where children can read fantastic lines from brilliant authors such as Roald Dahl, Philip Reeve and Jacqueline Wilson to name but a few and use these as fuel for their own writing. Every writer is a reader and every reader can be a writer too. All you need is a book…

How to Write Your Best Story Ever!

Christopher EdgeChristopher Edge is the award-winning author of Twelve Minutes to Midnight, The Black Crow Conspiracy and many more books for children. A former English teacher, Christopher now works as a publishing and education consultant and visits primary and secondary schools across the country to inspire children as readers and writers. His books have been included in the Summer Reading Challenge, Bookbuzz and Read for My School programmes. How to Write Your Best Story Ever! is out now. Find out more about Christopher Edge at

What A Wonderful Song

Tim Hopgood, author and illustrator shares his love of Louis Armstrong’s world-famous song What a Wonderful World and takes us behind the scenes of making it into a picture book and getting it published.

One Father’s Day about five, six years ago my daughter gave me an old vinyl copy of Louis Armstrong’s rendition of What A Wonderful World. Before we go any further, I feel I should point out that the song was not actually written by Armstrong, but such is the magic of his recording that people seem to assume the song is his! The words were actually written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss.


I first heard the song when I was about six years old; it was played at school during assembly. It made a huge impression on me as a child, such a seemingly simple song, yet so powerful in that it goes straight to the heart with its message of hope and love. Listening to the recording once again, complete with vinyl crackles, I realized the song hadn’t lost any of its charm and it hadn’t dated, that’s the beauty of something so honest and simple. And there’s something about Armstrong’s gravelly voice that stops it being too sentimental, maybe that’s the reason his recording is the one everyone remembers.

So what’s the first song you’d want your new baby to hear? For me it has to be this song. It was for Chris Evans too. I remember he opened his afternoon show on Radio 2 with the song after his first son Noah was born. Wouldn’t it be amazing to capture the joy of that song, probably the most life-affirming song of all time and put it in a book?


Think about it, the lyrics are so visual ‘I see trees of green, Red roses too’ it could work. And as a gift, what better gift book could there be than to give someone what is essentially a love letter to the world? A simple message of hope.


When I first showed the roughs for the idea the initial reaction was that it was going to be too complicated to get permission to use the lyrics. I think I’m right in saying that there are three music companies which own the rights to the song, and they would all have to agree on the concept and the publishing terms. My editor at the time loved the idea, but from a publishing business point of view it wasn’t looking quite so wonderful. As a relative newcomer to the picture book market, having at the time only published two books, the chances of making the figures work looked unlikely. “One to put on the back burner” was the advice from my agent.




So that’s exactly what I did.  And then a few years later, I got a call from the commissioning editor at OUP, Peter Marley. Pete explained he was looking for gift book ideas and wondered if I’d be interested in working with him. I wasn’t exactly sure what the difference was between a picture book and a gift book, so he explained how gift books tended to have higher print production values than an ordinary picture book and that often they were based on classic titles that are given a new lease of life by a contemporary illustrator.


I think it was the word CLASSIC that jumped out at me. Something made me think immediately about my ‘Wonderful World’ idea and so I mentioned to Pete that I did have something he might be interested in, not based on a classic title, but a classic song instead.


When I look at the original roughs now it’s surprising how little has actually changed, surprising in a good way. Others may look at the roughs and see just a few scribbly lines, but to me the content and composition is all there, the journey and the pace of it all is pretty close to the finished book. My roughs are VERY rough, but the essence of what’s happening on the page is there.

I’m not someone who likes to produce very detailed roughs and then colour them in as it were.  For me the process is all much more spontaneous than that with each finished spread influencing the next. And so much of my work is about colour that often it’s hard for people to imagine the power and impact a spread will have until colour is applied.


So for example, my rough drawing for the horses spread, which is probably my favourite spread, doesn’t look that impressive, but in my head I knew it would work. The power of colour never ceases to amaze and excite me. So like the song itself, the composition is kept simple and direct.

p22_unpublishedI guess the main change to come out of the editorial process was the relationship between the boy and the bird. It’s much stronger in the final version, much more deliberate whereas in the original rough it is more incidental.


I hope the book will introduce a whole new generation to the wonders of this song and that it will encourage parents and teachers to share its joy by singing to their little and not-so little ones. The project was a labour of love. A project that came about because all those involved at OUP wanted to make it happen as much as I did. It certainly wouldn’t have happened without them. I’m a great believer in things happening for a reason. Had the book happened earlier in my publishing career it wouldn’t be the book it is­­; by that I mean, it wouldn’t be quite so charming, quite so powerful, quite so wonderful. Thank you to everyone involved.­­­­ ­­­­­

 What a Wonderful World is out now.

What a Wonderful World


Tim worked for twenty years as a graphic designer and freelance illustrator before he began his career writing and drawing for children. He has a deep love of music, often he wears large headphones and blasts Miles Davis or Stevie Wonder while he paints and draws. He works mostly with Derwent sketching pencils, using digital layering methods to create his artworks. He now lives in North Yorkshire with his wife, two children and his cats.

‘Have you heard about the Toad?’

Helen Mortimer, commissioning editor at Oxford Children’s Books takes us behind the scenes of a brand new edition of the classic The Wind in the Willows, retold by Tom Moorhouse, author of The River Singers and illustrated by the brilliant David Roberts.

toad cover image

‘Have you heard about the Toad?’

toad 1With these words, Kenneth Grahame first introduced his enduring character in a letter written to his son, Alastair, on May 10th, 1907. During that summer Grahame, who was staying away from his son, continued to send Alastair instalments of the story by letter. The following year Grahame polished the material into a manuscript and the book was published in October 1908 as The Wind in the Willows.

At 55,000 words The Wind in the Willows is normally read to children over many bedtimes. But, for parents and children alike, it is well worth investing the time as it’s a wonderful story with friendship and adventure at its heart. The language is vivid and evocative and is remembered far beyond childhood. Here at Oxford Children’s Books we were delighted when we approached David Roberts to illustrate a glorious new gift edition of the original story and discovered that he shared our enthusiasm for the book.


toad 2


We published a sumptuous gift edition in 2012, packed with over 150 stunning illustrations from David.

willows cover image

David’s illustrations are so bright, appealing, and accessible that we wanted them to reach children even younger than those who would enjoy sharing The Wind in the Willows. We wanted to condense Kenneth Grahame’s original story into a 32-page picture book and focus on the character who started it all back in 1907: Toad himself.

toad 3

There can be few characters in the world of children’s books more entertaining than Toad and even fewer illustrators who have captured his every mood and moment with the verve and panache of David Roberts. So we commissioned acclaimed author Tom Moorhouse to retell the story for a picture book audience. Essentially, Tom has taken Toad’s best bits from The Wind in the Willows to create The Adventures of Mr Toad, in Toad’s own words and songs.

toad 4.

It’s a really engaging picture book that will introduce the youngest children to four of the most lovable characters of children’s literature: Mole, Ratty, Badger, and, of course, Mr Toad!

 The Adventures of Mr Toad is out now.

toad cover image

You can also read the original Oxford Children’s Classic of Wind in the Willows, which now has a gorgeous new cover look and includes the unabridged text, as well as extra material to help you get the most from the story and lots of recommendations for other things you might enjoy.



Have a very happy Halloween with Winnie the Witch!

Everybody’s fiendishly favourite time of year is almost upon us once again. And if you’re looking for inspiration both for party ideas and reading recommendations for younger children, then look no further.

Of course, every child’s favourite is WINNIE THE WITCH by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul, and she has everything you need for your Halloween celebration to go off with a whizz, a bang and a pop!

Firstly, you can download your very own Winnie the Witch Party pack which contains drawing and colouring, party game ideas and an interactive storytime. PLUS there are step-by-step instructions to make your own Winnie the Witch hat and wig so you look the part!

Then, of course, no Halloween would be complete without a spooky tale or two – and there are three new Winnie the Witch stories that will fit the bill perfectly:

Winnie’s Big Bad Robot
Winnie has made a robot! Out of cardboard! But when she decides to magic it into a real robot, both she and Wilbur soon discover that this robot is bad…

Winnie’s Amazing Antics

Winnies Amazing Antics

Three favourite Winnie stories in one: Winnie’s Amazing Pumpkin, Winnie in Space and Winnie Under the Sea.

Winnie Adds Magic


Four stories for older readers which take Winnie and Wilbur on a crazy journey, full of unexpected twists.

Spooktacular Halloween Wishes!



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