Books by Helen Oxenbury

HELEN OXENBURY by Leonard S. Marcus
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: April 9, 2019

"Illustrious in both subject and execution."
A sumptuously illustrated biography of a grande dame of children's literature. Read full book review >
THE GIANT JUMPEREE by Julia Donaldson
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 18, 2017

"A winner for libraries everywhere: home, public, day care, preschool, and school. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Rabbit, Cat, Bear, and Elephant are afraid of a voice coming out of Rabbit's burrow, but Mama Frog solves the mystery. Read full book review >
TIME NOW TO DREAM by Timothy Knapman
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 14, 2017

"Time now to savor this lovely offering. (Picture book. 3-8)"
Just the right combination of fairy tale and bedtime book, scary and soothing. Read full book review >
CAPTAIN JACK AND THE PIRATES by Peter Bently
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 29, 2016

"Gently and agreeably thrilling. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Jack, Zack, and Caspar (King Jack and the Dragon, 2011) are back in an adventure by the seaside, complete with stormy waters…and pirates!Read full book review >
WHEN CHARLEY MET GRAMPA by Amy Hest
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 10, 2013

"Children will love Charley and Grampa, too. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Picking up where Charley's First Night (2012) ended, the tale of Charley and Henry Korn continues in this charming stand-alone storybook. Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 2012

"Be forewarned: Youngsters will find Charley as irresistible as Henry does and will no doubt beg for puppies of their own. (Picture book. 4-8)"
The tenderness a child feels for his new puppy seeps from the pages of a book sure to be instantly beloved. Read full book review >
KING JACK AND THE DRAGON by Peter Bently
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 18, 2011

"Sure to be read aloud again and again, this testament to imaginative play exudes warmth. (Picture book. 3-6)"
A trio of children spends the day playing in their fort, defending it from dragons and beasts, before reality intrudes at nightfall. Read full book review >
THERE'S GOING TO BE A BABY by John Burningham
Released: Nov. 1, 2010

Burningham and Oxenbury team for a poignant treatment of a preschooler's ambivalence about a forthcoming new sibling. The dialogue couples Mommy's benign suggestions about the baby's future exploits with her son's far less equivocal, here-and-now replies. She muses, "I wonder if the baby will work here at the zoo one day, looking after the animals." He rejoins (a twinge, one hopes), "Then the baby might get eaten by a tiger." The elegant text type (Polymer) is coolly pale for Mommy's comments, bold-faced for her boy's. The lovely ink drawings are digitally colored in flat, muted hues accented with rich reds. To dignify and celebrate the boy's robust imaginative flights, double-page spreads, each with eight panels reminiscent of old-timey comics, depict the baby painting messily, maneuvering a sailboat or raking leaves in Parks and Rec jammies. The seasons turn, Mommy gets bigger and, finally, Grandad and boy walk down a hospital corridor, gift and flowers in hand. Heavy paper, generous trim, amusing endpapers and, above all, beautifully evoked relationships combine for a winning package. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
TEN LITTLE FINGERS AND TEN LITTLE TOES by Mem Fox
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

A pleasing poem that celebrates babies around the world. Whether from a remote village or an urban dwelling, a tent or the snow, Fox notes that each "of these babies, / as everyone knows, / had ten little fingers / and ten little toes." Repeated in each stanza, the verse establishes an easy rhythm. Oxenbury's charming illustrations depict infants from a variety of ethnicities wearing clothing that invokes a sense of place. Her pencil drawings, with clean watercolor washes laid in, are sweetly similar to those in her early board books (Clap Hands, 1987, etc.). Each stanza introduces a new pair of babies, and the illustrations cleverly incorporate the children from the previous stanzas onto one page, allowing readers to count not only fingers and toes but also babies. The last stanza switches its focus from two children to one "sweet little child," and reveals the narrator as that baby's mother. Little readers will take to the repetition and counting, while parents will be moved by the last spread: a sweet depiction of mother and baby. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
THE GROWING STORY by Ruth Krauss
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2007

Despite his mother's repeated reassurances, a tyke who observes changes in chicks and a puppy as seasons pass has trouble believing that he's growing too. The text, originally published in 1947, hasn't aged, but Oxenbury's fresh take on the antique rural setting and stylized figures of Phyllis Rowand's illustrations does add a livelier, more natural look. Though there's an odd distance in the pictures between the pensive little boy and his hardworking, very young-looking single parent—the two seldom make eye contact, she is usually posed at least partially turned away from the viewer and her preoccupied reply to his persistent query ("Of course you are growing") seems snappish—the boy's doubt is one that might occur to many younger children. When the previous winter's clothing proves too small, thus providing objective proof that he is indeed getting bigger, his exuberant cartwheel ends the episode on an emphatic, upbeat note. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS by Lewis Carroll
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 2005

Every bit as handsome as its Greenaway Medal-winning predecessor (1999), this edition of young Alice's second venture beyond the everyday world features a text printed in a comfortably legible font on creamy paper, well supplied with vignettes, sepia figures and full-color scenes done in Oxenbury's trademark pale hues and delicate lines. Bearing a slightly disheveled look and dressed in a bright blue shift, Alice makes a sturdy, confident companion for the adventure. Though the Bandersnatch's chopped-off head is a gory sight and there are other battles galore (the plot is, after all, loosely based on a game of chess), in general the figures she encounters, from Humpty Dumpty to Tweedledum and Tweedledee, are comical enough to keep the tone lighthearted. An outstanding rendition equally suited to reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 7-10)Read full book review >
BIG MOMMA MAKES THE WORLD by Phyllis Root
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 1, 2003

In this feminization of the Creation myth, the creator of the world is a woman with a baby on her hip. The baby doesn't slow her down a bit; just like in the biblical version, the creation takes place over six days, with a rest on the seventh. Folksy rhyming verse appears in large type on the verso of each page, with the accompanying recto completely filled by full-bleed, dramatic illustrations. Big Momma's ambitious activities are described in countrified vernacular: "There was water, water everywhere, and Big Momma saw what needed to be done all right. So she rolled up her sleeves and went to it." Her commands take a similar tone; she admonishes the newly created dark and light: "You two got work to do. Don't you be fooling around none." In an echo of the traditional text, she comments at the end of each day, "That's good. That's real good." The acrylic paintings aptly convey the tone of each day's production; they start out monochromatic until Big Momma has created the sun. The subsequent spreads are riots of color: the contented baby sits in a lush green field, munching on fresh fruits on the fourth day; brightly colored fish and birds appear on the fifth, animals blast out of a bright yellow "big bang" and people of all colors appear on the sixth. Big Momma's sense of contentment as she settles in with the new folks to tell stories and rest on the seventh day is contagious; this beautifully illustrated, oversized paean to the Earth and to motherhood is a welcome addition to the creation-story pantheon. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: May 31, 2001

Lerner and Goldhor are so agenda-driven—their message to Be Your Own Person! feels like it's being nailed to your forehead—that their story is more like a lecture, despite the peerless Oxenbury's sweet-hearted illustrations. Franny has a great mop of wild red hair—her pride and joy. Mother, sister, and father all advise her to get it cut—or at least tamed—but she refuses. Comes the day of the family reunion and her mother insists that she get a hair-do, which is essentially piling the hair in a topknot. At first Franny is appalled, but when a bird takes up residence in her hair, she decides it might be all right. As in several other recent stories about tending to unexpected tenants, (The Singing Hat, p. 187; Albert, p. 263), Franny accommodates the bird by bathing instead of showering, sleeping upright, and doing deep-knee bends to take off her shoes. She is the hit of the reunion (bringing happiness to the dour and the halt in another of Lerner and Goldhor's ham-handed lessons)—but decides the next day to get her hair cut. Why? "A little birdie told me to," she chirrups as she hands the clippings to the bird to build a nest. This force-feeding of Franny's nonconformity is enough to make rebellious youngsters want to toe the line, if this is what being a maverick means. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
SO MUCH by Trish Cooke
Released: Nov. 1, 1994

"They weren't doing anything, Mom and the baby, nothing really...Then, DING DONG! `Oooooooh!' " So begins this joyous, song-like tale of a family gathering focusing on the family's youngest member. As an aunt, an uncle, grandmothers, and cousins arrive, they hug, kiss, and play with the adorable toddler who revels in their attention. Finally the father comes home and—"Surprise!"—they've all come to celebrate his birthday. The party flows with food, drink, dancing, and good humor depicted in a glorious two-page wordless spread. Finally, the party ends and the baby is sent to bed, at first kicking and screaming but then happily remembering how everyone loves him "SO MUCH!" Cooke (When I Grow Bigger, p. 1124) masterfully captures the closeness of the family and the wonder of the baby. Her story builds repeating words and rhythms and a common, comforting refrain. Her use of ungrammatical speech patterns may not have been necessary, but it gives the whole a sense of candid authenticity. A celebration of a warm and loving African-American family. Oxenbury's illustrations are magnificent. (Fiction/Picture book. 3+)Read full book review >
IT'S MY BIRTHDAY by Helen Oxenbury
Released: Aug. 1, 1994

A sweet young epicene sets out to bake a birthday cake. The little one is aided by a parade of animal friends—a chicken, a cat, a bear, a pig, a dog, a monkey—all of whom scurry about to pull together the various ingredients and then lend their expertise to the baking. The odd company gather on the last page to share and celebrate in typically cheerful Oxenbury (Tom and Pippo on the Beach, 1993) style. The pencil and pale wash illustrations are also distinctive Oxenbury: amiable, affectionate, and like old pals by the end of the story. (Picture book. 2+)Read full book review >
THE THREE LITTLE WOLVES AND THE BIG BAD PIG by Eugene Trivizas
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 30, 1993

Never mind the other incarnations of this tale—classic, fractured, rapped; this inversion will have children giggling from the outset. Sent into the world by a mother who wears hair curlers, three "cuddly" wolves build a brick house, then try to fend off a snarling thug of a pig who demolishes it with a sledgehammer. Their next place is concrete; the pig has a pneumatic drill. They construct a metal fortress, complete with steel chains and Plexiglas; the pig goes for dynamite. Then they build a house of flowers and the pig pulls a "Ferdinand," not only reforming but making it a happy menage a quatre. This latter-day plea for a peaceable kingdom reckons once and for all with the question at the core of this familiar tale—why must pigs and wolves be enemies? Oxenbury provides dauntingly well- executed watercolors, offering such charming contrasts as an angular modernistic concrete home in an otherwise pastoral setting. (Picture book. 5-10)Read full book review >
TOM AND PIPPO ON THE BEACH by Helen Oxenbury
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1993

It's grand to have the toddler and his toy monkey back for another visit. Daddy wants Tom to wear his hat at the beach "because the sun might make me sick," but the little boy decides Pippo needs it more than he does. Clever Daddy quietly folds a newspaper hat for the toy; and after Tom trades with him ("I'm glad Pippo's got the best hat..."), all three are satisfied. Such a simple little story, but it's a model of generous nurturing and wise, non-confrontational negotiation with a two-year-old. As always, Oxenbury's warm, skillfully drafted sketches and beautifully observed watercolors are perfection. (Picture book. 1-5)Read full book review >
FARMER DUCK by Martin Waddell
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1992

A faithful duck labors while the indolent farmer lazes in bed, eating candy and occasionally inquiring, "How goes the work?"—to which the duck replies, "Quack!" When the duck grows "sleepy and weepy and tired," the other animals hatch a plan, succinctly expressed: "Moo!" "Baa!" "Cluck!" They enter the house, climb the stairs, tip the sleeping farmer out of his bed and chase him away forever. Come morning, the duck arrives to slave alone as usual but finds the other animals eager to pitch in. The sanctimonious moral of "The Little Red Hen" gets a salutary restructuring here, with the focus on the duck's uncomplaining toil and the other animals' generosity. Waddell's narration is a marvel of simplicity and compact grace; Oxenbury's soft pencil and watercolor illustrations have the comic impact of masterly cartoons, while her sweeping color and light are gloriously evocative of the English farm scene. Like Waddell's Can't You Sleep Little Bear? (p. 58): a book with all the marks of a nursery classic. (Picture book. 2-7)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 30, 1988

From one of the finest practitioners of the art of the picture book for the youngest children, four disarming vignettes about a toddler and his toy monkey: Pippo, who has played in the mud, goes into the washing machine after a poignant kiss goodbye in case he never gets out; after a walk on a cold day when both Tom and Pippo fall into a puddle, Mommy gives them separate baths and a warm drink together by the fire; Tom likes to do what Daddy does—including scolding poor Pippo as instigator when Tom makes a mess by "helping" with the painting; and when Daddy is tired of reading to Tom, Tom "reads" to Pippo. In each book, busy little Tom is happy to learn by doing, imagining Pippo as his surrogate. Oxenbury uses simple language, though her text is lengthy enough to extend listeners' verbal ability and to contain some subtle nuances in these healthy relationships. Her clear, admirably drawn illustrations are full of amusing detail, including expressions on faces—Pippo's comically show emotion despite his limp, long-suffering form. Pages are very sturdy but flexible—fine alternative to board books for tiny fingers learning to turn pages. Wonderful. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1987

These delightful, action-filled "Big Board Books" show toddlers—black, white and Oriental—interacting with each other and care-givers of both sexes. A single line of rhyming text is just right for explaining the action. The text of "All Fall Down" goes: "Singing all together, running round and round, bouncy, bouncy, on the bed, all fall down. Oxenbury's illustrations in soft colors sweep across the double page. Her round and sturdy toddlers are expressive and individual. Toddlers will enjoy the little visual dramas: which dancing baby may lose his pants, which toddler is trying to take the cookie from his neighbor's tray, which baby is trying to comb her own hair, which baby sucks his thumb. Sturdy, glossy, these 8(apple)" square board books open flat for easy viewing. Excellent choices for independent browsing and reading aloud. Read full book review >
PIG TALE by Helen Oxenbury
illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Released: Nov. 21, 1973

From the 1970 Kate Greenaway Medal winner, another reminder that the simple life is where it's at and animals should definitely not wear clothing. Oxenbury's two pigs, bored and discontented though "they had plenty to eat,/ a warm sty with a thatch,/ An orchard to play in/ and trees for a scratch," find a buried treasure and jubilantly convert it to clothes, a car and a house complete with swimming pool. But all the appliances and motors give them so much trouble that after one bad day they chuck it all and return to their orchard and mud, flinging off clothing with rapturous abandon as they go — for now "To be careless and free and to romp and to play/ Was all that they wanted to do every day." Oxenbury's fleshy pigs are pictured with a free-and-easy flair; her rhymed text has some bright touches too, although it tends to become monotonous toward the end as it bounces along in the service of the overly familiar concept. Read full book review >
NUMBERS OF THINGS by Helen Oxenbury
Released: June 1, 1968

Numbers of things to count: ONE one lion, two cars, six acrobats, ten animals, twenty balloons, fifty ladybugs which indicates the numerical range, the spread of subjects, doesn't suggest the variety achieved in fourteen tall, skinny illustrations. Miss Oxenbury is the wife of John Burningham and these have some of his bravado, some of Erik Blegvad's whitnsey. Children will have to stay alert to count the separate objects they're not neatly lined up but this would do handsomely as, say, a second counting book. Read full book review >

A gifted British author-illustrator continues the saga of a cheerful toddler and his toy monkey, first met in four titles in 1988. When they go shopping, Tom keeps asking for things for Pippo to eat (a bit of cheese, a plum), but then eats it all himself while poor Pippo's face alternately registers hope and resignation. In the garden, Tom's care for Pippo parallels his mother's for him. When—on the night of a full moon—Dad tells Tom about rockets, he imagines going to the moon with Dad and Pippo (this will make a fine prequel to Barton's I Want to Be an Astronaut). And on a day when Daddy goes to work, Tom is also so busy that he forgets where Pippo is; fortunately, he finds him again, because "when it's time to go to sleep, I need to be with Pippo." Tom is lucky to live in the nurturing family Oxenbury depicts with such warmth; his creative play with his beloved friend reflects his own security and capacity for healthy growth. The illustrations here are masterpieces of simplicity: a few soft lines convey nuances of character and feelings, composition combines lively action with stable designs reinforcing the sense of Tom's security, and there is a good variety of details, well chosen to interest the toddler audience. Eight of these charming little books is not too many! Read full book review >