Past Events


OCBG Conference 2023

was held on 15th November 2023, preceded by our usual Bring n’ Share Supper. The brief AGM was then followed by a lively and fascinating talk by Oxfordshire County librarian, Kirsty Shearer, who kindly stood in, at the last minute, for her colleague Dominique Henderson who had fallen ill with Covid.

Chair’s report: Jackie Holderness shared her annual report. 2023 has been another very positive year. Our key achievements included G. M. Linton’s visits to Windmill and Wheatley primary schools, where she shared her wonderful Sunshine Simpson series with over 100 children.

Our family Alice day enjoyed good weather and a lot of interest so we have been invited to repeat the event on July 7th 2024.

Over 40 people attended our biennial Storyfest conference (Stories can change the world) where award-winning authors Mini grey, Gill Lewis, Ben Lerwill and Bill Laar gave us all a rich and varied morning, with talks that were both very profound and entertaining.

Click here for the Chair’s AGM 2023 report in pdf format.

OCBG Conference 2023

Treasurer’s Report: Amy Poole reported the conference had made a small loss, but thanks to a welcome donation from the Oxford Junior High School’s Readathon, we have remained stable, financially, with around one thousand pounds for future events.

Membership Secretary’s Report: Moira da Costa explained that our numbers are slowly increasing, including four new members who joined as a result of the conference, but we have not yet quite returned to pre-pandemic levels with local schools.

Committee: Thanks were expressed to everyone on the current Committee, all of whom have agreed to remain for another year and we are hoping that we will soon be joined by one or two new committee members.

Bring and Share supper: Everyone enjoyed the wonderful dishes people had brought to share and thanked Moira and Peter for their hospitality.


back to top of page

Books image separator


Outside the Story Museum
Picture of the conference inside the Magic Common Room
Picture from OCBG conference 2023
Picture from OCBG conference 2023
Picture from OCBG conference at the Story Museum
The Magic Common Room ceiling at the Story Museum

We were delighted to host our conference at the Story Museum in their Magic Common Room, which is a colourful and enchanting space, ideal for the 40 attendees. A HUGE thank you to Josh, Ruby and Sarah of the Story Museum for looking after us so well!

We had 40 people and everyone enjoyed a fascinating morning, with four excellent speakers (Mini Grey, Ben Lerwill, Gill Lewis and Bill Laar).

Mini Grey, with her customary effervescent style, shared the story of our precious planet with her amazing timeline. Ben Lerwill picked up the environmental theme, reflected in his non-fiction children’s books about climate activism. He also gave us fascinating insights into his work as a travel writer. Gill Lewis has written many books and stories about nature where her animal and human characters encourage young readers to treasure their interaction and their natural surroundings. Bill Laar drew these themes together and reminded us of the sheer power that the narratives and knowledge that books can give us. Books really can change the world…

OCBG member, Bella Pearson, provided a stunning display of books published by her very own publishing house, Guppy Books, and Moira, our Membership Secretary, displayed the books which featured in our Westmill Solar environmental project last year. Moira also looks after the OCBG scrapbooks, reflecting nearly 30 years of activity in Oxfordshire, and these scrapbooks were also on display.

We were able to treat everyone to a free book in their conference tote bag and, thanks to our raffle, many people went home with two free books! The Story Museum set up a bespoke bookshop for us and over £300 worth of books were sold and signed!

Thank you to everyone who came along and made the morning possible. The feedback has been super-positive!

The event was hard work but very worthwhile because of the profoundly worthwhile contributions of our speakers and the wonderful atmosphere and camaraderie we all enjoyed.

Biennial Storyfest Conference poster


Books image separator


Alice in Wonderland - The Great Outdoors free family event picture
Alice in Wonderland - The Great Outdoors free family event picture
Alice in Wonderland - The Great Outdoors free family event picture
Alice in Wonderland - The Great Outdoors free family event picture
Alice in Wonderland - The Great Outdoors free family event picture
Alice in Wonderland - The Great Outdoors free family event picture

The OCBG committee ran this relaxed and happy event at the Treacle Well in Binsey (St Margaret’s Church).

We had over forty families come along. Many stayed the whole afternoon because the children so enjoyed the many activities on offer. Bill Laar told exciting stories at the Treacle Well and Clive Goddard drew brilliant cartoons. Mirjam Chappell and the Poole family supervised craft activities, hooking the ducks, dressing up and the lucky dip! Raffa and Heuishil and Raffaella Ro from Sensing Space shared their wonderful activities and launched their new book, ‘My Adventure with Alice’!

The weather was very kind to us and we hope we managed to recruit a few new members…


Books image separator

June 2023 member school book giveaway

Catherine Matthews presents a free bag of nearly new books to Jess at Wheatley primary
Jackie Holderness presents a bag of nearly new childrens books to Alex at Botley Primary

During the month of June, we were delighted to be able to give some of our member schools a selection of nearly new Children’s books.

Catherine Matthews presents a bag of books to Jess at Wheatley primary (pictured left).

Jackie Holderness hands over another bag to Alex at Botley Primary (pictured right).

Our secondary schools have also benefited.


back to top of page

Books image separator

June 21st 2023 – OCBG were delighted to welcome Gaynor Linton to Oxfordshire

Gaynor book signing on 21st June 2023
Picture of 'May name is Sunshine Simpson' book cover and author Gaynor Linton

Members of the Committee took Gaynor to two member schools – Wheatley and Windmill on Wednesday 21st June 2023, which was also the Windrush 75th anniversary date.

You can read the Usborne Books press release for ‘My Name is Sunshine Simpson’ here.


Books image separator


was held on 16th November 2022 6.30 – 7pm and was followed by a Bring n’ Share Supper and an exciting Storytelling event, with special guest, storyteller Anna Conomos and ‘The Promise’.

Chair’s report: Jackie Holderness shared her annual report. It has been a very positive year. The key achievements were the Stories that Change the World project, which featured nine author visits to our member schools and the Cumnor school Book Swap. Our family Alice day had to be cancelled because of Covid but we will try again in July 2023!

Treasurer’s Report: Amy Poole reported that we have remained stable, financially, with just over one thousand pounds reserves for future events. Out of the Westmill Solar’s generous grant, we still have enough to cover one more author visit and the purchase of the relevant books.

Membership Secretary’s Report: Moira da Costa explained that our numbers have stayed stable but we hope to return to pre-pandemic numbers, as soon as possible.

Committee: The current committee agreed to remain and we welcomed one new committee member.

Thanks were expressed to everyone on the Committee for all their invaluable time and contributions to a worthwhile post-pandemic year, in which (thanks to Westmill Solar’s generous grant) we reached over 1,000 children to encourage their love of stories and books!

Bring and Share supper: Everyone enjoyed the wonderful dishes people had brought to share and thanked Moira and Peter for their hospitality.

Anna Conomos

Guest speaker Anna Conomos: Thirty of us squeezed comfortably into the drawing room for our guest speaker, Anna, who focused on retelling the true story of two little girls, great friends who were caught up in the terrible Cypriot conflict in 1974. One was Christian and the other Muslim, but they made a promise to try to find each other again, after the fighting was over. Anna’s consummate skill at storytelling ensured a most moving and memorable occasion for us all.

Anna also showed a powerful documentary about the conflict which helped us understand the politics which often lie behind human tragedy, and reminded us about the power of hope. In the current context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, all this seemed painfully and poignantly meaningful.

Thankfully, the story’s ending offered hope and joy in the future. Everyone felt very privileged to be there and thanked Anna very warmly.

Click here for the Chair’s AGM 2022 report in pdf format.


Books image separator

September 23rd 2022 – Book Swap at Cumnor Primary School

Cumnor School Bookswap

Over 200 children were able to select ‘new’ books from over 400 titles available to swap. There was a real BUZZ about reading!

The Cumnor School Head had decided that the format and organization of the Book Swap should be different from our usual approach, removing the need for paper vouchers. We all agreed that the new system worked extremely well. Over the previous few days, the children had already handed in their ‘swappable’ books to their teachers. We collected these and laid them out according to Key Stage. Altogether, there were over 400 books to choose from!

The children came into the hall, two classes at a time and were both enthusiastic and well behaved. Almost immediately, the younger ones sat on the floor and began to read and share their ‘new’ books. Each child was allowed to choose 2 or 3 books, irrespective of the number of books they had brought in to swap. This system may have appeared unfair but ‘super donors’ were assured they could get an additional book later.

We left the school two big bags of books to give out to super-donors on Monday, or to add to the school library. We also creamed off two bags of nursery level books to donate to local playgroups and toddler groups.

Several children, on their return to class, wrote spontaneous thank you’s for us e.g. "Thank you for being there" and "Thank you for all those books…"

The OCBG committee members believe this kind of event has more impact on boosting reading than anything else we do. We would like to offer Book Swaps to all our school members because it really encourages reading and discussions about books and can augment the library, so the schools and children benefit so much. For children who do not have many books at home, it gives the thrill of becoming a book owner and collector.


back to top of page

Books image separator


Photo of Nicola Davies

OCBG is pleased to report that, to conclude our Westmill Solar and environmental awareness project (Stories to change the world) we held our tenth author visit on Wednesday 8th February 2022. We were delighted that award-winning author, broadcaster and zoologist, Nicola Davies, agreed to share her passion for writing and for nature with 150 Year 7,8 and 9 students at Matthew Arnold School. Since Nicola lives in Wales, we set up a virtual author talk via Zoom and what an inspirational talk it was!

Nicola Davies - The Promise book cover
Nicola Davies - Ice Bear book cover

Nicola has written over 80 books, most of which celebrate the natural world and encourage their readers to protect and nurture it. Most of her books are picture books, including The Promise and Ice Bear, (Walker Books) for younger readers.

For the presentation, Nicola focused mainly on her most recent novel, The Song that Sings Us, which is suitable for 10-16 year olds and which is very popular with secondary school students and librarians.

Nicola Davies - The Song That Sings Us book cover
Nicola Davies - Choose Love book cover

The Song that Sings Us is a fast-paced adventure story about the battle between life and unlife; between the forces for good and the forces of greed, exploitation and destruction. The book, which is illustrated by Jackie Morris, sings the deep and moving story of Harlon, who is on a desperate journey to protect her brother and sister from the nature-hating tyrants known as the Automators. It asks of us all: "Who will sing the song to save the world?"

According to their teachers, the MAS students were all ‘riveted’ by what Nicola was saying and paid the closest attention to her very practical advice about the creative writing process. No doubt these young people will respond to and dwell on the many environmental matters that Nicola raised and ponder deeply the message of love from Nicola’s poem about refugees, which she read from the book ‘Choose Love‘ published by Grafegg, 2022

I would like to express my HUGE thanks to Nicola, to Westmill Solar, to MAS Librarian Chloe Fairbanks, to the MAS staff and students and to the OCBG committee. Thanks, too, to the other authors who visited schools last year: Linda Newbery, Mini Driver, Ben Lerwill, Jules Pottle, Chitra Soundar.

We will continue with the theme of change with our biennial conference in October:
Stories that Change Us….date and venue tbc.

Jackie Holderness (OCBG Chair: 10.02.2023)


Books image separator

Stories to Change the World : our 2022 project

Local author Ben Lerwill looking at the solar panels on St Barnabas school

Thanks to a generous grant from energy co-operative, WESTMILL SOLAR, we have been able to introduce children to an exciting selection of gifted authors whose stories raise awareness of climate change and the environment.

Long-time OCBG member, Linda Newbery visited Bletchingdon Primary, Oxford High Preparatory School and Cumnor Primary to share her story, Lob, which focuses on a love of nature. Linda is also planning to visit secondary schools with her book This book is cruelty free.

Pinewood School hosted local author and award-winning science educator, Jules Pottle whose book Doffa’s Reindeer relates specifically to wind farms and the need to get away from fossil fuels.

Another celebrated local author, Mini Grey visited St Barnabas, Botley, Europa and Chandlings schools to talk about her work as an illustrator. She focused on The last wolf and also her newest book The Greatest Show on Earth which is Mini’s debut non-fiction picture book about how our natural world has changed over 46 million years and how we can learn from this collective story of Earth.

Award-winning author and storyteller Chitra Soundar travelled from London to share her book Sona Sharma – looking after Planet Earth with children at Rosehill Primary school. In the story, Sona is learning about climate change in school and Sona’s teacher encourages the children to get involved.

Ben Lerwill is an award-winning travel writer who also writes for children about global and conservation themes. His talks, about One Moment in Time (KS1) and Climate Rebels (KS2) were enjoyed by St Barnabas and Wolvercote Primary schools.

Finally, later in the autumn term, Nicola Davies, zoologist, writer and former presenter on the Really Wild Show, has agreed to speak to the secondary age range, via Zoom, from her home in Wales about her book The Song that sings us which asks ‘Who will the song to save the world?’

Overall, by the end of this year, we will have reached around 1,000 pupils across our member schools, enabling them to meet and engage with authors who want to make a difference by inspiring the next generation to learn about, love and treasure our fragile planet.

The OCBG committee would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Westmill Solar and to everyone involved!


Books image separator

We were delighted to welcome everyone to our Annual General Meeting on November 24th 2021 at 6:30pm.

Jules Pottle potrait

This was an online zoom event, with guest author Jules Pottle giving us an exciting talk from 7:00-8:00 pm.

Jules Pottle is a local Oxford Author, Storyteller and Teacher who was honoured as Primary Science Teacher of the year in 2015.

Jules Pottle teaching books image

Jules writes books for teachers which demonstrate how to use stories to teach science because she believes we are hard-wired to learn in this way.

Jasper the Spider image

Working freeelance with the Story Museum, she also trains storytellers. Jules talked about her work and shared her latest book, a picture book, called ‘Jasper the Spider’ which had only just been published.


Books image separator

Thanks to those that visited the OCBG stand at the indie book fair on Saturday 6th November 2021. We were stand number one and was there from 10:00am until 4:00pm

Oxford Indie Book Fair Flyer

Download the pdf programme for the Oxford Indie Book Fair here.


back to top of page

Books image separator

OCBG Conference 2021 poster

OCBG Conference: October 16th 2021 10am – 12pm

This year, our biennial conference took place via Zoom. Thanks to Treasurer Amy Poole’s Eventbrite skills, over 93 people had signed up, for the free event, but (inevitably) there were several no-shows. Nevertheless we were delighted to welcome 55 delegates from all around the UK and one delegate from Indonesia! A Katherine Rundell bag is currently on its way to Dita Surwanti who won the prize for being our farthest away participant!

With technical support from new member Nick Buxey, the technology worked well and we all enjoyed a powerful pre-recorded session by Robin Stevens who was born in America but grew up in Oxford.

A life-long fan of detective fiction, Robin Stevens is the author of the bestselling ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ Mysteries and other detective mysteries. In a lively presentation, Robin gave us fascinating and revealing insights into her own passion for crime fiction and into what being a writer in the pandemic has meant for her and her creative process.

Erica Davis welcomed our second speaker, Tom Palmer, Children’s Book Award winner (‘D-Day Dog’) and author of numerous adventure and football stories. In a ‘live’ presentation, Tom spoke very movingly about his journey into becoming a writer and shared intriguing glimpses into his own writing and research processes. His latest book, ‘Arctic Star’ was inspired by Tom’s listening to recordings made by sailors and seamen who endured the icy horrors of the Arctic convoys during WW2. During the Q and A session, we discussed the books and publishers that had influenced Tom. General acclaim was given by Tom and others to Barrington Stoke books for their choice of authors, themes, paper colour and font style, all of which are designed to support and encourage those children who struggle, albeit temporarily, with the mechanics of reading.

Moira da Costa then invited our final speaker, local author Griselda Heppel, to introduce us ‘live’ to her first three books for children. Two of the books are based upon classics such as Dante’s Inferno and Goethe’s Faust, while her latest book, ‘Fall of the Sparrow’ is a supernatural boarding school mystery. Griselda gave us a valuable and searching account of the way she achieves complex plots and characterizations.

Finally, Griselda and Tom hosted a stimulating discussion before the conference came to a close. Everyone agreed that the Zoom approach had minimized travel and enabled participants to join in from distant shores, so we may decide to hold our conferences digitally in the future. In the meantime, we hope to continue with our face to face events such as Book Swaps in schools, Family days and Creative writing workshops…once the pandemic is under control. To conclude, Jackie Holderness thanked the OCBG committee and everyone involved, including Oxford’s iconic Blackwell’s Bookshop because they kindly offered our conference attendees and members generous discounts on books written by our speakers.

Here is their conference link.

To watch the recording of Robin Stevens, here is the link.

To watch the recording of the 2021 OCBG conference click here.


Books image separator

May 2021 was National Share-a-Story Month and our theme was
Myths, Magic and Mayhem.

Myths Magic and Mayhem poster

There were resources and competitions for libraries, illustrators and writers with wonderful prizes donated by publishers.

For more information, click here to go to the Federation of Children’s Book Groups website where you can see the rules for some great competitions and also a list of brilliant Story Starters for the writing competition.

The three well-known authors who have written these Story Starters are Kevin Crossley Holland, Michelle Harrison and our very own Oxford member Robin Stevens.

Please send your stories or illustrations directly to the National Share-a-Story Month competition email address:

The competition is open to all our members, school children and individuals and the deadline is 15th June 2021.

Please let us know if you have entered. Good Luck!!


back to top of page

Books image separator

Being a Children’s Book Illustrator
Wednesday March 31st 2021 1:30-2:20pm

A Golden Treasury image

Several of our members attended, via Zoom, a fascinating talk by one of our founder members, the author and illustrator Korky Paul, who was the guest speaker with St Margaret’s Institute, Summertown. Korky described the creative processes behind children’s favourites such as ‘Winnie the Witch’ and ‘The Fish Who Could Wish’.

Korky has long been a supporter and associate of the OCBG so we were thrilled to be able to hear him talk so powerfully about his work. We are delighted that Korky has agreed to contribute to our 2021 conference on Saturday 16th October.


Books image separator

2020 Annual General Meeting – Wednesday November 25th

Our 2020 AGM was conducted on Zoom. It was good to see members again and to be reminded of what we had achieved since the last AGM, before the pandemic struck. Fortunately, the business side didn’t take long, which meant we were soon able to welcome our guest speaker, Charlotte Sebag-Montefiore.

Charlotte kindly shared her fascinating journey as a writer and ‘riddler’. Her books of Animal riddles have been very well-received in schools because children love trying to guess the creature and relish the richness and mystery of the language of riddles! The main feature of Charlotte’s talk was her new picture book, ‘Herbie and the T-Rex’. After Charlotte’s reading of her beautifully illustrated story, we were able to enjoy a lovely Questions and Answers session. Because we were on Zoom, it was an unusual AGM but we all agreed that the evening had given us all new insights into writing children’s books and had been very enjoyable.

The Committee is delighted to welcome two new members, Amy Poole and Esther Peacock and a few others have expressed interest. Our long-serving Treasurer and founding member of OCBG, Fay Sinai, is looking for a successor because she would like to retire from the role. Everyone thanked Fay for all she had done for the group. If you have the skills we need for Fay’s role, or would like to join the Committee in another capacity, please let us know!

Looking forward into 2021, we have to accept that normal activities will continue to be difficult, even if the lock down is slowly lifted. Our conference will take place on the morning of Saturday, October 16th, but might be an online event. In the meantime, we are planning other online treats, to which you will be alerted by email and via our Face Book page. Until then, please keep in touch. We would be delighted to receive suggestions for the future!

Best wishes and stay safe!
Jackie Holderness (Chair) on behalf of the OCBG committee.


Books image separator

Poster Kennington Library 19th February 2020 Author Event

Wednesday Feb 19th 2020 10:00am:

Kennington Library. Free family storytelling event in the Spring Half term with Jackie Holderness. Over 30 families came along to find out more about Princess Frideswide and to help Jackie act out the story. The children (aged between 2 and 12 years) then chose from a range of art and craft activities.


Books image separator

Nov 7th 2019 OCBG AGM
with guest speaker, Professor Liam Gearon.

The Corridor of Centuries book cover

Liam is author of many books but he will be sharing his first novel for children/Young Adults, aged 8-14: ‘The Corridor of Centuries’.

This is a historical novel which questions time and history: ‘History doesn’t just disappear,’ said Canute. ‘It has to be stored somewhere. Think how untidy the world would be if it wasn’t.’
‘Where does history go when it’s over?’

This is a Bring n’ Share (finger food/nibbles) event for OCBG members and friends



back to top of page

Books image separator


The Biennial OCBG Book Fest on October 12th 2019


There were not enough delegates to warrant using OUP’s generous offer of their conference space, so we changed the full-day Heroes and Heroines Conference into a morning-only event and moved it to the Frideswide room at Christ Church, which suited the 29-strong group perfectly.

Our stellar line up of speakers deserved a larger audience but they were all very gracious about the changes and happy to contribute to what turned into a very special event.

The Key to Flambards book cover

The day started with Kathy Lemaire (a former OCBG Chair) skilfully interviewing Linda Newbery. Linda is a much-loved and well-known writer who has written for children and young adults for many years. Her latest book (published by David Fickling) is ‘The Key to Flambards,’ which is based upon the novels of K M Peyton. Linda shared her affection for the Flambard novels and explained how she had become friends with their author who was thrilled with Linda’s sequel.

The heroine of Linda’s latest book has had to overcome serious challenges but she has inherited her grandmother Christina’s fierce determination and the book evolves very powerfully within a very contemporary setting.

Riddle of the Runes book cover

Next, we were all treated to a lively and highly informative talk by BBC presenter and OUP author, Janina Ramirez, whose books, ‘Riddle of the Runes‘ and ‘Way of the Waves‘ feature a feisty heroine, Alva, other engaging characters and a tame wolf called Fen. Everyone was captivated by Janina’s passion for and knowledge of Norse lore and language and learned a great deal about the people who used to go a-Viking, in times past.

Leo's War book cover

Our third speaker had inspired us all at the Spring social so we were delighted that Irish author, Patricia Murphy, was able to join us to go into more depth about her book, ‘Leo’s War‘. The story’s context is WW2 Rome and it features the true-life hero of the Vatican Hugh Flaherty, who helped to save hundreds of allied soldiers, refugees and Jews, throughout the Nazi occupation of the city.

Next, we were able to learn more about recent developments and plans for The Story Museum, thanks to Isy Mead who spoke at our conference two years ago. The Museum will re-open in Spring 2020, after a total and thrillingly imaginative refurbishment. There will be a new focus in one part of the Museum on 1001 stories, all featuring, of course, their own heroes and heroines.

The Princess who Hid in a Tree book cover

We were briefly introduced to Oxford’s very own and feisty Anglo-Saxon heroine, Princess Frideswide, whose story has been captured in the Bodleian Library’s ‘The Princess who Hid in a Tree’. Written by OCBG Chair, Jackie Holderness, and illustrated by award-winning artist Alan Marks, the book has won the gold medal for picture books in the 2020 Illumination book awards in America.

Riddle of the Runes book cover

Our last speaker, educator and author, Bill Laar, closed the day with a moving overview of what it means to be heroic. He shared with the group some of those people through history who have, for him, demonstrated heroic behaviours and values, all of which had been demonstrated by the characters in the books we had encountered during the morning.

Afterwards, those who wished to went to the Story Museum Café for what proved to be a delicious lunch. Thanks are due to all those who came to the event, to our wonderfully generous and inspirational speakers and to the hard-working committee. We made only a small profit, but most of that will go towards our campaign to give away more books to schools and family centres.

A BIG Thank You to everyone who supported the event!!



back to top of page

Books image separator

Creative writing workshop with author Philip Davies 11th May 2019

Philip Davies creative writing workshop poster

On May 11th 2019, 20 young writers came to rye St Antony School for a brilliant 2 hour Creative writing Workshop with Philip Davies, OCBG Member and Author of Teenage and Fantasy books. His Destiny’s Rebel trilogy is published by Books to Treasure.

Everyone really enjoyed the workshop and went home, brimming with good ideas, and inspired by Philip’s helpful and valuable writing tips!


back to top of page


Books image separator


OxFedTed at FCBG London Party 3
OxFedTed and Jackie (Chair OCBG) meeting a fellow bookworm at the FCBG 50th Birthday celebration at Foyles’s Bookshop, in London.

OxFedTed’s Gold and Silver Party

On Saturday 5th May 2018 at the Story museum in Oxford, we celebrated the Oxford Children’s Book group’s 25th anniversary. Of course, 2018 is also the FCGB’s 50th, so we had a ‘double whammy’ and ‘twice-as-blingy’ reason to party!

There were all the ingredients needed for a birthday party: gold and silver balloons; bunting; crafts; dressing up opportunities in the Museum’s talking throne room; Fairy Fizz to drink; and crisps, popcorn and cake! Most of the children (and grown-ups) made their own gold and silver crowns to wear, and decorated golden treasure chests with jewels, because, I am sure we would all agree, a great book is like a valuable, much-loved, and often-hoarded treasure!

April 25th 2018 story museum 001 - Copy
OCBG Committee member, Erica Davis, giving out FCBG stickers to some of the children at our party

The OCBG was delighted to welcome, as a special guest, former headteacher and author Neil Griffiths who enthralled us with his story about Itchy Bear. Neil is the original inventor of Storysacks, which (as you know) have figured large in our group over the last two years.

Neil said “I had a wonderful time and could not be happier to have supported such a wonderful event for a wonderful organisation”

We were all mesmerised by the powerfully told King Midas story, written and read by award-winning author of over 175 children’s books, and long-time member of OCBG, Geraldine McCaughrean. Local author- member, Cas Lester, then entertained everyone with her series of books about the naughty Fairy Nixie.

April 25th 2018 story museum 073 - Copy
Founder members, Moira da Costa and John Foster cutting the wonderful OCBG cake

OCBG Cake largeIMG_0029

Finally, well-known and prolific children’s poet, John Foster, who was a foundermember of OCBG, helped a fellow founder member, Moira da Costa, cut the huge and stunning birthday cake, which displayed the three logos which OCBG has used over the last quarter of a century.

Following a lively and interactive Dinosaur rap, John read another rap which he had written especially for the occasion:

Come on everybody take a look
There’s a child over there with her head in a book
She reads in the car. She reads on the bus
If you try to stop her reading she causes a fuss
She’s surrounded by books and by people who say
Read as much as you like. Read all day
For her parents belong to the Federation
That promotes reading across the nation
She’s a pile of books beside her bed
And when every one has been read
She’ll vote for the one she thinks is best
The one that stands out from the rest
That she thinks deserves the reward
Of the Federation’s Children’s Book award
She reads all day and she reads all night
When you think she’s asleep, she will switch back on the light
Her favourite place is the library
Where she can borrow books for free
She’s one of the younger generation
Who has been inspired by the Federation
Come on everybody take a look
There’s a child over there with her head in a book

John Foster

(reproduced with his permission- thank you, John!)

April 25th 2018 story museum 104 - CopyOxFedTed with John and some of our guests

Altogether, we had over 80 people come for the afternoon, including five members of the FCBG executive, Chris Routh, Denise Lawrence, Karen Hellewell, Julia Miller, and OCBG’s own Louise Stothard. Some families were just visiting Oxford for the day, and the Story Museum for the first time. One mother said, “We had no idea this was happening and feel very lucky to have chosen today to come- what a great bonus this has been.”

One member reported: “the children loved the visit and remembered all the stories on their return. Our daughter’s friend was blown away by the whole event having never experienced anything like it. The crafts were fun, the cake amazing, the storytellers and rap brilliant.”

So, thanks to the generosity of the Story Museum and the committee’s hard work, it seems the party was a good way to celebrate the last 25 years of regular and special events, through which we have reached out to thousands of children, to encourage them to read and to love stories and books of all kinds. Bringing children and books together is always worthwhile, so here’s hoping that we can keep going for another 25 years….?!

Jackie Holderness (Chair OCBG) with grateful thanks, as ever, to the OCBG committee members: Florence Benfeghoul, Moira da Costa, Erica Davis, Mary Roberton, Fay Sinai, Jo Steele, Harriet Steele (possibly the youngest Committee member in the country?), Louise Stothard (FCBG Executive for NSSM).


back to top of page

Books image separator

World Book Day 2018: We celebrated World Book Day 2018 by again giving Story Sacks to the Children’s Hospital at the JR and Helen and Douglas House on 16th March 2018

For the second year running, the OCBG has created and donated 20 Story Sacks for the children’s wards in the NHS Hospital Trust. Each sack contains at least one story book, non-fiction book, toys, games and puzzles, to enrich and develop the themes in the story. Because the sacks are to be used on the wards, everything in the sack has to wooden or plastic, to minimise the risk of infection, but the contents can still generate a lot of interest and help to make reading and learning fun!

JR Sacks delivery by OCBG

This year, the girls of Oxford High School Juniors helped to fund the sacks by raising nearly £600 over the Christmas term and who devoted their own World Book day, on March 1st, to enjoying, evaluating and designing Story Sacks, with Bill Laar, one of our OCBG members. Their teacher, Mrs Annette Sweeney said: “It is both a privilege and a great pleasure to be able to support the valuable work of the OCBG.”

The Hospital school teachers have been using the first 20 Story Sacks with children across several hospitals and have found them very useful indeed.

Victoria Stoneham of the Hospital school said:“…. I have just taken the story sack ‘Jungle’ into one of our children and he LOVED it! He particularly enjoyed the snake and finding the scary animals in the jungle book. The counting book also had a great glossary at the back explaining the unusual animals, which was a great help!”

Sarah Vaccari, Head of Communications said: “….thanks to all the group who have clearly put so much effort and thought into the wonderful Story sacks. I can see they will bring much pleasure to hundreds of young patients.”

Making Story Sacks
OxFedTed helping committee members to make Story Sacks

Here is the whole story so far written by Jackie Holderness, OCBG Chair, in October 2017 from her blog on the Federation Website

“The OCBG always marks World Book day in a special way. For the last three years, we have donated sets of story books to local Hospitals and Children’s Hospices in Oxford and Banbury. Last year, however, we decided to make and donate 20 Story Sacks to the Children’s Hospital School, at the John Radcliffe Hospital, to mark World Book day.

Having seen Story Sacks in action in a wide range of settings, I still get a great deal of joy to see how excited children are to open the Story sack. They love peering inside the sack to see what treasures it contains. They always find a story book, together with a non-fiction book, characters or scenes from the story, games, toys and puzzles. All these props are designed to bring the story to life and give children ways to retell and re-enact the story. Our hope is that these Sacks will give sick children hours of entertainment and educational fun, during their time in hospital.

Committee member busy making Story Sacks ready for the JR

Certainly, the Hospital feedback has been very encouraging:

We are so grateful to receive these incredible story sacks made by the Oxford Children’s Book Group who have been tirelessly putting together the story sacks for months. At the children’s hospital, we often teach children by their bedside. It is very important that anything we take to the children can be wiped down to reduce the risk of infection and one of the lovely things about these story sacks is that everything included can be wiped down, ready for the next child to investigate and enjoy.

This resource is one that will be shared amongst the Children’s wards, as well as with the excellent play specialists to ensure that every child has access to the fabulous stories. We are most grateful to the OCBG for dedicating time to making these story sacks for our children. They will be shared and enjoyed for many years to come.’

“Please do pass on our thanks to all the group who have clearly put so much effort and thought into the wonderful story sacks. They will bring much pleasure to hundreds of young patients.”

“Thanks again for all the excellent story sacks you have provided for OHS, which are presently a great teaching resource at the JR.”

Thanks to comments like these, the OCBG promised to create more Story sacks and, indeed, have managed to produce another 20 which we will present to the Hospital School on March 16th.

Last week, one of the Hospital school teachers wrote: As you know, the teachers and young people have loved using the sacks and are delighted to know that more are on their way.”

Neil Griffiths, the original creator of Story Sacks, is very pleased his idea is proving so useful in the Hospital School. He has agreed to come to Oxford to celebrate the OCBG’s Silver anniversary on May 5th, at the Story Museum. For more details, please see above.

Here are some pictures of the Story Sacks and of course OxFedTed giving a helping hand:

OxFedTed 1 - Copy Robots Ocean
Morpurgo Farm Caterpilla

Making Story sacks could be a project which other CBGs might like to emulate, to support Family Centres, hospitals and schools. To find out more, please get in touch with You may also like to visit the Story sacks website, where commercially produced sacks are displayed.



back to top of page


Books image separator

Elaine Wickson at Dry Sandford School

28 February 2018: Author Visit to Dry Sandford School Primary School: Elaine Wickson visited the children at Dry Sandford School to talk about her book Planet Stan.

Report from Moira: We enjoyed a brilliant visit by Elaine Wickson to Dry Sandford School on Wednesday. The children were so responsive; I think Planet Stan promises to be a great success. The teachers were also most enthusiastic and John Smith, a retired teacher, who was there as a supply teacher, was so keen that he was planning a creative writing session immediately afterwards.


Books image separator

Charlotte Guillain

NOVEMBER 8th 2017: AGM and celebration of NNFN (National Non Fiction November) with Charlotte Guillain, a local and award-winning non-fiction author.

We enjoyed a wonderful convivial evening on Wednesday 8th November at our AGM celebrating National Non-Fiction November with Charlotte Guillain sharing her experiences and the joys of writing non-fiction books for children.


back to top of page


Books image separator

OCTOBER 7th: Biennial OCBG Conference: A World of Words.

All our guest speakers were brilliant. They deserved a larger audience, but the 40 or so attendees all realised how privileged we were to be able to spend a whole day in their company. Sadly, our own Treasurer, Fay, was too ill to attend, but her efficient administration beforehand ensured it all went very smoothly.

The venue provided for us once again by Oxford University Press was wonderful, and OUP colleagues were all most helpful.

Julia Golding

The day started with prolific YA author, Joss Stirling (she also writes as Julia Golding and Eve Edwards), followed by Tom Moorehouse, whose slides and takes of voles greatly appealed.

Next came Sam of OUP Dictionaries who gave a fascinating insight into the children’s language and how dictionaries at OUP have evolved to keep up with changing words, needs and technologies. We were entranced by Sam’s work on the Roald Dahl dictionary, which is great fun.

After lunch, delegates were able to hear more about the impact of the 20 OCBG Story Sacks which we had presented to the JR Children’s Hospital in March 2017. Victoria Stoneham, of the JR explained how the sacks were being used by patients and how her JR colleagues have found the Story Sacks a great help. One colleague declared them, “the best resource we have!”

Isy Mead of the Story Museum shared her enthusiasm for story and also described for us the latest exciting happenings at the museum, which will be closed for refurbishment, but very active off-site with pop–up museum events and outreach activities.

Nicky Thornton, former owner of Mostly Books, talked next about changing from a bookseller into a book writer. Nicky won the Times/ Chicken House award with her first novel (The Firefly Cage, which will be published very soon!


The day finished, with another talk by Bill Laar, one of our regular Conference contributors. His ability to engage the audience and share countless stories about stories made sure that we all left the Conference on a high! Delegates came from as far as Ipswich, Cambridge, Somerset and Birmingham, and all the feed back has been positive.

See below some comments from delegates who enjoyed this event:

What a splendid day that was. The conference was a resounding success with great authors and I thought excellent speakers on the practical issues. Victoria was lovely with her comments and stories about using the Story Sacks and what can we say about Bill Laar? A whole room hanging on his every word, some of the anecdotes I have heard before but they always come over fresh, funny or terribly sad. It is the perfect way to end a day like that one. (OCBG member)

Thank you so much for a fabulous event on Saturday and being such wonderful hosts and providing such a stimulating programme. I had a very interesting and enjoyable day listening to a great mix of speakers and talking to such an enthusiastic group of people. (FCBG member)

… was a joy to meet so many people who are passionate about books! (Guest speaker)

“Thank you for the Oxford Children’s Book Group conference on the 7th October. It was an inspirational day and wonderful to hear the personal stories of all the participating authors. Bill’s thought-provoking, moving and good-humoured talk was undoubtedly a highlight!”



back to top of page

Books image separator


This event started with a showing of the full-length Storyfest film which was made when Anna Conomos led three schools (including St Aloysius) in a brilliant performance of Jason and the Argonauts. The children were thrilled to see the whole play once again, and amazed to see how much they had grown in just 7 months! The Book Swap went so well, we were almost overwhelmed with young readers exchanging their own books for different ones. The school, a relatively new OCBG member was delighted by the afternoon and said it gave reading in the school a real boost! There were lots of enthusiastic parents there as well because the Book Swap started at 3pm.

If you would like to have a Book Swap in your school or locality, please get in touch. All the school needs to do is send out a letter in advance, and organise a large room or hall. We do the rest.


Books image separator

NSSM: May 2017

The theme for NSSM 2017 was ‘Picture a Story.’ celebrating the power of illustrations, particularly in picture books, for all ages and to encourage sharing of picture books, to celebrate, appreciate and enjoy pictures in Museums and art galleries and to encourage creative writing using these pictures as starting points and finally to encourage youngsters of all ages to draw, illustrate, sketch and tell a story, however simple, through their own pictures and the comic format

OCBG celebrated this year’s NSSM by holding events on 16th May with Gill Lewis . GILL LEWIS visited Botley Primary School and then came along to meet the OCBG Committee, members and friends, for a Bring and Share supper . Gill’s talk was memorable. Pupils from Windmill primary school came along with their teacher, and Moira’s sitting room was full. Everyone was enthralled by Gill’s inspirational talk about the Mongolian musical instrument that led to her moving story about the Horse of the Wind. The evening was a real treat.

Books image separator




OCBG Committee and the ChildrenA few months ago, OCBG was approached by the J.R. to make Story Sacks for the Children’s Hospital. Story Sacks normally contain soft toys but the group needed to devise germ-minimising Story Sacks which could be used by children on the wards.

OCBG made 20 Story Sacks to give to the Children’s Hospital, in honour of World Book day. The Story Sacks were officially launched on March 6th at 11am, at the J.R.

Winnie Wagtail
Winnie Wagtail

One of these Story Sacks was donated by Neil Griffiths who invented Story Sacks for use in his Swindon school. Since then, the concept has grown and Story Sacks can now be purchased ready-made, and found in schools world-wide. Each sack costs at least £50, so by creating and donating 20 sacks, the OCBG has saved the Children’s Hospital £1000!

Your Committee hard at work Being a small charity, the OCBG could not afford to purchase Story Sacks for the hospital, so instead they have been hunting washable toys and props and holding workshops, where they have worked hard, sewing, gluing, and enjoying themselves.

Jackie Holderness, Chair of OCBG, has seen Story Sacks in action in a wide range of settings. She said: “It’s wonderful to see how excited children are to open the Story sack. They love peering inside the sack to see what treasures it contains. They always find a story book, together with a non-fiction book, characters or scenes from the story, games, toys and puzzles. All these props are designed to bring the story to life and give children ways to retell and re-enact the story. We hope that these Sacks will give sick children hours of entertainment and educational fun, during their time in hospital.”

There are pictures of all our Story Sacks on our Facebook page @OxfordChildrensBookGroup but here are a few examples

IMG_2776 IMG_8201 IMG_8199


We received this lovely letter from a young patient at the JR who enjoyed our Storysacks

Thank you letter from JR patient



back to top of page


Books image separator

National Non-Fiction November

Thanks to Harlequin mum, Erica Davis, The Oxford Children’s Book Group marked National Non-Fiction November with a special Storytelling and Reading event for Dads and Lads at Oxford Rugby Club’s Clubhouse in North Hinksey (Of course Mums, sisters and female rugby players were also welcome!)

Altogether there were members of three clubs playing matches on Sunday 27th November, with the Oxford Harlequins and Abingdon playing as well.

bill-laar-reading-storiesMoira da Costa of the OCBG ran a book stall of mainly non-fiction books and their ‘resident’ storyteller, Bill Laar ran a short Rugby Quiz and read aloud some ‘back-to-front’ traditional tales, such as the ‘Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig’ be Eugene Trevizas and a few ‘Revolting Rhymes’ by Roald Dahl.

harry-and-mum-and-sisters-2-img_4909Harry, age 4, helped to blow up the OCBG balloons. His mother said she had been reading aloud to him every night since he was a baby, because she knew how important listening to stories can be. She is aware that stories help children develop their vocabulary and language skills.

Books image separator


On Thursday 17th and Friday 18th November, the Oxford Children’s Book Group held an exciting Storyfest – a celebration of storytelling- with three local primary schools: St Ebbe’s, New Hinksey and St Aloysius.

anna-conomosEach school enjoyed a half day of inspiring workshops with performance storyteller Anna Conomos, an award-winning storyteller who grew up here in Oxford.

Then, on the Friday afternoon, 180 children from the three schools came together for the first time to briefly rehearse and then perform the story of ‘Jason and the Argonauts’. Individual children played specific roles, from Hercules to Athena, but they also acted together, becoming in turn a whole galley crew, a deep, dark forest or the many-headed, fire-breathing monster that guarded the Golden Fleece.

st-ebbes-schoolFor the finale, the audience was made up of more children from St Ebbe’s plus guests from the Story Museum, the National Federation of Children’s Book Groups and the Ragdoll Foundation which generously funded the Jean Russell Storytelling project.

the-performersJulia Miller, project coordinator, said that 19 schools and nearly 2000 children had benefited from the project. They had all enjoyed working with- and learning from- Anna’s lively approach to storytelling.

The OCBG Storyfest was the sixth and final event in the project. The OCBG was delighted that Anna Conomos had been chosen as the Jean Russell Storyteller because she used her many talents to bring into reality their vision to unite children from different schools in the shared experience of storytelling.

In Oxford, a total of six classes and their teachers were involved but, ultimately, all the teachers in each school will benefit from the Storyfest because the Ragdoll Foundation has presented them with Anna’s DVD and her very own storytelling training course.

Teacher Simone Wilson said that “the children had loved working with Anna because she used their ideas so creatively and made them feel confident.” She felt they had gained a great deal from the experience

img_4816-1The Lord Mayor of Oxford, Atlaf Khan, who attended the finale at St Ebbe’s school, remarked how well Anna engaged the children in the story. He was most impressed by the children’s enthusiasm and how they remembered all the actions and songs and rhymes.

Jackie Holderness, Chair of OCBG, highlighted the close relationship between talking, thinking and writing and explained that hearing and retelling stories is very important in developing literacy skills. She said, “Listening to, reading and acting out stories can help to widen children’s vocabulary and support their writing and social skills.”

view the video of the Jean Russell Story Telling Project here

View the final report of the Jean Russell Story Telling Project here



back to top of page


Books image separator

OCBG’s Annual General Meeting was held on Wednesday 2nd November 2016 at Windrush, Hamels Lane, Boars Hill, Oxford. Following the AGM at 7.15pm we were pleased to welcome Georgina Atwell who talked to members about Toppsta.

Georgina ran Apple’s e-book store in the UK before leaving to start up Toppsta, now the UK’s largest Facebook community reading and reviewing children’s books. With the website on track to have over 10,000 book reviews by the end of the year and personalised emails sent out to registered users each week, Toppsta helps parents, teachers and librarians discover great books for children.


Books image separator

img_2145On 27th September together with The Friends of Kennington Library OCBG welcomed Claire Barker, author of Knitbone Pepper Ghost Dog, to the Kennington Library. Claire had come from her farm in deepest darkest Devon to talk to us about her book, the third in the delightful Knitbone Pepper series. We all enjoyed listening to her lively descriptions of the activities and mayhem caused by her ghostly characters at Starcross Hall.

It was a very entertaining evening and I can definitely recommend that both boys and girls of 7+ read these warm and funny stories.


Books image separator

jackie-singer-and-pupils On 26th October during half term OCBG ran a delightful Storytelling event at Kennington Library. Storyteller Jackie Singer, kept several children highly amused and entertained. Jackie loves finding new stories to share. She is highly imaginative and the stories she told were about animals from all over the world. The children then made exciting animal masks and the results were brilliant.



back to top of page

Books image separator


On June 29th, OCBG members enjoyed a delightful summer social, with buffet supper, at Moira Da Costa’s house in Boar’s Hill.

IMG_4341We were delighted to be joined by local author Josie Patterson, author of ‘No buts, Becky!’ and ‘Angels, Prophets, Rabbis & Kings from the Stories of the Jewish People’ (World Mythology Series).

Josie entertained us with extracts from her new book ‘My Aunt Manya’ which is based upon her grandmother’s experiences. The riveting tale had us all spellbound and our youngest guest couldn’t wait to start reading it, as you can see!

Thanks to everyone who came along and who brought with them so much delicious fare, to Moira for hosting us so well and to Josie for sharing with us her journey as a writer. It was a truly thought-provoking and memorable evening!


Books image separator

National Share a Story Month- A Place for Stories:

On 14th May, thanks to the generosity of Oxford Preservation Trust, OCBG were able to use a rarely open and very special place in the centre of Oxford. We decided in this 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death, we would invite our members to listen to and share stories in Oxford’s secret gem, the Tudor Painted Room.

This room could share a lot of history with us. Originally, a medieval inn, in more recent times it has served as a study for poet John Betjeman. However, it is most famous for the stunning Tudor wall paintings which adorn the walls in a room where William Shakespeare used to stay with his landlord friend John Davenant.

In the 16th Century, the building was known as the Crown Tavern and Shakespeare used to stay there en route from Stratford-on-Avon to London. His players used the courtyard below to perform their plays and Shakespeare became Godfather to John Davenant’s child.


To protect the walls of the room, we had to organise specific time slots, so access was very limited. Still, always willing to make a fool of herself, our chair, Jackie, came dressed as Mrs Shakespeare and Bill Laar, a mesmeric storyteller, entertained the children.

The OCBG team had also brought along some lovely Shakespeare-themed picture books so the children were also able to just enjoy reading to each other and with their parents in this most unusual place.

The books included :

Marcia Williams: Bravo Mr Shakespeare, Mr Shakespeare’s Plays


More Tales from Shakespeare
More Tales From Shakespeare

And Gregory Rogers’ wonderful text-free tale: The boy, the bear, the baron and the bard ( Roaring Brook Press)

The Boy, The Bear, The Baron and The Bard

We also used:

Phoenix comic Issue 225 (23.04.16) Shakespeare Anniversary Special

William Shakespeare and the Globe (Aliki, Mammoth, 2000)

Dead Famous: William Shakespeare and his dramatic acts (Hippo 2004)

Shakespeare’s a Midsummer Night’s Dream retold by Nel Yomtov (Raintree, 2012)

For more information about the Painted Room:

Some very happy pictures of the day: enjoy

img_1037 img_1026 img_1047 img_1044 img_1054 img_1057



back to top of page

Books image separator

Federation of Children’s Book Group Conference

Three OCBG members attended the 2016 FCBG Conference in Telford during the first week of April: Louise Stothard, Moira Da Costa and Jackie Holderness. See Jackie’s report on the Federation page


Books image separator

Britta Teckentrup

On Friday 15th April, German author /illustrator Britta Teckentrup met children from years 1, 2 and 3 at St Andrew’s School, in Headington. Britta has published over 80 titles, including Big Smelly Bear, the Britta TeckentrupGrumpy Cat, The Tree and many more… All 90 children very much enjoyed Britta’s lively power point introduction to her stories and illustrations. They listened carefully to Britta’s powerful new story: Before I wake Up (published by Prestel Publishing) and also to her next story about Oskar, who was a crow who loved everything. The children also enjoyed guessing what Britta’s unique collage images depicted and then identifying Britta’s favourite foods, animals and birds. At the end, there was a lively Questions and Answers session. The children asked some brilliant questions and were clearly appreciative of the creative process and all that it entails.

Britta Teckentrup working with the childrenOnce the session in the school hall was over, Britta offered to visit each class, to share her original artwork with the children. This was a real bonus, as they were allowed to feel the textured papers that Britta uses to create her pictures. The children learned how to create collages and how to depict emotion through shapes and facial expressions. Each class were then able to ask Britta more questions and learn more about picture book illustration and publishing.

OCBG is very pleased to welcome St Andrew’s as a school member. The school, which has an annual Book Festival, was delighted to host the event and thanked Britta with a stunning bouquet of flowers.



back to top of page

Books image separator

Hare Event with Zoe Greaves

IMG_2144On 16th March OCBG members were delighted to welcome local author Zoe Greaves to a Bring and Share supper. After a delicious repast, Zoe explained how she had moved from selling and publishing books to writing them herself! Together, with her mother Lesley Sadleir, she has produced beautifully produced picture books which are destined, we feel sure, to become children’s classics.
The most recent title, ‘Hare’, has a poetically rich text, graced with and brought to life by, Lesley’s exquisite and botanically accurate illustrations. We learned a great deal about the vital interplay of text and image, and also quite a lot about hares! It was all fascinating and we could have listened to Zoe all night. She talked about her love of language, her passion for reading, and her many and interconnected past and present roles within the publishing world. We are very pleased that she is going to join the group and we hope she may contribute to other planned OCBG events in the future.

Click here to view an article on Zoe’s new book: Hare at Hare by Zoe Greaves

by Zoe Greaves

Zoe’s Books are published by Old Barn Books a new and exciting bookseller


Books image separator

AGM with guest author/illustrators, Harriet Impey and Katie Pickwoad

A Bowlful of HappinessAt our AGM on November 18th this year, we were thrilled to welcome as our guest speakers, Harriet Impey and Katie Pickwoad, talented authors and illustrators who grew up and went to school here in Oxford. Katie and Harriet now live in London and Leiden respectively but they have collaborated and known each other since they were two!

The Temple GardensBoth their exquisite picture books (‘A bowlful of happiness’ and ‘The Temple Guardians’) are visually stunning. They are very cleverly constructed and based upon oriental art in well-known museums, including the Ashmolean whose porcelain collection inspired ‘A bowlful of happiness’.

Those present all enjoyed the evening very much indeed and would highly recommend both these exquisite books.

Harriet at work in her Dutch Studio

Harriet at work in her Dutch studio



back to top of page

Books image separator

KidsLit Quiz: Regional Finals held at Cokethorpe School

On Thursday, 26th November, Cokethorpe School hosted the Oxon/Berks Regional Finals of the 2015 KidsLitQuiz. With schools from across the two regions represented, the children gathered in the Sports Hall to answer questions from a wide range of children’s books, some well known and others less so, even the spectators were involved having questions of their own to answer. At the end of an exciting afternoon Cokethorpe School Team A were announced as the winners and will be going forward to represent Ox/Berks at the National Finals on Friday 4th December at the Town Hall in Oxford.

Its hard work checking all the answers. One OCBG committee member thinking hard


finals (2)

The Finals were held at the Oxford Town Hall on Friday 4th December. Many congratulation to Hamilton College who will be travelling to New Zealand in the Summer for the World Finals. We wish them the very best of luck. Our local team from Cokethorpe School performed splendidly, we are very proud of them and look forward to supporting them again next year.


Books image separator

Jo Mobile 14 Oct 2015 072Teresa Heapy enjoyed a great fun visit to St Nicholas Primary School on Monday 12th October to talk about her beautifully illustrated story books: A Very Little Red Riding Hood and A Very Little Cinderella. The children were mesmerised by her fascinating version of these well loved fairy tales. To find out more about the award winning Teresa visit her website and explore more of her endearing stories



back to top of page

Books image separator

Alice’s Treacle Well at St Margaret’s Churchyard, Binsey

“It was much pleasanter at home,” thought poor Alice, “when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn’t gone down the rabbit-hole–and yet–and yet–…”
Lewis Carroll , Alice in Wonderland

On Sunday, 27th September, the OCBG helAlice and the Jam Tartsd a relaxed and successful family event at the treacle well in Binsey. Despite the remote location, our Treacle Well Tales, attracted over 100 children and parents, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland.

We were delighted to welcome Mark Davies, author of ‘Alice in Waterland’ to the event: View the book on Amazon UK here: Alice in Waterland

The children also enjoyed meeting storyteller, Julie Pottle, who brought along the Story Museum’s touring Alice exhibition, which took up most of the tiny church of Saint Margaret.

Outside, the weather was very kind to us all, so children could listen to extracts from Lewis Carroll’s much-loved book next to the well or under the huge yew tree. There wStory tellingere several fun activities on offer: making big bubbles; finding ‘curiouser and curiouser’ things on a Wonderland Treasure Trail; fishing for ducks in the Pool of Tears; pinning the grin on the Cheshire Cat; icing ‘Eat Me’ biscuits; creating red roses for the Queen of Hearts; trying the Lucky Dip; or just meeting other families and the friendly and very curious goats who live next door!

The OCBG would like to thank the Rev’d Clare Sykes for enabling us to use this very special place and introduce so many families to Alice’s Treacle Well.

We look forward to organising more family events in the future….

photo 2
families at the Treacle Well
2015-09-26 15.20.35 (1) (1024x683)
and the Mad Hatter said …



back to top of page


Books image separator

Bee Friendly Festival

On 26th September , the OCBG ran a Book Swap and Book Shop stall at West Oxford. St Frideswide’s church on the Botley Road hosted a Bee Friendly Festival, where people could learn about the importance of bees as pollinators. Gardeners could discover which plants will attract bees to the garden, children learned to make five-start bee hotels, and all sorts of bee-themed crafts and games were on offer. The OCBG was very pleased to take part, and we engaged with a wide range of local families, several of whom came along the following day to the Treacle Well Tales event.

If you would like to invite us to take part in your next local event, please make contact. We are happy to provide a Book Swap or Book Shop with children’s books, in order to encourage more children to choose and read more books!


Books image separator

National Share a Story Month: Update

Your Committee is delighted to announce that Oxford Children’s Book Group have won a collection of Dragon books in the NSSM prize draw. The Federation and Book Group are very grateful to the Orion, Random House, Nosy Crow and Orchard Publishers and the authors John Foster and Emma McNally for their generosity.

Details of how these books will be shared with members will be notified here shortly

National Share a Story Month: OCBG celebrates with Dragons

On Saturday, 30 May OCGB held a Dragon Day at St Michael’s at the North Gate in Oxford City Centre to celebrate the Federation of Children’s Book Group’s Dragon themed National Share a Story Month. 38 children were entertained with wonderful dragon stories, made their own dragon mobiles and enjoyed other dragon themed activities. It was a pleasure to see so many children enthralled by the telling of old and new stories.

OCGB at St Michael at the North Gate
OCBG at St Michael at the North Gate

Bill Laar with tales of dragons

Welcoming dragons


Books image separator

Oxford Literary Festival 2015

Several committee members were delighted to support the Festival by introducing children’s authors, including Caroline Lawrence, Paul Stickland, John Dougherty and Daniel Hahn.



back to top of page

Books image separator

2015 Red House Book Award

Red House Book Award testing took place across a wide range of schools during the spring term. The Red House Children’s Book Award is the only national book award that is entirely voted for by children. It was founded in 1980 by Pat Thompson, a member of the Federation, to celebrate the books that children themselves love reading. Each year, a shortlist is drawn up from children’s nominations and any child can then vote for the winner of the three categories – Books for Younger Children, Books for Younger Readers and Books for Older Readers. The book with the most votes is then crowned the winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award.

Thank you to all the teachers and pupils who gathered together their reviews and supported the nation-wide competition to find the best books in each category

This year’s winners were:

The Day the Crayons Quit -by Oliver Jeffers and Drew Daywalt- the overall winner.

Demon Dentist -by David Walliams

Split Second -by Sophie McKenzie


Books image separator

JR Play specialist Erica Watson, is given over £100 worth of new books by OCBG committee members, Erica Davis, Jackie Holderness and Moira Da Costa

We decided to mark World Book Day March 5th 2015 and the 300th anniversary of John Radcliffe, by donating two full sets of brand new, award-winning books to Oxford’s Children’s Hospital.

The books donated to the Children’s Hospital were the shortlisted books for the annual Red House Children’s Book Award. Each year, a shortlist is drawn up from children’s nominations and any child can then vote for the winner of the three categories – Books for Younger Children, Books for Younger Readers and Books for Older Readers. The book with the most votes is then crowned the winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award.


Books image separator

Aoife Walsh

9781849397131We had a great evening with Aoife, newly published local author, on 23rd October, when she spoke to us about her book, Look after me, and her journey into publishing. Enjoyable, friendly and inspiring – many thanks Aoife!



back to top of page


Books image separator

Michael Morpurgo
Reading poetry
Reading poetry

What a wonderful afternoon we had in Thame on October 18th, when OCBG was able to bring the wonderful Michael Morpurgo to the Thame Arts and Literary Festival (TAL).

450+ people were in the hall, adults, teenagers and children, and they all loved his talk, which touched on serious issues like war and why many of his books are set in WWI, but also included lots of laughter.

The Lusitania medal
The Lusitania medal

He told us about the seeds that spark one of his stories, like the Lusitania medal which was one of the prompts for his new book Listen to the Moon and afterwards he spoke to everyone, child or grandmother alike, who wanted to talk to him!

Michael met all the children afterwards
Michael met all the children afterwards

As well as telling us about his stories Michael read us poetry from the First World War and finished by singing the lovely song Only Remember from the moving stage play of War Horse

Thank you Michael for a wonderful afternoon!


In conjunction with
Farms for City Children



back to top of page

Books image separator

Members’ special visit to The Story Museum

A very special party for OCBG members was held on 18th September 2014 at the wonderful Story Museum in Pembroke Steet, Oxford. After some very yummy treats we had the opportunity of a private visit to the incredible 26 Characters summer exhibition. There was a special kind of magic in creeping through the wardrobe, brushing aside the mothball-scented fur coats and finding ourselves in Narnia!

We peeped behind a curtain to see Merlin (and those arriving early enough had a quick hello from Kevin Crossley-Holland who had chosen to be portrayed as the great magician.) We explored the ship sailing to to Treasure Island with OCBG member Philip Pullman and inspected Just William’s garden shed. We discovered Michael Morpurgo (alias Abel Magwitch) hiding among the gravestones and enjoyed seeing Malory Blackman as the Wicked Witch of the West.

One of the most popular rooms was where we dressed up and sat on the talking throne.
All agreed it was a great event and we went home still smiling!

Many thanks to The Story Museum for hosting us, and to their Co-Director Kim Picken in particular for telling us the latest news, and about the creation of this wonderful exhibition.

Gallery of all the images
Gallery of all the images

The Party
The Party



back to top of page


Books image separator

Alyssa BrugmanAlyssa Brugman

In conjunction with the Oxfordshire School Library Association (OSLA) and Blackwell’s Oxford, we were delighted to present Australian author Alyssa Brugman on 29th May.

Alyssa was in the UK to celebrate publication of her young adult novel Alex as Well, a ‘tender, funny and powerful novel about questioning identity, discovering sexuality, navigating Friendship and finding a place to belong.’


Books image separator

Steven Butler

OCBG was very happy to have adopted an amazing event at the Oxford Literary Festival this year. On 30th March 2014 we introduced Stephen Butler with his Diary of Dennis the Menace, written to celebrate the 75th birthday of The Beano.

Steven Butler, actor, dancer, trained circus performer and author of The Wrong Pong series, gave the inside story on every cheeky trick and prank played by the star of The Beano. We met Dennis, Gnasher and friends (and enemies) and explored Beanotown with Dennis as our guide.


Books image separator

Deborah Ellis ellis_deborah

We were delighted to have a visit from Deborah Ellis, award-winning Canadian author of many thought-provoking and hard-hitting books for young people, including The Heaven Shop, Parvana’s Journey and My Name is X, as our guest on the evening of 20th March. As well as talking about her latest book, My Name is Parvana, Deborah gave us an insight into her visits to refugee camps in Afganistan over a period of years. Recent visits fed into books of interviews with children which she has published in Canada, including one with Native American children, one with the children in Afghanistan and her most recent, interviews with children in Israel and Palestine.

It was a truly inspiring evening and we are very grateful to Oxford University Press for supporting it, and especially to Deborah for giving us her time in a very busy schedule of talks and school visits – she had also visited Our Lady’s School, Abingdon, for us in the afternoon.


Books image separator

Red House Book AwardsRHBA lunch

As members will know we regularly take part in judging the annual Red House Book Awards. This is done by children in local schools and this year Rye St Anthony was one of those schools. They were also selected to receive tickets for the Awards Ceremony on the Southbank, part of the Imagine Festival. On 20th March the lucky ticket holders, still fizzing from the event in February, gave a presentation in their school assembly and you can see a pdf of their script below. OCBG is delighted that they enjoyed the event so much, and look forward to another school having the same
opportunity next year!

Red House presentation text



back to top of page


Books image separator

Jo Cotterill school visits Spring Term

Me with my author copies of Looking at the StarsWe were very grateful to Oxford author Jo for undertaking several school visits (including on World Book Day – see below) for us this term. A former teacher and actor, and now inspiring author of many books including the wonderful Looking at the Stars Jo was a hit with students and held them all captivated with her sessions.

Thank you Jo!


Books image separator

World Book Day 2014

Our celebrations for World Book day this year began with a party on Saturday afternoon, 1st March, at the Kennington Library.

Tracy Corderoy, our guest author, is amazingly talented and we all had a varied and very lively two hours. Tracy had brought inspiring costumes (made by herself) and showed her fantastic skill in keeping 60 children enthralled with her imaginative story-telling and acting ability.

Tracey Corderoy WBD

The books Tracey talked about were Hubble Bubble Granny Trouble, Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam and The Glorious Granny Bake-Off. Inspired by the illustrations in The Glorious Granny Bake Off, the children also had an opportunity to show their talents in a draw a magical and fantastical cake competition.

Also great fun was the craft activity that Tracey had brought with her, which involved the children making a cauldron with a pop-up frog on a broomstick. To round off the party there was an excellent tea and a thoroughly enjoyable time was had by all.

On World Book day itself we were delighted to take authorstars cover Jo Cotterill to the first of several visits to local schools she is undertaking for OCBG, this time to Henry Box school in Witney, where she met members of the Book Club informally and then enthralled the whole of year 8 talking about her journey into writing, and her latest title, Looking at the Stars.

group photo

Jo with members of the Henry Box School book club



back to top of page


Books image separator

Alex Woolf – Author visits

On Thursday 6th November, Year 7 pupils at St Gregory the Great School, Oxford and Marlborough School, Woodstock, welcomed Alex Woolf , Author of Soul Shadows and Aldo Moon to talks at their schools. Alex shared with the children his path to becoming an author and the obstacles he overcame on the way. Alex has written more than 80 books, many of these non-fiction, and is very involved with Fiction Express, an exciting on-line project which enables readers to help map the path of the story. The children responded enthusiastically to the talks and had many questions to ask. A very enjoyable day was had by all.


Books image separator

Ways into Reading
Autumn Conference 12th October 2013

What an exciting action-packed day it was! How did we manage to pack it all in? We took the theme of ways of getting children reading by less conventional means and we certainly learned a lot. Beginning with Professor Victor Watson, formerly of Homerton College Cambridge, who talked to us about his fascination with series fiction and the reasons it helps children to feel safe, where each new book is like entering ‘a room full of friends’, we then enjoyed a thought provoking talk about Project X and the role of reading schemes in the lives of 21st century children from Andrea Quincey of OUP.

After coffee we enjoyed a taste of the ways that author Tracey Corderoy engages children on school and festival visits with costumes, craft, animals and LOTS of imagination, and heard about The Phoenix Comic (a real comic not a TV tie-in magazine) and how it engages children in the pleasure of reading.

Following an excellent lunch we had more treats in store, firstly Vineeta Gupta talking about creating the Oxford Children’s Dictionaries from the children’s corpus and then the wonderful Andy Mulligan talking about Dangerous Books and the role edgy fiction can play in drawing in the reluctant older readers.

Finally a special storytime for us all with the lovely Bill Laar, ably demonstrating that enthusiasm and storytelling are important in bringing children and books together.

We’d like to thank all of our speakers and the publishers who supported the day, especially Oxford University Press for allowing us to use their beautiful venue, and also Mostly Books of Abingdon for running a very popular bookshop for us.

What others said about the day – a selection of blogposts



Image of a pile of books