Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls











Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Susannah McFarlane

Allen & Unwin, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Fairytales have a history much older than the sanitised Walt Disney versions that our young readers are familiar with; even older than the 19th century collections of the Brothers Grimm or Perrault in the 17th century- they delve right back into the history of oral storytelling, many based on true events that were brutal and terrifying, too horrific to record in print even for  Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. However, they were determined to preserve the old stories that told of their Central European heritage  and so using the folklore as a basis, they created stories that were solidly rooted in good versus evil and didactic.

Their stories and those of others like Hans Christian Andersen have become part of our children’s literary heritage princesses are pretty, princes handsome, where good always triumphs usually at the hand of some man, and everyone lives happily ever after.  But society changes and so must the stories, particularly as the call for non-traditional princesses who save themselves grows ever louder.  So this collection of retellings of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina is a welcome and timely addition to a long line of reinterpretations.

Still using the original premise and plot, Susannah McFarlane has expanded the stories and woven endings that are completely plausible and palatable for those looking for strong, independent, resourceful and resilient female characters.  The heroes are as feisty as their readers. Written by the editor of Stuff Happens  one of my favourite series for boys, and beautifully illustrated by a number of female Australian illustrators, this is a book for the slightly older independent reader who is familiar with the Disney versions and can appreciate the twists that McFarlane has included.

Thirty years ago when we were just beginning to teach children about protecting themselves through programs like Protective Behaviours, Try Again Red Riding Hood was a preferred resource because it shone a spotlight on the actions of familiar characters and how they could have done things differently.  Fairytales for Feisty Girls takes this concept to the nth degree, perhaps becoming the latest evolution of stories that are almost as old as Methuselah! Students might like to try re-writing one of the other traditional tales in a similar vein.

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare










The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare

Shannon Hale & dean Hale

LeUyen Pham

Candlewick Press, 2018 

96pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


On the outside, Princess Magnolia looks like the perfect princess – a pretty face, golden curls, sparkly tiara, glass slippers, and conventional-princess pink-on-pink ensemble – but she has a secret.   Her castle is near a hole in the ceiling of Monster Land and so she frequently has to fight and vanquish the monsters that sneak out, and when she does so she turns into her alter ego, the Princess in Black. Whenever her glitterstone ring sounds an alarm that a monster is near, she dons a black costume even though “princesses don’t wear black”, presses a switch to turn her sceptre into a staff and jumps onto Frimplepants her unicorn who becomes Blacky her fearless steed whenever its glitterstone horseshoe rings!

In this, the sixth episode in this popular series, Princess Magnolia is excited and nervous because she is going to the Interkingdom Science Fair to present her poster about seeds and plants. When she arrives, she sees that her friends are there too, each with their own entry. Princess Honeysuckle has made a mole habitat, Princess Sneezewort has built a blanket fort, and Tommy Wigtower has a talking volcano that’s saying “EAAAAT!” Wait, what? Surely there are no monsters here! But a surprise goo monster makes this a job for the Princess in Black…

Combining princesses and superheroes, short chapters and lavishly illustrated,  this is a popular series that young girls who are newly independent readers will like and look forward to as it offers protagonists who are resilient, resourceful, and inclusive. 

For those who want to use this as a teaching tool to compare the stereotypical view of princesses with the new emerging picture there are some useful teaching notes available


Lemonade Jones

Lemonade Jones

Lemonade Jones










Lemonade Jones

Davina Bell

Karen Blair

Allen & Unwin, 2018

64pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Lemonade Jones is stating Year One at a new school and as confident and self-assured as ever, she is sure she will be fine and indeed, knowing as much as she already does, she will be a help to her teacher. But this school is quite different from the one where she spent her Kindergarten year and which has closed down.  For starters, she and best friend Clark Dark are not in the same classroom and  her new teacher is more formal than she is used to.  There are classroom rules to conform to but viewing the world in the black-and-white, literal way of six-year-olds, Lemonade has trouble accepting these, challenges them and finds herself in the Quiet Corner before the end of her very first day! Will she ever fit in?

This is a new series – this one has two separate stories – designed to appeal to the young Year One reader and presented in a way that they can either read it alone or hear it as a read-aloud.  Either way, young girls will relate to Lemonade as they recognise familiar scenarios, support Lemonade’s perspective and learn that things can be different and they may not always be the centre of attention.  There are plenty of charming colourful illustrations that means it straddles the line between picture book and stepping-stone novel and two stories in one book mean young readers do not have to wait too long for the sequel.

A new series for fans of Junie B. Jones, Billie B. Brown, Lottie Perkins and Clementine Rose.

Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History











Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

Pamela Freeman

Sophie Beer

Lothian Children’s, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99


What do these women have in common  -Mary Reibey, Tarenore, Mary Lee, Nellie Melba, Edith Cowan, Tilly Aston, Rose Quong, Elizabeth Kenny, Annette Kellerman, Lores Bonney, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, and Ruby Payne-Scott?

Some of the more familiar names may provide a clue, but all of them are Australian women who have made a significant contribution to the national or international stage and all feature in this new book written by Pamela Freeman, known for her passion for keeping women’s stories alive. With at least one representative from each state or territory, except the ACT, these women are “the warriors who paved the way for the artists, business owners, scientists, singers, politicians, actors, sports champions, adventurers, activists and innovators of Australia today.” 

Designed for younger readers who are just learning about those who have gone before, each has a brief biography written in easily accessible language that outlines their reason for being in the book and a full-page portrait.  Links to further information for each one are provided in a user-friendly way on the final pages so that those who wish to explore further can, while those in the ACT might like to investigate which of the women from that territory have made a difference and should have been included. 

There is a growing body of work that not only introduces our students to the women who have shaped this country but also challenges our girls to consider what their story will be. This is no exception and the author admits that choosing just 12 was difficult. But it is refreshing to see some new names amongst those dozen. Teachers’ resources are available

Princess Swashbuckle

Princess Swashbuckle

Princess Swashbuckle









Princess Swashbuckle

Hollie Hughes

Deborah Allwright

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Recently there was a national furore because a 9-year-old girl considered the words of our national anthem, concluded they were disrespectful to the indigenous community and refused to stand for the song in a school assembly.  Adults were outraged, claimed that this had to be the parents’ doing and recommended family counselling, suspension from school, and even a “kick up the pants” – bullying in a way that in the next breath they condemn. And yet we as teachers are striving to have students form opinions, express and justify them and the book reviewers I most admire – Megan Daley, Sue Warren, Margot Lindgren and Tania McCartney to name just a few – identify, celebrate and recommend those books we discover that have feisty, independent, thinking female characters that our readers can relate to.

So what then, would these conservative self-styled social commentators and political leaders make of Princess Swashbuckle? For this froggy princess (designed perhaps as a sideswipe at the saying about having to kiss lots of frogs to find a prince) has dreams to “one day rule the waves as a froggy pirate queen”, much to her parents’ dismay as they see her married to a handsome prince and leading a more conventional, traditional life. Disgusted by this thought, Princess Swashbuckle understands that she is so much more than her parents’ ideas, so she packs her bags and stows away on a pirate ship. Assuming leadership of the Stinky Fish abandoned by its captain, she tells the crew that they are “going on a mission to find NICE things to do.” News of her good deeds spreads far and wide but even swashbuckling princesses can get homesick…

Told in rollicking rhyme and rhythm and beautifully illustrated, this is a story to inspire young girls and boys to know themselves and follow their dreams to find their own version of happy.  If that means bucking the conservative, conventional norm, then so be it. Being the change you want to see can be difficult.   In the wake of the publicity given to Harper Nielsen’s protest, including a dedicated Twitter tag #sitwithharper, social media was flooded with alternative, more inclusive versions of the anthem including this one from Judith Durham.

Just as Harper started a conversation that might change thinking and Princess Swashbuckle changed Frogland forever, we need more of both of them – if only to inspire our girls and to show the right-wing,status-quo, stick-in-the-mud thinkers that young people do have thoughts and opinions and as future leaders, they need to be encouraged to express them, act on them and be acknowledged for their courage to do so.  

Lottie Perkins (series)

Lottie Perkins (series)

Lottie Perkins (series)







Lottie Perkins (series)

Katrina Nannestad

Makoto Koji

ABC Books, 2018

64pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Movie Star




Pop Singer


Fashion Designer



Charlotte (you can call me Lottie) Perkins is an exceptional child – well, that’s her belief anyway.  She has a range of talents -each different in each book – but most of all she has drive, determination and a confidence in herself that is remarkable for a seven year old.  In each episode of this new series, Lottie becomes a different character, one that is determined by the events that get her into strife and how she extricates herself from it. 

Aided and abetted by her best friend Sam Bell, who believes in her as much as she does herself, her goat Feta and her pet rabbits, she slips into new roles while managing to circumvent the blocking efforts of mean-girl Harper Dark and her cronies, using her unique talents to emerge triumphant and even more confident than ever.

This is a new series for young girls who are becoming independent readers, with its large font, short chapters and liberal illustrations supporting their efforts.  They will relate to the feisty, resilient Lottie and readily imagine themselves in her shoes. Something new for this age group who are transitioning between basal readers and novels with the first two books available now and the next two to come in November 2018.


Mummy Fairy and Me

Mummy Fairy and Me

Mummy Fairy and Me











Mummy Fairy and Me

Sophie Kinsella

Marta Kissi

Puffin, 2018

166pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


“Hello. I’m called Ella Brook and I live in a town called Cherrywood. My best friends at school are Tom and Lenka. My worst enemy is Zoe. And then there is my mummy. She looks normal, like any other mummy . . . but she’s not. Because she can turn into a fairy. She just has to shut her eyes tight, say ‘Marshmallow’ . . . and POOF! She’s Mummy Fairy.

Ella’s family has a big secret – her mummy is a fairy! She can do amazing spells with her computawand. Only, sometimes the spells go a bit wrong, and that’s when Ella steps in to the rescue.”

This is a new series for those readers who are newly independent from the author of the Shopaholic series as well as a number of other books for adults.  It is her first children’s book and she has nailed just the sort of thing that these young girls like to read and written it in a style that is similar to the way they write so it will engage them immediately.  Short chapters, large font and lots of line drawings to support the text will support the reader as skills are honed and its future as live-action movies for television  will ensure its future.  There is already a sequel available.



Those of us of a certain age will remember the popularity of Bewitched, and this could have a similar future. 

Being a Princess is Very Hard Work

Being a Princess is Very Hard Work

Being a Princess is Very Hard Work










Being a Princess is Very Hard Work

Sarah Kilbride

Ada Grey

Bloomsbury, 2018 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A21.99


Throughout the generations, inspired by storybooks and real-life princesses like Elizabeth and Margaret, Anne, Diana, and now Catherine and Megan, little girls have had dreams of being a princess, no matter how fleetingly.  But when the little girl in the story is dropped off at princess school by her parents, she soon finds it not just about pretty dresses and handsome princes.  

Being a princess is very hard work,

There’s so much to do it would drive you berserk.

Not only is there so much to learn like sitting on a throne for hours, practising handshakes and being tested by spinning wheels and dragons, but there is also so much you are not allowed to do.  No bouncing on the trampoline, no nits in your hair, no burping or farting or picking your nose… really, in the end it is much better to be an ordinary little girl.

With its fast-moving rhyme and bright pictures that are full of humour and detail this is a story that will not only illuminate the behind-the-scenes life of princesses but will also reaffirm that little girls are perfect just as they are.  

Lots of fun and perhaps an inspiration to look at what really lies behind some of the other glamorous jobs that appeal.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

Little Witch (series)

Little Witch (series)

Little Witch (series)









Secrets & Spells


Hauntings & Hexes


Plots & Potions


Aleesah Darlison

Big Sky Publishing, 2017-2018

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

The tiny beach town of Mixton Bay isn’t Courtney’s idea of a holiday. In fact, she thinks it the sleepiest, most boring holiday place ever and the house she is to stay in is so ugly even a dog wouldn’t sleep in it. But now her grandmother, whom she never met and whom her father hasn’t spoken to for years has died and her house must be sorted and sold.  But once she gets there her curiosity takes over and she starts asking questions about her family’s history and why it has been so fractured.  Little does she know that those family secrets, magic and mystery, and the memory of her grandma Delia will result in a special holiday to remember.

 When she finds a mystical ‘Book of Spells’ with her name on the box, discovers Ink the talking cat and a new surfer friend, Justice who has a secret of his own, suddenly her life gets very interesting and is changed forever.

The Little Witch Series features wholesome magical stories with gentle elements of tween/teen romance. The stories deal with realistic family and relationship issues set against a backdrop of fantasy and magical escapism centred in the real world. Light-hearted and funny, this series feature a strong, independent and unique female lead character whom readers will relate to as she confronts familiar situations with new solutions, learning more and more about her family and herself as she does so. 

No matter what series Darlison writes she has a knack of creating totally believable characters who are great role models for young readers showing independence, imagination and ingenuity while still engrossing them in a compelling and intriguing adventure.  

Dotty Detective (series)

Dotty Detective (series)

Dotty Detective (series)











Dotty Detective (series)

Clara Vulliamy

Harper Collins, 2017+

176pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Super Secret Agent


The Paw Print Puzzle


The Midnight Mystery


The Lost Puppy


The Birthday Surprise


The Holiday Mystery 


Meet Dorothy Constance Mae Louise, or Dot as she prefers to be called! She and her best pal Beans and TOP DOG McClusky love to solve mysteries and in this new series written especially for the young almost-independent reader, there are plenty of mysteries to be solved!

Inspired by their favourite television character Fred Fantastic, Ace Detective, Dotty and her best friend Beans have formed the Join The Dots Detective Agency.  They have special badges that they wear underneath their coat collars so they don’t blow their cover and are ably assisted by Dotty’s dog McClusky to solve mysteries that seem to occur.

Guided by Fred Fantastic’s tenets of

  • Stay Frosty. Always be on the lookout
  • Follow That Hunch. If you’ve got a funny feeling you may be onto something important
  • Use Your Noodle. Think
  •  A Light Bulb Moment. A sudden genius idea
  • Get Proof.  You must have the evidence before you can solve your case
  • Jeepers Creepers Use your Peepers

In Super Secret Agent  mean girl Laura seems set on sabotaging the school talent show, Dot is determined to find out how, and save the day…

In The Paw Print Mystery  Dot starts hearing strange noises at night she’s convinced there must be something SPOOKY afoot. But before they can prove there’s a ghost on the loose, Dot and Beans have to follow Ace Detective Fred Fantastic’s golden rule: GET PROOF. Easier said than done when the suspect appears to be invisible!

In The Midnight Mystery Dot and Beans can’t wait for their school trip to Adventure Camp where they will do lots of exciting activities like zip-wiring, grass tobogganing and roasting marshmallows round a campfire! But once they arrive, strange things start happening. Could mean girl Laura could be up to her old tricks in a bid to win the Adventure Camp Prize…? It’s up to the Join the Dots Detectives to find out!  Meanwhile, TOP DOG McClusky is entered into a local dog show! Will he keep up his training while Dot’s away and win the prize for handsomest pooch?

Last week of term in The Lost Puppy and the children are looking forward to the School summer fair. Dotty and best pal Beans will be looking after pet’s corner, starring McClusky and his two canine pals: Geoffrey and the little sausage dog puppy, Chipolata. But just days before the fair disaster strikes – Chipolata has gone missing.

The Birthday Surprise has Dot’s trusty sidekick, Beans and TOP DOG, McClusky are keeping secrets from Dotty while The Holiday Mystery (due July 2018) Dotty and Beans are SUPER excited about their summer holiday together. It’s going to be SO much fun. Beaches, BBQs and best of all NO SCHOOL! But there’s no rest for the Join the Dots Detectives who soon have a campsite case to solve…

This is a new series that is perfect for the newly independent reader with its layout, illustrations, larger font, shorter chapters and humour.  The pace is rapid and the use of a variety of fonts highlights key ideas and actions without the need for a host of words.  Girls will relate to her feisty nature but boys will also find the situations familiar and appealing.