Dotty Detective (series)

Dotty Detective

Dotty Detective









Dotty Detective: The Paw Print Puzzle

Clara Vulliamy

HarperCollins UK,2016

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


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 this episode they set out to solve the strange noises that Dotty hears in her hallway at night.  When she opens her door and can’t see anything she is almost convinced to believe in ghosts and that her house is haunted.  But by using the clues, conveyed through secret notes written in invisible writing, they are able to identify what is really going on…

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.  Others in the series are Dotty Detective, The Midnight Mystery, and The Lost Puppy.

A worthwhile new series to get for those who are beginning their independent reading journey. 

Pip and Houdini

Pip and Houdini

Pip and Houdini









Pip and Houdini

J. C. Jones

Allen & Unwin, 2017

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Pip Sullivan first entered our reading lives in Run, Pip, Run when she had to live on her wits to stay out of the clutches of the authorities when her “grandfather” Sully had a stroke and subsequently died. Fearful of being put in foster care, Pip found temporary refuge with her best friend Matilda’s family. But to Pip, Matilda is perfect and never seems to get into trouble whereas Pip doesn’t seem to be able to stay out of it. Convinced she is going to be put in formal foster care with all that entails because she believes the Brownings no longer want her, Pip hits the road with her inseparable dog Houdini determined to find her real mother.  With only a nine-year-old postcard to go by, she is determined to get to Byron Bay…

Full of determination, resilience and quick-thinking Pip has much to overcome as she makes her way north, all the while never giving up hope and never forgetting Houdini who is very well named. Despite her somewhat unorthodox upbringing, she has learned some important life lessons from Sully and these make her a particularly likable little girl of just ten and a bit.  Asking to pay extra for her train fare because she had skipped without paying the day before is just one example. And when all you want is a family of your own, nothing will deter you.

Written so that the reader can understand her perspective and her thinking, it is an engaging sequel that is every bit as good as the CBCA shortlisted original. An engaging, solid read that is a little bit different for independent readers.


DKFind Out! (series)

DKFind Out! (series)

DKFind Out! (series)





DKFind Out! (series)

DK Publishing, 2017

64pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Decades ago DK Publishing revolutionised the presentation of non fiction to young readers with bright photographs, information in manageable, well-labelled chunks and the clever use of white space so that the reader was not overwhelmed.  Their Eyewitness series became a staple of primary school library collections.  Now they have a launched a new series for the younger reader, using their familiar format but adding many more features so the newly independent reader can access information at their level.

Beginning with a durable paperback cover which folds out to be a quiz with answers and essential information relevant to the topic such as areas of study, a timeline or a phylogenetic tree, it then offers a page where the reader can jot down the things they have already identified that they want to find out thus supporting the inquiry method of investigation from the get-go.  Then, as is customary with DK books, there are the usual contents, glossary and index pages which encourage and enable young readers to use the clues to get to what they want and in between are double-page spreads of basic information and glossy photographs and diagrams, all clearly labelled.  So as well as being an ideal way of exploring print to find information they also serve as a model for students to present their findings if their searches have been assignment based rather than just curiosity. 

To top it there is an easy-to-navigate website that offers more information and activities as well as support for teachers and parents.  Like the books it is also a teaching tool for helping young children learn to use a website for information, one designed for their level and more authoritative and targeted than Wikipedia.

Despite the misguided opinion of some, there is a lot of research and reasons that primary school libraries, particularly, need to have a robust, attractive, up-to-date non fiction collection and this new series demonstrates the value of not only catering to those who prefer to read non fiction but also those wanting to find out more NOW!  As well, the series is attractively priced so that parents can purchase individual volumes to accompany particular interests or investigations that their child is pursuing.  

Miss 6 is fascinated with the human body and snaffled my review copy as soon as she saw it, not only asking and answering questions for herself but also learning vital lessons about using such resources.  Now she is exploring those for information as often as those for her imagination. It won’t be hard to fill her Christmas stocking!

The Secret Garden & Other Stories

The Secret Garden & Other Stories

The Secret Garden & Other Stories











The Secret Garden & Other Stories

Usborne Illustrated Classics

Usborne, 2017

388pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Usborne have added another volume to their stable of illustrated collections that bring us the tales, stories, myths and legends that have been shared with and enjoyed by children throughout the generations.  This collection includes The Secret Garden, The Railway Children, The Wizard of Oz, Black Beauty, Little Women and Heidi, all based on the original stories and beautifully illustrated to entice the young reader ready to take their reading in a new direction.

There are some stories that have endured over time for very good reasons and this collection is one that celebrates some of those that continue to be published in full so many years later.  They are the sorts of stories that grandparents and even great-grandparents remember fondly and love to give so these abridged versions are the perfect introduction to the longer, original stories.  Apart from just being a good read, they give 21st century children a glimpse into the lives of children of the past to a time when life wasn’t dominated by screens and technology. Who wouldn’t be tempted to explore the mysteries of Misselthwaite Manor, wander down the yellow brick road or be afraid of going from luxury to poverty overnight?

As well as being an essential addition to the collection, this could be one to flag in your suggestions for Christmas purchases for parents!

Digger Disaster

Digger Disaster

Digger Disaster









Digger Disaster

Rose Impey

Chris Chatterton

Bloomsbury, 2017

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Tyrone T. rex and his Dino Diggers are building a new car factory for Mr Ali O’Saurus.  But Ali O’Saurus is impatient and wants things finished immediately.  Because the Dino Diggers’ motto is “We never let you down”. everyone starts working at a furious pace but disaster strikes when Tyrone ignores the plans and hits a water main flooding the worksite.  Will the Diggers be able to live up to their motto?

This is a book for those who love big machines and dinosaurs as both are combined in a story that moves along at a fast pace with lots of action on each page.  Clever use of dinosaur names that little ones always have their tongue around add a dimension to the characters and the bright detailed illustrations will appeal as young readers pore over them.  To top it off there is a digger to build from a cardboard cutout, complete with instructions to be followed, offering an opportunity to understand their purpose and the need for correct sequencing, as well as teaching about care and patience -something Tyrone T. Rex seems to lack!. 

Great for early childhood with others in the series to help carry what is known about characters from one story to another. 

A Canadian Year – Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

A Canadian Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Canada's Kids

A Canadian Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids









A Canadian Year -Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

Tania McCartney

Tina Snerling

EK, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Continuing this fabulous series which includes A Kiwi Year , An Aussie Year and a host of others, young children are introduced to the children of Canada.  There is Chloe, who speaks both French and English; Oki who is Inuit, Ava who is of Chinese heritage; Liam of Scottish heritage and Noah whose dream is to place ice hockey for the Vancouver Canucks – kids just like those found in every classroom in Australia but whose lives are subtly different because of their geographic location.  Whoever heard of it being -30° in January and instead of being at the beach kids are skiing, skating and sledding?  And as we currently shiver through early winter and another Big Wet, it’s hard to imagine there are children on summer vacation for two months, kayaking, salmon fishing in the ocean, swimming, camping in the wilderness and visiting Santa’s Summer House just outside Toronto.  If nothing else, and there is SO much more, students will learn about the seasons being somewhat different in the northern hemisphere.

Offered as vignettes for each month, young children learn that there are places beyond their immediate horizons and there are kids who do things that are a bit different but overall, despite the timeframe, they enjoy and do the same things as kids everywhere so there is more that binds than divides. 

Intercultural understanding is a mandated part of the Australian Curriculum so that students “understand how personal, group and national identities are shaped, and the variable and changing nature of culture” and this series is the perfect way to start this with young children whose concepts of the world are just developing. 

As usual, there is the is a double-page spread featuring intriguing facts and figures which just invite comparisons with Australia – if ‘Canada” comes from ‘kanata’ meaning village, where does “Australia” come from? If Canada is the world’s second-largest country, what is the largest?  What’s the difference between large as in area and large as in population? While teachers’ notes are available, the children themselves will generate enough questions to drive their own investigations. 

Why not use it as a model for a class calendar, highlighting the important events of each child’s life in each month visually exploring the unity and the diversity and promoting an important bond of belonging and acceptance so that lives and heritage are celebrated.  Create a wall display for each month and invite the children to contribute to it, and then compare what is happening with other children in other parts of the world using this series as the key resource.

Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook (series)

Survival Skills Handbook

Survival Skills Handbook






Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook



Dangers and Emergencies




Maps and Navigation


Bear Grylls

Bonnier, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A12.99


Apart from being the star of his Emmy Award winning television show Man vs Wild, Bear Grylls is also Chief Scout to the UK Scout Association and so a series of handbooks about survival with his name on it has authenticity and authority.  Drawing on his 21 years of experience in the British SAS and with a personal philosophy of “Life is and adventure. Live it.”, Grylls encourages young readers to get outdoors, explore what’s on offer and with the help of clear illustrations and information, take a few risks to maximise the experience. From learning to set up camp, build a fire, gather food and water safely, build a shelter to using a compass, reading a map and tying basic knots, these step-by-step instructions are a must for young children whether they are setting up a tent in the backyard for an overnight sleepover or being more adventurous out in the bush with friends. Even if they are not planning a trip, the tips and tricks learned here may well provide them with necessary knowledge for a sticky situation in the future.

There is a constant cry from the world of adults that kids are too screen-bound, too indoors-oriented and they need to get out more so the growing obesity epidemic is halted so this series would be a great support to any studies of survival, self-preservation, needs vs wants and perhaps even encourage some to look at joining the Scout movement.  

The Blizzard Challenge

The Blizzard Challenge









The Blizzard Challenge

Bear Grylls


128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99


Olly hates activity camp and its pointless activities. Why should he bother building a stupid shelter or foraging for food with his teammates – he’d rather be at home in the warm and dry, where the sofa and the video games are.

But then Olly gets given a compass with a mysterious fifth direction. When he follows it, he’s magically transported to a high mountain range where he meets survival expert Bear Grylls. With his help, Olly must learn to survive in sub-zero temperatures, including what to do if the ice cracks when you’re crossing a frozen lake, or a blizzard sets in . . .

But can his adventure with Bear Grylls change Olly’s mind about teamwork and perseverance? And who will Olly give the compass to next?

This is the first of a 12 book series written for younger readers, each with a new hero who is given the magical compass to follow on an adventure.  Well-written, full of survival information embedded in the narrative and illustrated, it is perfect for inspiring the independent young reader to not only read but perhaps to also experience the outdoors for themselves.  Using just their knowledge and wits rather than magic, super powers or fantastic creatures to get themselves out of trouble this is a down-to-earth series that kids can really relate to.  This is something THEY can do and they can be their own hero.

While Miss 11 and Miss 6 might not be the female Bear Grylls, both adore their burgeoning Scouting journey and these books are going to be perfect additions to their bedtime reading routines as well as giving them even more knowledge and skills to build on for their next adventure.  


Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar?










Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Eric Carle

Picture Puffin UK, 2017

10pp., board, RRP $A16.99


The world was first introduced to the very hungry caterpillar as he munched his way through a menu of goodies almost 50 years ago!  Now he is back, hiding somewhere under the flaps waiting to be discovered by little fingers.  

With the bold colours and readily recognisable illustrations of the wondrous Eric Carle who has a gift of turning the mundane into the extraordinary, it’s time for little ones to have even more fun with the little caterpillar that so many of them already know and love.  And as well as recognising the familiar foods from the original story and perhaps even being able to read the words for them because of that, they can also learn what other tiny creatures inhabit the world beneath their feet and maybe tread a little more gently on this earth.

This ticks all the boxes about helping our first readers to understand the basic concepts about print that are so vital to their reading success, particularly making connections between this new story and the one they know as they learn to carry that knowledge and apply it to a new situation.  Brilliant from what might appear to be a humble board book!

Happy Days Out

Happy Days Out

Happy Days Out








Off We Go 



On the Farm 


Ekaterina Trukhan

Bloomsbury, 2017

10pp., board, $A14.99

Two interactive board books for the very young which take them on a journey into town or to the farm teaching them new vocabulary and inviting them to find things hidden in the illustrations.  Very young children will delight in finding things that they are already familiar with – there are peepholes and flaps galore to explore – and learning the names of the places and things that are common to them.  On the other hand. often city kids have no idea at what is found and done on a farm and vice versa – country kids may not be aware of the hustle and bustle of the city – so introducing them to the sorts of things they may find there at such an early age helps sets up their schema for when they encounter them in other stories.  Even the concepts of “city” and “farm” and where they are and how they get there can be explored, compared and contrasted, and new vocabulary built.

Great for the very young as well as those learning English for the first time. They might illustrate additional things they know as they show off their new knowledge.

Vet Cadets (series)

Vet Cadets

Vet Cadets









Welcome to Willowvale (Vet Cadets #1)

Rebecca Johnson

Puffin, 2017

180pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99



Willowvale Girls Grammar is an agricultural boarding school with 500 students offering a Vet Cadets program, and Abbey, Talika and Hannah are sharing a room. They need to learn to live together even though they come from very different backgrounds – Hannah obviously has money on her side and is a neat freak, while Abbey is the opposite, and Talika is Indian, which neither of the others have any experience of. But each has a family who loves them and fusses over them, and each has first day nerves. 

Nevertheless, adjust they must and it is not long before the adventures begin and they become an inseparable trio solving mysteries, causing chaos and all the time, learning more and more about the creatures they care for..

From the author of Juliet, Nearly a Vet  comes this new series for slightly older readers who are interested in caring for animals, perhaps even becoming vets themselves. With three other titles due for publication over the next few months this promises to be a great addition to your collection to satisfy those girls who are always after new animal stories. 

To celebrate the launch there are two Vet Conventions being held in Queensland but check the website for availability of spaces.