Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough












Strong and Tough

Rico Hinson-King

Nick Sharratt

Bloomsbury, 2022

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


With the FIFA World Cup well under way,  many young lads will have thoughts of becoming a Socceroo and representing their country in the future. 

So this is a timely story to share with them to show that dreams can come true if they hold on to their hope and stare down whatever difficulties might confront them on the way. They need to stay strong and tough. 

Written during homework club at Manchester City FC in 2020 by the amazingly talented ten-year-old Rico Hinson-King. an everyday boy with an extraordinary story to tell through the character of Charlie about being taken from his birth parents, being separated from his sisters and being placed in foster care and despite being scared and lonely at times, surviving because of his love of football.  Practising to be the best he could be helped keep his mind off things, his determination and resilience helped him to be brave, strong and tough no matter what and one day he scores a goal that is even better than scoring the winning sudden-death penalty at a cup final!  

But as much as it is about football, it is also about his journey in the foster-care system, something that many of our readers will know about but never read about.  So although they might not have the same dream as Charlie, they can be inspired to follow their own passion, to understand that it can be scary and lonely at times but there are ways to distract from those big feelings with even better ones.  


The Champ (series)

The Champ

The Champ











The Champ

The Champ 1


Rock ‘n’ Roll


Anh Do

A & U  Children’s 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

Popular and prolific storyteller is back with a new series for young readers transitioning to novels with all the supports these readers need including action-packed plots and relatable characters who have a touch of superpower to turn them from ordinary to extraordinary in times of need.

Summer loves sport, and there is nothing she would love more than to charge down the field towards an open goal, or soar through the air over the basket. She would love to be part of a team but instead she always seems to be the last one picked, probably because of her lack of co-ordination which even she recognises. Then one day something amazing happens and Summer discovers she is no longer the spectator but the superstar. The purple gloop that covered her and landed her in hospital has turned her life around. However what is magical for Summer is misery for her older brother Carl who goes from being a talented upcoming footballer to being in a wheelchair, and Summer finds herself with a lot more responsibility.

With her new expertise, Summer decides to enter contests to earn money to support her family, but as it turns out, there are far more important things for her to do, starting with sorting out a witch who looks strangely familiar and is causing trouble in her home town while keeping her new powers secret because  a government agency, armed with a robotic minion, begin to take an interest in her.  In the second in the series, she has to deal with the mysterious Book Witch again when everyone’s favourite rock band is kidnapped.

Younger readers who are just meeting Anh Do as an author will like what they read and easily be able to fit themselves into the story, perhaps even venturing into his many other series  as they wait for Summer’s next adventure, but those more familiar with his works, particularly SkyDragon may find parts of the plot familiar.  That doesn’t decry from the appeal of this new series as there is a reason Do is so popular and this is yet another way to get readers on the cusp of being independent to keep reading. 




The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra











Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters (series)

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

Karen Foxlee

Freda Chu

Allen & Unwin, 2022

304pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Although a rather anxious child who prefers  to make lists so she can plan and manage her life because she doesn’t cope with change well, nevertheless Mary-Kate Martin has left the sanctuary of her grandmother’s home to travel the world with her mother whose life is spent on mystery-solving adventures such as why the Woolington Wyrm was causing such destruction in a quiet English village. 

This time, Mary-Kate and her mother are visiting Galinios, an idyllic Greek Island filled with history and surrounded by the shimmering Aegean Sea. An ancient mosaic has been unearthed at the local sardine processing plant and Professor Martin must investigate, leaving Mary-Kate to enjoy a few days of sunshine and antiquity.

But a message asking for help changes everything. A wrecked boat and smashed jetty have recently disrupted life on this tranquil island and point to a monster-sized mystery. Could the local legend of the Two-Headed Hydra be more than a story? If so, what could make this historically serene sea creature so angry?  Armed with her glitter pens and strawberry-scented notebook, Miss Mary-Kate Martin is determined to find answers. She might be scared of heights, but there is no problem too big for her to solve.

This is the second in this series for independent readers who like mystery, adventure and a touch of fantasy, and given that it is based on the creature of Greek mythology perhaps it will inspire deeper investigation, maybe even an entry into the class Monsters book inspired by yesterday’s review.  

Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma

Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma

Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma











Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma

Julia Hopp

Michael Lee

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Wonderful news – Mrs Turtle is becoming a Grandma! But Mrs Turtle is worried she may not be a good enough Grandma for the new baby. After all, with her love of socialising, travelling and exercising she was not like most other turtles )or grandmothers) that she knew and she was concerned that she would not match expectations.

Beginning with the illustration on the front cover with a very glamorous turtle with flowing golden locks and red high heels, this is a great story for introducing young readers to the concept of stereotypes as well as building and meeting expectations.  

Currently, there is a series of advertisements on television for an insurance company that invites the viewer to make assumptions about various people based on their external appearance and the assumptions made could not be further from the truth of the reality, and this story is in a similar vein.  What assumptions do we already make about turtles and/or grandmothers? What do we expect them to look like or behave? Why do we have those expectations? Are they valid? How do we feel when their looks and actions don’t meet our expectations?  Important questions for children to discuss but equally so are those relating to the expectations we put on ourselves and the consequences if we feel we do not meet what we expect of ourselves, or what we think others expect of us. Do we hide away,  berate ourselves and have all sorts of negative thoughts that we eventually turn into truths, or are we able to learn from the situation and move on? Can we learn and accept that everyone’s definition of “perfect” is different and who we are as we are is enough?

Grandma Turtle learns a really valuable lesson in this story and young readers can start to have conversations about the issues raised too. There is a saying about being “comfortable in your own skin” which eventually happens when you understand that the only opinions that matter are your own and those of those who are important to you, and so by starting the conversations early with stories such as this, our young people might be able to avoid some of the pitfalls of peer pressure that are ahead of them.

A little story but with huge potential, well beyond the protection of turtles that the author includes in the final pages. . 

Barefoot Kids

Barefoot Kids

Barefoot Kids











Barefoot Kids

Scott Pape

Barefoot Publishing, 2022

224pp., pbk., RRP $A32.99


When 8 year old Levi Anderton was laughed at in class because he froze when his teacher asked him to read something aloud, the situation had the potential for any number of outcomes, all of them profound and some of them not good.  But Levi was able to turn the incident on its head and within 6 months he was the boss of his own company  selling reading rulers and cases online fielding and fulfilling orders from around the world. Like Sir Richard Branson, he turned his disability into an opportunity.

For years, Scott Pape, author of highly successful The Barefoot Investor has been engaged in programs to make financial literacy a key part of every primary and secondary school curriculum including having an annual 4-6 week money challenge similar to the Premier’s Reading Challenge, and, for primary students in particular, showing them the power of working, saving, spending and giving.  

And so, in this engaging easy-to-read step by step guide for young readers to make and carry out a financial plan, interspersed with success stories like Levi’s for encouragement, there is the blueprint to help them become financially savvy at the very least, if not world-leading entrepreneurs. Money may be the “root of all evil” but it seems to be something everyone desires. Regardless of how we might prefer it to be different, success still seems to be measured by salary and despite odds of one in 292 million of winning the recent mega US $2 billion lottery, millions around the world bought tickets in the hope of becoming rich.  Closer to home our students are probably seeing the consequences of the ‘cost-of-living crisis” that is reported on every news bulletin, so it would seem that a book by a recognised expert that has both sound advice and practical strategies would be very appropriate and timely.

Arranged into the six steps entitled Earn Some Money, Stash Your Cash, Be a Barefoot Boss, Get What you Want, Make Someone Smile and Grow your Money, readers are taken from that first basic understanding that money comes from working and even though they might resent pitching in with household chores there are ways that make them in charge so they are in control of both what they do and what they do with the rewards. There are charts and checklists so each child can map their own path (even those under 7) including being able to pitch the idea of being paid for chores confidently to parents. 

With language and layout chosen so that the reader is encouraged, supported and successful on each page, this is a must-have for every child so that they not only get the things they want without having to wait for Christmas or birthdays but they develop the critical understandings and foundations for their future financial security as they learn so much in a practical, personal real-life way.  You could not give a child a better gift. 

And kids could give their parents The Barefoot Investor for Families so everyone wins!

Peg Leg Pedicure

Peg Leg Pedicure

Peg Leg Pedicure











Peg Leg Pedicure

Eliza Ault-Connell

Aimee Chan

Angela Perrini

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.95


Eva is so used to her mum having artificial legs because she had lost her real ones after a childhood illness, that she is quite taken aback when a school friend calls her mum “weird” because of them.  Eva sees her mum as strong and brave and busy just like all the other mums, one who makes light of her metal legs by pretending to be a pirate and who lets Eva give her old, more traditional peg-legs pedicures and paint the toes like rainbows.  

But rather than be cross with Rishab for upsetting Eva, her mum has the perfect solution – and so she shows the kids how being different in one way or another is what makes them extraordinary.

While stories about children being different are quite common for little ones, it is not often there is one about the parent, particularly one based on a true situation because co-author Eliza Ault-Connell, an Australian wheelchair track athlete who has competed at the Olympics, Paralympics and World Championships after losing her legs and most of her fingers but surviving meningococcal disease is Eva’s “mum”. 

Thus, by celebrating her “disability” – something that opened more doors for her than she could probably have imagined as an able-bodied person – young children can be inspired to make the most of what they have.  That that which sets them apart is what makes them unique and extraordinary. I can always remember my mum telling me as a young child in the 50s that with red hair, glasses and freckles I probably wouldn’t win a beauty contest but I had brains that would outstrip anyone and so that is what I used as I grew up and they lasted much longer than any pretty face might have.

This is an uplifting story that encourages our young readers to focus on what they perceive to be their weaknesses and then work out how they can use them to be brave and bold and smart, no matter what.   

The Sun and the Mayfly

The Sun and the Mayfly

The Sun and the Mayfly











The Sun and the Mayfly

Tang Tang

Zhang Xiao

Little Steps, 2022

44pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


As Little Mayfly is born in the depths of the lake, moving upwards through the water she greets the sun who is rising over a new day. 

“Hello”, she says, ” you are amazing. You light up this world as soon as you wake up. Who are you?” 

Sun tells her but when it learns that Little Mayfly only lives for one day and when it’s journey is over so will be her life, it has no words because it knows just how brief a day is.  But to Little  Mayfly, a day is a lifetime and there is so much to see and do, and even though she learns that she is going to miss out on things like the tadpole turning to a frog and the flowers booming., she remains cheerful and optimistic, determined to make the most of the time she does have.

Tagged as “an uplifting story about the power of positivity and making the most of every day” this is an enchanting story from a leading Chinese author that not only introduces young readers to the passage of time and encourages them to make the most of their time, it also helps them start to see the world through a different lens – an abstract concept that is tricky for little ones.  It is like that saying that not stepping on the ant makes a huge difference to the ant, if not the walker.  If we only have one day, do we spend it in despair or delight?

Even though the reader longs for a happier miraculous ending as the sun gradually sinks in the west, the inevitable happens and so this is also an opportunity to introduce the concept of life cycles  the tadpole’s is illustrated in the story but in a joyful way – and so the focus becomes not the inescapable but what can be done in the time we have.  Definitely one for the mindfulness collection and to inspire positive  mental health. 

The Courage of Magnolia Moon

The Courage of Magnolia Moon

The Courage of Magnolia Moon











The Courage of Magnolia Moon

Edwina Wyatt

Katherine Quinn

Walker, 2022

160pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


If Magnolia Moon were an entry in her young brother’s book of facts that she is “minding” until he is old enough to read it, it would say, “Magnolia Moon is ten years old (almost eleven). She is good at secret keeping, magic making, tree whispering , feather finding and dancing the Heel and Toe Polka (which she has been practising for the school barn dance). She has three best friends: Imogen May, Casper Sloan and Reuben the angel boy, although she is not so friendly with mathematics. She has a cat called Atlas and is getting her very own bedroom soon…”

In this, the third in this series,  she has to dig deep to find the courage to move forward in a range of everyday situations – like going to the dentist, or repairing her relationship with her best friend – that will be familiar to lots of the young independent readers who enjoy her adventures and may be inspired to face each day a little braver, too.. 

Each chapter is a separate episode in her everyday life but because of the setting, characters and events, the story has a continuity that spans a year of Magnolia’s life.  Easy to read with a few illustrations, this is a series that will appeal to young girls just finding their independence as they navigate the world of the ups and downs of family and friendships.















Through My Eyes – Australian Disaster Zones

Dianne Wolfer

A & U Children’s, 2022

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


It is 2019 and 13-year-old Mia lives on a bush block in the Pilbara, where she assists her mother’s work as a vet and equine therapist. Although she is used to the seasonal cyclones that threaten the West Australian coast, nothing can prepare her for the ferocity of Cyclone Veronica when she finds herself home alone and needing to protect their property and the animals she loves. She is used to cyclone build-ups, but the noise and energy of the wild rain squalls keep her awake half the night. What if the cyclone hits before Mum gets back? As wild winds batter the coast, Mia knows she must keep calm. The animals need her but when her friend Nick arrives, pleading for help, and her favourite horse is injured, will Mia be able to withstand the greatest challenge of her life? As the storm intensifies, can she save her beloved animals? 

This is the latest in this series that offers fictionalised accounts of world events that help our older, independent readers not only understand what happened but allows them to process it.  By giving each story a central character such as Lyla who endured the devastating Christchurch earthquake in 2011, the story becomes one of courage, resilience and hope rather than an historical recount with meaningless facts and figures. It offers the ‘colour and detail’ to the stark monochrome sketches of news reports, websites and other information-only sources.  

Like its predecessors, Mia  is a well-written, well-researched blend of imagination and information that above all, tells a story of one girl’s experience and shows that it is OK to be scared and fearful, but that natural human resilience can prevail.  But because it will resonate with many in one way or another , if you have a system that places trigger warnings in your books, this may be one to consider.  There could also be an argument that in this time of such extensive flooding and loss, this is not the time for such a book but it might be the vehicle that offers the light at the end of the tunnel for those enduring such hardship to strive for. 

While we would all like to protect our kids from the disasters of modern times, natural or otherwise, that can be an impossible task as the world now comes to them in the palm of their hands, but stories like this can offer insight, understanding and a feeling that they too, can come through the other side – often shaped by it but also more resilient and courageous because of it. 

Nice Garry (series)

Nice Garry (series)

Nice Garry (series)










Nice Garry (series)

Bowled Over 


In A Spin


Michael Wagner, Nathan Lyon

David Williams

HarperCollins, 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

On the eve of the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, this is a new series featuring renowned spin bowler Nathan Lyon that is going to appeal to young cricket loving readers. While Lyon himself will be in the commentary box this year (although he is determined to be good enough again to make it into the Australian T20 side), nevertheless the comments of “Nice, Garry” will be heard on the cricket pitch in other formats as the season wears on.

Inspired by the talent and passion Australian Test cricketing great Nathan Lyon has for the game, nicknamed Garry after AFL star Garry Lyon, this is the story of an ordinary kid with an extraordinary gift, but the talented 10-year-old discovers that sometimes gifts like his can present new, unexpected challenges that have to be faced.  

Following in the format of other sports series which focus on leading lights in a variety of codes, readers not only learn about their heroes and tips and tricks of the games they play, but also what it takes to be both a leader and a team member and that sometimes being really good at a particular thing is not always enough.  There are responsibilities that come with the rewards.

As well as being one to hand to the aspiring young cricketers, it is also one to hand to the reluctant reader who has to read it and decide whether it is a series worth purchasing for the library’s collection.  Among all the other series available, what will make this one stand out and appeal to many, making it a worthwhile investment?