The Fairies’ Night Before Christmas





The Fairies' Night Before Christmas

The Fairies’ Night Before Christmas











The Fairies’ Night Before Christmas

Sarina Dickson

Sarah Grieg

Hachette NZ, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


What is Christmas Eve without a “night before Christmas” story? 

‘Tis the day before Christmas
And all through the trees
The fairies are working
As busy as bees…

Christmas for the fairies is just as busy for them as it is for everyone else, and young readers will delight in seeing that so many of the fairies’ preparations echo their own.  But when a storm blows in and ruins everything, it seems impossible that the little ones will wake to the magic they are expecting until…

With the familiar rhythm of  Clement C. Moore’s A Night Before Christmas, this is one to charm little ones to sleep to dream of all the magic happening everywhere as they sleep. And if they wake up to discover The Fairies’ Night Before Christmas Activity Book in their Santa Sacks, then they will know that the magic is real! 


The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure











The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

Jacqueline Wilson

Mark Beech

Hodder Children’s, 2022

285pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00


2856pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Seventy-plus years ago, the stories of Enid Blyton were the core of the young child’s reading diet.  A trip in the magic wishing chair or a visit to a land through the mysterious cloud above a huge tree were a much-anticipated part of the bedtime routine introducing us to the fantasy genre and leading us on to read series like The Famous Five and The Secret Seven  or any other of her 700 books and 2000 short stories for ourselves. 

Such were the memories made that that generation went on to share her work with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and some, like me, went on to become teachers and shared them with a new class of fans every year for 50 years!!! So to discover that Jacqueline Wilson had been given permission to weave new adventures among the branches of the Faraway Tree so new, modern readers can share the magic and mystery made this high on my list of review requests.  And I’ve had my nose in it all afternoon not only meeting the new and familiar characters like Silky, Moonface, the Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot among others but recalling my own introduction to them all those years ago and the joy and wonder I’ve brought to children over the years when I have shared them.  

In this new adventure, Milo, Mia and Birdy are on a countryside holiday when they wander into an Enchanted Wood and following a rabbit who can speak to them through the thick forest with its mysterious whispering leaves, discover a beautiful tree that stands high above the rest. The Magic Faraway Tree is home to many remarkable creatures including a fairy called Silky, her best friend Moonface and more. Little Birdy is only too happy to find that fairies are real. Even her older brother and sister are soon won over by the magic of the Faraway Tree and the extraordinary places they discover above it.

Keeping true to the original concept, including the writing style, this is both a nostalgic visit to past pleasures as well as the gateway to reading the entire series which remains in print.  IMO, this is one of the best series to introduce young readers to reading novels because each chapter is pretty much complete in itself making it ideal for a both a read-aloud session and a read-alone session, yet there is the continuity of both the storyline and the characters to be able to pick it up and set it down without having to orient yourself to a whole new read.  While there is drama in each chapter . the plot remains straightforward so there are not too many twists and turns to confuse the novice reader. 

My well-thumbed, well-read 1971 editions of the series have pride of place on my bookshelf, and this new adventure will be sitting there with them too, ready for when my grandchildren are ready to read it to theirs.  Hachette, the publishers, kindly sent me a hardcover version but it is also available in paperback at a more accessible price so more generations can lose themselves in the magic.  

Ten Minutes to Bed: Little Fairy

Ten Minutes to Bed: Little Fairy

Ten Minutes to Bed: Little Fairy











Ten Minutes to Bed: Little Fairy

Rhiannon Fielding

Chris Chatterton

Ladybird, 2022

32pp., pbk., $A14.99


Magical creatures live in the Land of Nod, but none of them is  keen on going to bed because they are having too much fun.  But sleep they must if they are to be ready for more fun tomorrow and so using rhyme and enchanting illustrations, author and artist take both the characters and the young reader on a calming countdown to bedtime leading them gently to the land of sleep.

Little Fairy Poppy joins her companions in trying to stretch out those last few minutes as she flits from leaf to flower delighting in her new found confidence as her wings grow stronger and allow her to fly high at last… But when Poppy spots a lost gnome far from his glade, she is determined to use her wings and get him to safety. But can she do it in time for his bedtime and hers? for there are only three minutes left… 

Beginning and ending with maps of The Land of Nod which are subtly different, and the appearance of a tiny creature on each page to encourage attention to detail, this stories follows the pattern of its predecessors, becoming a gentle lullaby to help draw the curtains on the day and help even the most rambunctious little one understand that everything needs to sleep at some time.

There is nothing as precious or as important as the bond established between parent and child through sharing stories during those ten minutes to bedtime so this is perfect for parents starting the bedtime story routine and wanting to complete it with the same story each night.

Witched: The Spellbinding Life of Cora Bell

Witched: The Spellbinding Life of Cora Bell

Witched: The Spellbinding Life of Cora Bell











Witched: The Spellbinding Life of Cora Bell

Rebecca McRitchie

Sharon O’Connor

Angus & Robertson, 2021

320pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99


In Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell, the first in this series, we met  eleven-year-old Cora Bell who  is a foundling with no memory prior to her life with the elderly Dot and  her cat Scratch. They live in a room hidden behind a wall in the  crowded, industrial city of Urt, where everyone looks out for themselves, and their survival is dependent on scavenging and trading such as rare and exotic things – apple seeds, silver forks, shoe polish amidst fierce competition. Life takes a terrifying turn for Cora when she finds a few words scribbled on a piece of paper. She takes it home and says the words aloud. Suddenly, two plump, hairy fairies named Tick and Tock crash land in her path to warn her that she is in terrible danger. Cora has unknowingly summoned a sinister creature known as a Jinx.  Jinxes eat magical beings and once they have a scent, they never forget it. Cora is thrown headfirst into a world filled with magic, necromancers, shape-shifters, enchantresses, fairies, nightwalkers, witches and giants as her home is destroyed, her family goes missing and she’s pursued by the menacing and powerful Jinx.

The second episode, Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell continued the story and now this is the final in the series. Cora is racing against time. With her beloved guardian, Dot, badly injured, she must face fearsome werewolves, gross beetle worms and a vengeful warlock in order to save her.  But as questions about her long-lost parents arise, Cora and her fairy friends begin a search for the one person who might hold all the answers. The one person who disappeared the same night Cora’s parents did …

Will Cora finally discover the truth about her family? Or will the evil syphon return to finish what he started, and destroy Cora once and for all?

Miss 10, a capable reader (although not as avid as her older sister) loves this series because she sees herself as Cora with hidden magical powers and she becomes fully immersed in the story. It was one of the first of these more ‘grown up’ novels she tackled alone and while she will be thrilled to have the final in her hands, she will also be sad to know it’s the end of something that has carried her through the tricky, long days of lockdown boredom. Nevertheless, it has really helped her develop her independent reading skills as she became so engrossed in it and she is ready for more.  IMO, that a story is endorsed so whole-heartedly by its intended audience is the best review and so this is a series that has a place in any library collection. 

The Magic Faraway Tree: Silky and Moonface’s Stories

The Magic Faraway Tree: Silky and Moonface's Stories

The Magic Faraway Tree: Silky and Moonface’s Stories











Silky’s Story

Enid Blyton & Jeanne Willis

Mark Beech


Moonface’s Story

Enid Blyton & Emily Lamm

Mark Beech



Hodder Children’s, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

The Magic Faraway Tree with its ladder at the very top leading through the clouds to wondrous lands of adventure and magic has been a favourite for generations and has always been my go-to read-aloud when introducing young children to the concept of series with their continuing settings and characters. 

Now, almost 80 years later , two new stories about two of the favourite residents of the Faraway Tree have been created to introduce this magical world to a new generation of  young readers and have them clamouring to read more.

In Silky’s Story, the children arrive at The Tree to discover it silent, its leaves on the ground, its fruit eaten and, as they climb, they follow a trail of mess, mud and fruit stones.  Their friends are all frightened and Silky the fairy is missing!  It seems that the Land of Roundabouts and Swings has arrived at the top of the tree and an unusual and seemingly unpleasant visitor has come down the tree causing havoc and taken Silky back to the Land with him…

Meanwhile, in Moonface’s Story, it is Moonface’s birthday and he wants to hold a party for all his special friends. Of course, birthday parties always require cake but when he tries to bake a cake  it ends up burnt. Will he find help in one of the wonderful lands at the top of the Faraway Tree?

Lavishly illustrated in bold colours, both books make both the perfect bedtime story as well as taking the child to ‘old worlds, new worlds and other worlds.’  The perfect entrée to the main course of the complete collection – The Enchanted Wood ,  The Magic Faraway Tree and The Folk of the Faraway Tree


The Magic Faraway Tree Collection

The Magic Faraway Tree Collection

The Magic Faraway Tree Collection











The Magic Faraway Tree Collection

Enid Blyton

Hodder Children’s, 2020

638pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Imagine being able to walk to the woods at the bottom of your garden where the leaves of the trees whisper to each other that you are there and find yourself at the bottom of a tree that has the most remarkable inhabitants like Moonface, Silky and Dame Washalot living in its branches and a revolving world of magical lands at its top, high in the clouds.  That is what Joe, Beth and Frannie (PC’ed from the original Fanny) discover when they move to the countryside and  discover that their new house lies next to the Enchanted Wood! And in that wood stands the Magic Faraway Tree where they have so many amazing encounters and adventures.

This collection comprising all three books in the series – The Enchanted Wood, The Magic Faraway Tree and The Folk of the Faraway Tree – is now, once again, on offer to parents, teachers and independent readers to share.  Over my 50+ years in teaching, I’ve lost count of how many children I have shared this magic with. Apart from transporting the children to new worlds of imagination and wonderment, it was my go-to read-aloud when they were ready for a serial that had continuous characters and settings so they were familiar with the background, but still needed a complete story within each session.  

There is a reason that Blyton’s stories (over 700 books and about 2,000 short stories) have not dated and have sold over 500 million copies and have been translated into other languages more often than any other children’s author and remain in print more than 50 years after her death.  Apart from being childhood favourites of previous generations and thus handed down through families like fairytales, her imagination gave her readers the wings to fly away from whatever circumstances they were in to a world where anything was possible, anything could happen and usually did.  In series like The Magic Faraway Tree, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven,  Malory Towers and Noddy, there were no everyday constraints on the characters and they could become heroes in the most mundane of circumstances, resonating with the audience in ways many authors have envied and tried to emulate since. 

Visiting a new world every read, this is truly a perfect collection for this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds and because my own grandchildren have had this series on their bookshelves for many years, I know just which family needs this copy to start their tradition. 


Cinders and Sparks (series)

Cinders and Sparks (series)

Cinders and Sparks (series)








Cinders and Sparks (series)

Magic at Midnight


Fairies in the Forest


Goblins and Gold


Lindsay Kelk

Pippa Curnick

HarperCollins, 2019-2020

176pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

Cinders lives a boring life with her selfish stepsisters and mean stepmother, doing the chores and tending to their every need, just like her traditional counterpart.  While they prefer to stay indoors all day listening to their mother read, Cinders would dearly love to be outside playing and although they can’t see the value of that she is allowed to do so once her chores are completed.  But something strange happens while she is outside –  her dog Sparks starts talking to her, her wishes start coming true and her fairy godmother, Brian, materialises.  (It’s been hard to track Cinders down because she is not on social media.)

And so begins a new series for young independent girls who are ready for a solid adventure story but still believe in magic and the characters of their childhood.  Easy to read, engaging and funny in parts,familiar characters and an ongoing quest make this a great read but at the same time, it has an underlying message that celebrates diversity and reaffirms that it is OK to be different. 

Miss 9 asked for The Worst Witch series for her birthday six weeks ago, and she is going to be thrilled when she discovers this series in her letterbox as a follow up because it will be perfect for her.  Thoroughly modern, thoroughly entertaining and just right for a winter read.


Nullaboo Hullabaloo

Nullaboo Hullabaloo

Nullaboo Hullabaloo










Nullaboo Hullabaloo

Fleur Ferris

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


“In faraway Nullaboo, Gemma Hart’s day isn’t going well. Her family might be evicted from their farm, and her science competition topic is march flies. How can she possibly win against perfect Nina, who gets to study butterflies?

But wait, that’s not a feather in Gemma’s special bug catcher . . . it’s a fairy!

Janomi the fairy isn’t supposed to talk to humans, but desperately needs help. Her grandfather has been captured by the silver spiders. Gemma agrees to help Janomi, and to keep the fairies’ existence a secret. But her bug catcher has recorded their conversation – and Nina finds it.

With a media frenzy taking over Nullaboo, a secret government agency barges in to take control, and suddenly the fairy colony is under an even bigger threat. Gemma and her kooky family, school and resourceful neighbours must take matters into their own hands in an against-all-odds bid to save the last fairy colony on Earth.”

This is a novel for those readers who are independent readers but who still love stories about fairies or for the parent looking for an engaging read-aloud for the bedtime story. With its focus on the environment and a community working together to preserve it, it is a timely tale in these days where even our younger students are aware of terms like “global warming” and “climate change”.  Regardless of our beliefs when it comes to the crunch we can put aside our egos and differences and work together. A meaty read that will entertain as well as provoke thought. 


Rainbow Magic: Camilla the Christmas Present Fairy

Rainbow Magic: Camilla the Christmas Present Fairy

Rainbow Magic: Camilla the Christmas Present Fairy










Rainbow Magic: Camilla the Christmas Present Fairy

Daisy Meadows

Orchard Books, 2019

155pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Best friends Kirsty and Rachel are very excited to give each other their Christmas presents! But when Jack Frost steals Camilla the Christmas Present Fairy’s magical objects, the magic of giving is in danger. Can the girls help get Camilla’s items back and save Christmas for both the human and fairy worlds?

The Rainbow Fairies have been delighting young girls who are newly independent readers since 2003 with 254 fairies published and 11 yet to come.  The series follows the lives of Kirsty Tate and Rachel Walker and their magical adventures with their fairy friends, Queen Titania, Queen of the fairies, King Oberon, King of the fairies and Jack Frost, who is the enemy of the fairies and his servants, the Goblins. With all the elements of fantasy that young girls love, the series has remained popular for 16 years so if you have someone ready to make the transition to novels this could be the one to start them. This new release features three stories, each with short chapters and illustrations to support the reader and with so many others in the series to move on to, it is perfect for managing this new step of the reading journey.There is also an online site so that there is much more to explore and engage in to enrich their experience., as well as suggestions for other series that will broaden their reading horizons.

The Underhills: A Tooth Fairy Story

The Underhills: A Tooth Fairy Story

The Underhills: A Tooth Fairy Story











The Underhills: A Tooth Fairy Story

Bob Graham

Walker Books, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


It is time for the the Underhill children from the tooth fairy family to have a sleepover at Grandma and Grandad’s house, nestled in a teapot under the flight path of a large city airport.  The children love it there where they are doted on by their grandparents and do all sorts of special things like making fairy cakes and tasting leftover chocolate and using the punching bag to keep in shape. 

But when an urgent job comes in, one their parents can’t attend to because they are on another case already, it’s up to Grandma and April and Esme to try to find Akuba, a little girl in a red coat just arrived from Ghana. Will they find her amidst all the busyness and turmoil of the airport terminal?

A thoroughly modern interpretation of an age-old story, Bob Graham continues the tradition of the Tooth Fairy for today’s youngest readers. His distinctive illustrations reinforce the belief in all things magical, including cupids and angels, with references to mobile phones, and other modern conveniences.  But through it all, Grandad’s devotion to baby Vincent and Esme’s gift to her grandma, show that while some things change, the fundamentals stay the same.  A charming story that will reconnect children to past traditions.