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Roxy & Jones (series)

Roxy & Jones (series)

Roxy & Jones (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roxy & Jones (series)

The Great Fairytale Cover-Up

9781406391374

The Curse of the Gingerbread Witch

9781406391381

Angela Woolfe

Walker Books, 2020-2022

240+pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Once Upon a Modern Time, in the city of Rexopolis, in the Kingdom of Illustria, lived twelve-year-old Roxy Humperdinck, struggling to exist on the meagre wages of a toilet cleaner for the Ministry of Soup, and sharing a room with her half-sister Gretel, who is actually she of  Hansel and Grete fame. although Roxy is unaware of that.  When she accidentally discovers a secret vault in which a girl called Jones was hiding, dressed in a daffodil outfit, and who has a habit of leaving mysteriously leaving only a shoe behind, the pair become friends and through a mysterious book, discover the secrets of an enchantment  put on people who know that Illustria once had a frightening past and was known as the cursed Kingdom of Diabolica so that the real events have been wiped from memories.

Roxy discovers the truth about her  brother and sister raising suspicions  that all might not be as it seems and when her new friend  reveals  that her real name was actually Cinderella Jones, the mystery deepens. As they embark on a quest for the Seventh Stone, Roxy is about to discover the truth about her world and her family: that witches are real, magic is real and fairy tales are not only real … despite what the ruling Ministry of Soup wants them to believe.

In the second in the series, Roxy  is still reeling from the Great Fairy Tale Cover-up when Cinderella Jones returns with a new mission: to investigate The Missing – the children who followed the Pied Piper into the mountain thirty years ago, never to be seen again. And so begins another crazy adventure that takes the girls up Jack’s beanstalk, through Red Riding Hood’s Woods … and to the cottage of the most evil villain of all time, the Gingerbread Witch.

This is a series that straddles the known of the fairytale world with the blurry borders of fantasy for those who want to delve into that magical world but still need to have a foot in the world of reality and what they know. While there are any number of fractured fairytales in picture book format, this is one  for those who are independent readers and who have the skills to follow a reasonable complex plot made easier if they know their traditional fairy tales because the references will make more sense.  

Best read in order for continuity, this is a series that sets itself up for more episodes that will be one of those that readers return to regardless of their age just because they have engaged with both characters and plot and want to know what happens. 

Lightfall (series)

Lightfall (series)

Lightfall (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightfall (series)

The Girl & the Galdurian

 9780062990464

Shadow of the Bird

9780062990501

Tim Probert

HarperCollins, 2021=22

256pp., graphic novel, RRP $A19.99

Welcome to Irpa, a world in which humans live and work alongside animals, where the sun no longer shines, and an ancient, forgotten terror is stirring.

When the sun was extinguished 500 years earlier, the Galdurians invented and built floating Lights to ward off the overwhelming darkness, and now, though the Galdurians are believed to be extinct, the Lights shine on.  

Deep in the heart of the planet stands the Salty Pig’s House of Tonics & Tinctures, home of the wise Pig Wizard and his adopted granddaughter, Bea, studying, foraging and making potions together for the people of their once-prosperous world, and, as keepers of the Endless Flame, living a quiet and peaceful life. 

All that changes one day when, while walking through the woods, Bea meets Cad, a member of the Galdurians, an ancient race thought to be long-extinct. Cad believes that if anyone can help him find his missing people, it’s the Pig Wizard. And so these two unlikely friends get swept up in an epic quest to save their world from falling into eternal darkness.

When they arrive home, the Pig Wizard is nowhere to be found—all that’s left is the Jar of Endless Flame and a mysterious note. Fearing for the Pig Wizard’s safety, Bea and Cad set out across Irpa to find him, while danger fights its way out of the shadows and into the light.

Will these two unexpected friends find the beloved Pig Wizard and prevent eternal darkness from blanketing their world Or has Irpa truly seen its last sunrise?

In the second in this new series, Bea and Cad continue their quest to stop Kest, the mythic bird who stole the sun. After a battle that nearly cost them their lives, they awaken in the hidden settlement of the Arsai, mysterious creatures who can glimpse into the future. The Arsai’s vision paints a dire picture for their planet, as the bird Kest Ke Belenus—now awoken from a restless slumber—threatens to destroy all the Lights of Irpa. Desperate for a solution, Bea and Cad seek out the help of a water spirit known as Lorgon, whose ancient wisdom may help them find a way to take down Kest and save Irpa from utter destruction.

But when their time with Lorgon presents more questions than answers, Bea and Cad must decide what’s more important . . . stopping Kest or uncovering the truth.

Both episodes end on a cliff-hanger leaving the reader to wait for the next installment, making this an engaging series for those who enjoy this sort of story in graphic novel format.  Probert has built a whole new world with intriguing characters that young independent readers will relate to as they face the sorts of dilemmas and decisions that the reader does, but in a parallel setting that adds an extra dimension, yet remains familiar so the leap isn’t too great for their imaginations.   

 

Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters

Miss Mary-Kate Martin's Guide to Monsters

Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm

Karen Foxlee

Freda Chiu

Allen & Unwin, 2022

288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760526627

The earth trembled as the creature left its lair at night.  It wound its way across the fields and slunk over the town bridge.  It slithered across the churchyard and its skin shimmered as it slid past the windows of the sleeping children,  Its shadow raced along the stone walls by the light of the mood.  It glided across the village green and then silently through the cobblestoned streets,  It went past the pub and the tiny teashops, past the village library, searing. It had known the place for centuries. In the market square it stopped.

It let out a screech that was wild and full of rage.

That cry echoed down the laneways, through the thatched roof cottages, reverberated over the fields.

It was a noise that had not been heard for many years. 

“Meanwhile, dressed in sparkly red shoes with her matching backpack, and carrying her strawberry-scented notebook, Mary-Kate is accompanying her archaeologist mother to the tranquil English countryside to investigate some interesting bones found in an old well. But once they arrive, they realise that the village of Woolington is not as peaceful as it seems. Mysterious noises, earth tremors and a terrifying legend have the locals frightened.

Could there be any truth in the myth of the beast who lives in the ancient well? And if so, why would it return? Mary-Kate might be anxious, but she is not afraid to get to the bottom of this monstrous mystery.”

However, Mary-Kate is not the intrepid adventurer that the publisher’s blurb portrays.  In fact, she is a rather anxious child who likes to make lists so she can plan and manage her life because she doesn’t cope with change well, and while her mother may be used to going off on these sorts of expeditions, Mary-Kate usually stays with her grandmother, which she much prefers. Even the few days away from school which has been Triple H lately – horrible, horrendous and hideous- are little consolation So, reluctantly, she packs her bag with her lucky items – the seven pieces of gum left by her father before he disappeared on Mt Shishapangma; her torch shaped like Big Ben, her little jar with 33 international coins in it and her stress ball shaped like a miniature world globe – and heads off to Woolington Well with her mother. 

This is a new release from the author of Lenny’s Book of Everything  winner of the 2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature, and Dragon Skin. shortlisted for the 2022 CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers and it is ideal for those who like a fantasy-adventure in which they can put themselves into the story as a character rather than an observer.  Being a sucker for anything set in ye olde English villages, it had me at the prologue but I remained hooked and read well past my bedtime as I willed Mary-Kate and Arabella on as they gradually work out why the wyrm, a “huge limbless and wingless dragon or dragon-like creature” has emerged again and is causing so much destruction, while both learn much about themselves as they do.  

Something different to share as a class read-aloud that will be followed by another in the series  The Trouble with the Two-headed Hydra- so readers can continue sharing Mary-Kate’s adventures. 

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

Christ Chatterton

Ladybird, 2022

32pp., pbk., $A14.99

 9780241545591

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.

The Callers

The Callers

The Callers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Callers

Kiah Thomas

HarperCollins, 2022

224pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781460762141

In the world of Elipsom, the ability to Call, or summon objects, is a coveted skill. And yet despite being born into a family of Callers – his mother sits on the chief council of Callers – Quin doesn’t have the gift. But appearances are important in Elipsom society and so to please his mother and sister, he sits the tests anyway – and fails. 

But everything changes when instead of summoning an object, Quin makes something disappear. He quickly discovers that the objects Callers bring into their world aren’t conjured at all, but are taken from another land, and another people who have had their lives slowly stolen from them.

Now Quin must team up with Allie, a girl who’s determined to stop this unjust practice, and decide whether he should remain loyal to his family, or betray them-and save the world.

For independent readers who like fantasy combined with a moral dilemma that keeps the story within the realm of the reader – in this case, being torn between family expectations and being true to your own values, as well as the bigger picture of power over” versus “power to” – this is an original concept that is fast-paced, addresses modern issues that have many layers whose depth can be delved depending on the maturity of the reader and thus has appeal for a wide range of readers. It is one of those that leave the reader pondering long after the last page is turned as they begin to view things through a new lens. 

Something different to offer keen readers who like to share their thoughts and opinions. 

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Tomas and Ironskin

9781839940026

Cara and Silverthief

9781839940064

Ellis and Pathseeker

9781839940088

Mira and Flameteller

9781839940040

Alastair Chisholm

Nosy Crow, 2022

160pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

In the land of Draconis, there are no dragons. Once, there were. Once, humans and dragons were friends, and created the great city of Rivven together. But then came the Dragon Storm, and the dragons retreated from the world of humans. To the men and women of Draconis, they became legends and myth.

But in this new series for newly independent readers, the dragons show that it is their extinction that is the myth! But only a few special selected children can see them, befriend them and work with them.

Tomas has always been told that now, dragons are extinct, and so he can’t believe it when a mysterious stranger invites him to join a secret society, the Dragonseer Guild – and tells him that not only do dragons still exist, but also that Tomas has a very special power… he can summon his very own dragon! But Tomas faces a difficult choice, and he and his dragon, Ironskin, must learn to trust each other – and together, they have to save their home from a deadly threat.

Meanwhile, Cara has spent her life on the streets, relying on her wits – and a mysterious voice that seemed to live inside her head – for survival. She’s amazed when she learns that the voice actually belongs to a dragon – her dragon – and she’s also invited to join, the Dragonseer Guild, for those who can summon their own dragon. But Cara isn’t used to having friends, and so when she and her dragon Silverthief uncover a dangerous secret, they must decide who they can trust… and their lives will depend on it.

Adding to these already published episodes are two more coming soon…

It’s the Maze Festival in the city of Rivven, and young dragonseer Ellis and his dragon Pathseeker are determined to be the first to complete the three mazes in the grounds of the king’s palace and win this year’s tournament. But after they discover someone secretly using dangerous dragon magic, Ellis and Pathseeker face a far greater challenge – and it will take all of their skills and courage to find their way back home, and keep the existence of the dragons a secret from the king.

The fourth story tells the tale of young dragonseer Mira and her dragon Flameteller love finding out how things work and fixing them, and so they’re excited to learn about the ancient magic that powers the home of the Dragonseer Guild – and helps keep its existence a secret. But when the King of Draconis announces a plan to hunt down and destroy all dragons, and the magic that powers the Dragonseer Guild begins to fail, threatening to expose it to the world, Mira and Flameteller must find a way to fix it – before the Guild, and the dragons, are found by King Godfic’s soldiers.

And to top it off there are two more scheduled for 2023 –  Kai and Boneshaow and Erin and Rockhammer. 

The long, cold days of winter are always a good time to introduce newly independent readers to new series, as they have the time and inclination to snuggle down and read.  And if the episodes in the series are published close together so they don’t have to wait too long to meet their new-found friends again, even better. As a read-alone, it is aimed at the 7-9 year olds who still need the support of a  larger font, short chapters and illustrations but who want an absorbing plot that has characters to whom they can relate as well as a touch of the extraordinary.  But it would also work as a read-aloud to younger readers, offering a gentle, safe introduction to not only the world of dragons but also to fantasy in general.  While the first, Tomas and Ironskin is more of a world-building, scene -setting story it is the perfect foundation for young readers who still need to orientate themselves in the world of fantasy and its particular characteristics while building a platform for the stories in the rest of the series.  Using it as a taster -read-aloud to build desire and anticipation to know what happens to the rest of the children is a great way to keep young readers reading.

I think your collection will need more than one copy of each of these to satisfy demand. 

Garlic and the Vampire

Garlic and the Vampire

Garlic and the Vampire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic and the Vampire

Bree Paulsen

HarperCollins, 2022

160pp., graphic novel, RRP $A16.99

9780062995087

Garlic feels as though she’s always doing something wrong. Again, she is late for market day different vegetables selling themselves to the humans in an old-fashioned rural village. Originally created by the kindly but powerful Witch Agnes to be “mute little helpers”, she  has enjoyed their growth into independent contributors to the community. At least with Carrot by her side and the kindly Witch Agnes encouraging her, Garlic is happy to just tend her garden, where it’s nice and safe.. So when the vegetables notice smoke trailing from the chimneys of a nearby castle, Agnes uses her magic to investigate and discovers that a vampire has moved in.

Because of the belief that garlic drives away vampires,  and in spite of her fear and self-doubt, Garlic is tasked with slaying the bloodsucker. Celery goes with her reluctantly, payback for his willingness to sacrifice her for the mission. So, with everyone counting on her, Garlic reluctantly agrees to face the mysterious vampire, hoping she has what it takes…

Although the theme of believing in yourself in this story is a common refrain, everything else about it is new and refreshing. Vampire lore and information about witchcraft are woven throughout the story, offering an introduction to the premises which underlie many other stories with these sorts of characters,  and Witch Agnes’ wisdom often speaks directly to the audience drawing them into it rather than being passive observers. 

While this is not a complex read, cheerful rather than chilling, with a subtle message about believing in stereotypes and rumours, readers will still need to have the reading skills necessary to interpret a graphic novel, seamlessly integrating the illustrations with the plot because there are many passages where there is no speech.  That said, with its warm colours, and faces which are friendly rather than frightening, this is a gentle introduction into both the format and fantasy. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The House at the Edge of Magic

The House at the Edge of Magic

The House at the Edge of Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House at the Edge of Magic 

9781406395310

The Tower at the End of Time

9781406395327

Walker Books, 2021-2022

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Crouched behind the stacked crates of the fishmonger’s stall in the market, Nine’s muscles are tensed, her senses alert waiting for just the right moment to snatch the lady’s handbag… For the streets are her world and stealing treasures for Pockets, the leader of the gang, is her life and she knows all the tricks of pickpocketing and all the twists and turns of the alleys and lanes  back to the Nest of a Thousand Treasures. He’s called her Nine because she in the ninth member of the gang, offering her a place to sleep and the odd meal in exchange for the things she steals.  

But Nine dreams of bigger things, a better life and when she steals a house-shaped ornament from a mysterious woman’s purse, things begin to change… She knocks on its tiny door and watches in wonder as it grows into a huge, higgledy-piggledy house squeezes between its neighbours. Inside are characters as strange as the house – Eric the housekeeper troll who is lost without his feather duster; a Scottish wooden spoon who wields a sword and Flabberghast , a young wizard who’s particularly competitive at hopscotch… But they have all been put under a spell by a wicked witch, a spell that only Nine can help them break before the clock winds down and which, while offering her a better life means she will have to sacrifice the thing that is dearest to her…

While the time and place of this new three-part series aren’t identified, it is reminiscent of the Dickensian world of Oliver Twist and Fagin but with magic and fantasy thrown in. But there the similarities end for Nine is not Oliver – she is clever, smart and thanks to her visits to the local library where she is actually welcomed, very well-read, and her willingness to save her new “friends” is more about giving herself a prosperous future than any altruistic concerns for them. She is determined to find the strawberries that Pockets says don’t exist… But then, given her life so far she has never known friendship and kindness and her defensiveness and self-interest have been built on the walls of self-protection. So, if she succeeds in breaking the spell, will she be able to just walk away with her prize?  

There is a plethora of fantasy books in the children’s book market at the moment with characters and plots whose limits know only the bounds of their authors’ imaginations, but this one stands out because of Nine and her emotional growth as she begins to understand that there is more to life than the untold wealth promised by the glowing jewels imprisoned by the witch’s spell.  The characters are not scary and unimaginable – we can all picture a troll, a wizard and a wicked witch and what can be confronting about a game of hopscotch?

As soon as she saw them on my desk, Miss 11 claimed these for herself and had her nose in them – now she must wait patiently for the third and final, although its title and release date remain as mysterious as Flabberghast’s house.  

Tashi and the Stolen Forest

Tashi and the Stolen Forest

Tashi and the Stolen Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tashi and the Stolen Forest

Anna & Barbara Fienberg

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2020

96pp., pbk., RRP $A2.99

9781760878566

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, a little boy was finally born to a couple who so desperately wanted a child that after consulting Wise-As-An-Owl the wife sipped a special mixture made for her and within a year, Tashi was born.  Right from the start he proved to be very clever and had many adventures before finally fleeing from a wicked warlord, arriving in this land on the back of a swan where he became Jack’s special friend.  Every now and then he would share an adventure with Jack and then Jack recounted these to his incredulous parents.  And so the adventures and legend of Tashi were born…

For over 25 years, the stories have fascinated young, independent readers as they are the perfect introduction to the world of fantasy and the fantastic, including almost every Year 3 class I’ve taught since the stories were first published.  Presented in a paperback format that each contained two stories, they were perfect for real-alouds as well as read-alones, so much so that in 2001 my Year 3 classes led a national Book Rap that had students from all over the country answering the questions my students had posed about the stories via online activities and emails as the power of the Internet was gradually harnessed to connect children beyond the school walls.

And now it is time for another wave of emerging, newly-independent readers to get to know this magical little fellow who has such big adventures with a new story published at a special Australia Reads price so that more children can start reading. In this stand-alone, Tashi tells about the time the old forest disappeared, and Much-to-Learn was in danger of disappearing with it! And then the whole village was threatened … Could magic sand and a certain spell help save them all? Only someone as clever as Tashi could find a way to outwit the Baron – and solve the mystery of the disappearing trees.

For those who are unfamiliar with Tashi, or who want to make sure they have all the books ready for renewed interest, you can check the list of books here – promote them to your emerging readers who will appreciate the quality stories as they begin  their journey through novels which give them the confidence and satisfaction of reading a “chapter book” for themselves.

 

 

Frankie Best Hates Quests

Frankie Best Hates Quests

Frankie Best Hates Quests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frankie Best Hates Quests

Chris Smith

Puffin, 2022

400pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780241522110

Frankie Best is not in a good mood.  Apart from the fact that her dad keeps calling her Princess, she was looking forward to spending a week with her Aunt Fi while her parents went off to the Arctic and spending the week eating pot noodles and watching You Tube but now her aunt is in hospital with a burst appendix and they’re heading to her grandfather’s house instead.  And she and her brother Joel are not looking forward to that because they hardly know him.

They are even more dismayed when they discover he lives in a ramshackle old cottage in the centre of an overgrown garden, has long white hair held in a pony tail and even though it’s 3.23 in the afternoon, he’s outside, in his pyjamas and dressing gown peering in through the window  of his house and holding a net!  How eccentric or crazy can this old man be? Things get worse as she is confronted by not only no phone signal but her grandfather doesn’t even know what wi-fi is, let alone have a code for her to access it. Or even a television.  How on earth is she going to entertain herself without her precious screen?

Well, she soon finds out when her grandfather is  kidnapped by gnoblins  and she is forced  to embark on a rescue mission across a magical realm filled with strange creatures and dangerous enemies that require her to use her ingenuity, and imagination and find inner reserves she didn’t know she had.. Can there actually be more things in the world than those that come via an internet connection? And could they actually be more important than what her ‘friends’ think?

This is another story for those who are independent readers who enjoy the currently popular genre that embraces parallel worlds populated by weird, fantastic inhabitants and becomes a good vs evil battle between them and the hero/heroine who is as ordinary as they are.  As well as the narration, the story is interspersed by Frankie’s journal entries telling the story from her perspective and the lessons about life and herself that she learns along the way – lessons that can also apply to the reader as they navigate the tricky pre-teen path to independence.   

But the serious is tempered with humour in the author’s choice of words, particularly place and creature names, and every now and then there are also detailed descriptions of some of the creatures encountered, which, if this were used as a class read-aloud, lend themselves to being used as examples for students to imagine and describe other creatures that might live in the world of Parallelia.

There are many books in this genre for this age group available at the moment – this is one of the better ones.