Unipiggle (series)













Unicorn Muddle


Dragon Trouble


Hannah Shaw

Usborne 2020

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

Welcome to Twinkleland Kingdom, where everything is 100% perfect. Except Princess Pea – she loves getting muddy and having fun and she’s not keen on choosing her own perfect unicorn at the Royal Unicorn Parade. Until the final unicorn turns out to be a podgy, pongy, proud, magic-horned…pig? And so the adventures of Princess Pea and Unipiggle begin!

This is a new series that will appeal to younger readers who prefer their princesses and unicorns to be a little bit different – definitely not your stereotypes. whether read independently or as a bedtime read-together, the bright bold illustrations will capture the imagination and have the readers seeing themselves as Princess Pea. 

With a new addition due in June, this is a series that can help younger readers transition from picture books and basal readers to the next step of their reading journey.


Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy

Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy

Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy










Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy

Vivian French

Nathan Reed

HarperCollins, 2021

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Lottie Luna is a werewolf. She’s super-fast, super-strong and has X-ray vision. Lottie doesn’t really like to use her special skills, though – she just wants to be like everyone else. But when Lottie and her friends go camping, she finds that she might just need to – if she’s going to find out the truth about the fang fairy…

This is the third in this series for young, newly independent readers who see themselves as just like Lottie – being just regular little girls on the surface , but with a heroine not too far below the surface. Richly illustrated with all the supports needed to carry their reading journey forward, this is an ideal series to offer those looking for something new and different. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Little Gem

Little Gem

Little Gem











Little Gem

Anna Zobel

Puffin, 2021

240pp., hbk. RRP $A14.99


Sometimes getting a little lost can help you discover who you really are . . .

When her travelling spell at Witchcraft School goes wrong, Gem lands in an unfamiliar, empty, seemingly derelict cottage, outside a strange, colourful town beside the sea, a long way from the school on top of snow-covered mountains where she had begun.  But not only was this somewhere she didn’t know, it was a century on from the time she had been in! Telling herself she is not frightened but she is confused, Gem steps out to discover just what has happened.

Everyone in Ellsworth Pining thinks Gem is their new village witch, even when Gem tries to correct them. And Gem’s new friends do need her. The Weather Worker is missing, and there are tales of a terrifying beast in the woods. So, with the help of her cat Pomelo and the ghost Henry she not only sets out to solve the mystery but starts to believe that maybe she is not the worst witch after all.

This is a charming new series for young readers who enjoy a bit of magic mixed in with reality, and who, like Miss 9, have enjoyed series like Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch.  With all the scaffolding needed to support them including plenty of line illustrations, the reader will quickly be drawn into the life of Ellsworth Pining engaging not only with this first story but building anticipation for new episodes to come. Zobel was inspired to create the characters by children she had met – share this clip to help aspiring young writers understand that stories don’t appear by magic (even if Gem did) and that story starters are all around if we just look for them.

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz










The Wizard of Oz

Russell Punter & L. Frank Baum

Simona Bursi

Usborne, 2020

104pp., graphic novel, RRP $A16.99


The classic story of Dorothy, the Tinman, the Scarecrow the Cowardly Lion, the Munchkins and the Wicked Witch of the West has been beautifully reinterpreted in this colourful graphic novel, perfect for younger readers who have not yet made the journey from Kansas to the Emerald City and just in time to be a focus for the 2021 Book Week theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds. 

Declared by the US Library of Congress as “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale.”, this is a story that all children should be familiar with given the references from it that appear in life today, and so to have it in graphic novel format which makes it accessible to newly independent readers and a whole new generation of children is a bonus. The full plot of the story is summarised here, and it could be wise to have the unabridged classic version available for those who are enticed to read that as well. 


Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell










Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Rebecca McRitchie

Sharon O’Connor

Angus & Robertson, 2020

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


In Jinxed!, the first in this series, we meet  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.

Despite the danger she discovers the power of friendship, finds courage, and channels incredible strength against the overwhelming forces seeking to destroy her.

Now in this second episode, Cora Bell has accepted she is full of magic b without her protection bracelet, she is struggling to hold onto all the powers she has gained, especially the dark magic she took from the warlock, Archibald Drake. When she begins to have nightmares and visions, and unusual cracks appear on her skin, it is a race against time for Cora and her fairy friends to not only find a way to fix her magic, but also escape the hunters now chasing Cora, and search the magical world for her family.

Can Cora do it all before her magic takes control? Will she find her family? Or will she become . . . a Havoc?

Continuing the popular trend for storylines about ordinary children having extraordinary powers, this is a series for independent readers consolidating their skills and starting to explore the power of words that take them into worlds other than those they know. Miss 9, who started her fantasy adventure a few years ago listening to Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men is thoroughly enjoying it, being proud of her ability to read it to herself. The short chapters and the illustrations support her developing independence.

With the summer holidays on the horizon, this is a series worth recommending to parents who are looking for something special to put in the Santa Sack. 

Pages & Co (series)

Pages & Co (series)

Pages & Co (series)














Tilly and the Bookwanderers 



Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales



Tilly and the Map of Stories


HarperCollins, 2018-2020

400+pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99



“From outside on the busy north London high street, Pages & Co looked like an entirely normal bookshop. but once inside it didn’t quite make sense how everything fitted inside its ordinary walls. The shop was made up of five floors of corners and cubbyholes, sofas and squashy armchairs, and a labyrinth of bookshelves heading off in different direction.  A spiral staircase danced up one wall, and painted wooden ladders stretched into difficult-to-reach corners.  Tall arched windows above made it feel a little like a church when the light spilled in and danced on the air. When it was good weather the sun pooled on the floor and the bookshop cat – named Alice for her curious nature- could often be found dozing in the warmest spots.  During the summer the big fireplace behind the till was filled to bursting with fresh flowers, but at is was October, a fire was roaring there…”

Does this not conjure up every booklover’s dream of a magical place, a bookstore where magic and mysteries, adventures and escapades beckon?  And for it to be the home of Tilly who prefers the company of book characters to the people in real life and, although not having been outside London, is a seasoned traveller within the pages of the books that abound on the shelves just shouts that this is going to be a series for booklovers and readers that will deliver all that is expected and more.

But what if your favourite characters could not only come out of the books and have real-life conversations with you but could also take you back into the book to have your very own adventure within the story? Tilly discovers that this is part of her relationship with her books and that, unlike other series where it is a secret power, this one is shared by her family,  There is much more to her grandfather and grandmother and the family’s history and lives than she ever imagined. Bookwandering is what this family does, and it might explain the mysterious disappearance of her mother and the absence of her father.

Created for independent readers or perfect for classroom read-alouds, this is a series that really needs to be read from the first one in order so that the subsequent adventures have context but it will have the book lover hooked from the start, regardless of their age, and wishing they too could bookwander into the magical, mystical world of their favourite characters.  I just loved it!!! Once your students know about it they will be queuing up!


The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn











The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

Kate Gordon

UQP, 2020

184pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Lonely orphan Wonder Quinn lives in the attic of Direleafe Hall with only a gloomy crow for company. Every year she hopes to make a true friend and every year her heart breaks when she doesn’t.

But when a spirited new student, Mabel Clattersham, befriends her in class, Wonder’s dreams seem to be coming true. As the girls grow closer, Wonder discovers her friend has a list of strange wishes: Throw a pie, leap into the sky, break someone’s heart…

What is Mabel’s big secret? Can Wonder protect her heart from being broken all over again?

This is a beautifully written ghost story with a difference.  Rather than being scary, this is a gentle ghost who craves a friend and becomes one, celebrating friendship, love, acceptance and belonging while embracing grief as a natural emotion that we all experience. This is a sensitive story, and despite its larger font, illustrations and short chapters, probably more suited to more mature readers who are able to read between the lines as well as along them.  The reader is not told that Wonder is a ghost, although there are clues from the get-go that perhaps she is not an ordinary schoolgirl for the astute reader to pick up – that fact that she is watching the girls arrive at school from her perch on the roof yet is unseen and undetected by either the students or the staff is one such indicator. It is also what I would have told my students is a tissue book – be prepared to shed some tears.

Normally, this is not my preferred genre but its evocative title, superb selection of vocabulary and imagery, its sensitivity and its uniqueness kept me engaged till the end.  One to look for and put into the hands of just the right reader.



Skydragon: Skydragon 1

Skydragon 1

Skydragon 1










Skydragon 1

Anh Do

James Hart

Allen & Unwin, 2020

232pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


When a mysterious glowing purple ball ignites their home while they are innocently making pizzas for tea, only Amber and her brother Reggie emerge from the inferno alive but both are badly injured, Reggie in a coma. Weeks later, watching from her neighbour’s fence Amber sees what remains of her home demolished in a very hush-hush operation.

Five years later, with Reggie still in a coma and Amber reminded daily of the events because of the scar on her face, she is  the butt of nasty comments and bullying from her peers who refuse to see the girl beyond the scar. The only constant is her fascination with dragons and her only joy, the beauty of the insect world. But something very strange happens when she trips and falls while on an insect-watching excursion with her class and is surrounded by a swarm of deadly hornets…

Afterwards, Amber knows she has been given an incredible power, but was it a freak accident, or was there something she was supposed to do with it?  Controlling her new ability might be the hardest thing Amber has ever done. Especially when she is running for her life.  Who is her mysterious enemy? What connection does he have to Amber’s past? And, most importantly, does Amber have what it takes to truly become . . . Skydragon?

This is a brand new series from the prolific and talented Anh Do, aimed at those who are straddling that invisible divide between needing the support of short chapters and illustrations and reading complex novels.   There is the familiar background of school but also the twist of the legacy of that glowing purple ball that opens up all sorts of possibilities for adventure. At the top end of the readership for this blog, but one for the more independent 8 year-olds to aspire to. 


Tashi Picture Books

Tashi Picture Books

Tashi Picture Books











Alphabetical Tashi

80pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


My First Tashi Colours 

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


My First Tashi 123

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


Anna & Barbara Fienberg

Kim, Arielle & Greer Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2020

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the publication of the original Tashi story, are three early childhood books which introduce the very youngest readers to the characters and settings while also helping with those basic concepts of  number, colours and the alphabet.

Because the original stories are perfect family read-alouds at bedtime, this collection will be ideal for introducing younger readers to that magical world that carries the stories along, or to assist those who are learning English as an additional language to learn the basic words using titles that are not as babyish as more traditional concept board books.  The original stories were illustrated by Kim Gamble, but since his passing his daughters have assumed the mantle and there is a seamless transition between the old and the new bringing the traditional monochromatic drawings to life in vivid colour.

With his own website and television series, Tashi is a perennial favourite who deserves his place in the legends of Australian children’s literature.


Tashi 25th Anniversary Edition

Tashi 25th anniversary edition

Tashi 25th anniversary edition










Tashi 25th Anniversary Edition

Anna Fienberg

Barbara Fienberg

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2020

112pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99


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…

And for 25 years they have fascinated young, independent readers being 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 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.

Now the first of those stories, including the story of Tashi’s birth and the first indication on his cleverness at the age of one – Tashi and the Silver Cup-  and his becoming Jack’s friend,  have been republished in this special edition to celebrate that special milestone. 

In addition, all the stories have been collected into special editions each containing eight tales in each volume.  The Book of Giant Adventures; The Book of Magnificent Monsters; The Book of Magical Mysteries; and The Book of Spells and Secrets(each 256 pages and $A16.99 RRP) mean yet another generation of young readers can get to know this lovable little character, marvel at the detail in Kim Gamble’s illustrations and think about what they might do if they found themselves in a similar predicament. 

When I recently met up with some of those students who participated in the Rap in 2001, they all remembered it and the fun they had, particularly the power they had because they set the questions and tasks for the other participants, meaning each had to read the story closely to be able to construct open-ended activities.  Such memories would not be possible without having the quality and appeal of the stories to work with.  If your students haven’t met Tashi yet, now is the time to introduce them.