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Rainbow Grey

Rainbow Grey

Rainbow Grey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainbow Grey

Laura Ellen Anderson

Farshore Fiction, 2021

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

9781405298728

Ten-year-old Ray Grey lives in the magical Weatherlands, high in the sky in the City of Celestia and where the Earth’s weather is created. She is surrounded by Weatherlings with astounding weather power at their fingertips  The Sun Weatherlings look after the great Sunflower in the sky that provides light and warmth for humans, and there are Snow, Rain and Wind Weatherlings who use their magic to give Earth its weather.. . . but she doesn’t have any such magic! However she longs to be just like her friends, Snowden Everfreeze who is the cleverest Show Weatherling in the Sky Academy, Droplett Dewbells who sploshes any one mean to her friends and have adventures like her hero Earth explorer La Blaze Delight. 
 
Then, after a forbidden trip to Earth through when a map in an old book, Ray’s life changes forever. She and her friends discover Ray and her friends discover a crystal which unleashes a power that hasn’t been seen in the Weatherlands for centuries and she is transformed from Ray Grey into Rainbow Grey! With the help of her best friends  and her exploding cloud cat Nim, now all Ray has to do is master those powers, dog deep to find her inner strength so her true colours can shine so she can save the world from a mysterious, powerful enemy who also wants the powers…

Even though this book feels thick with its 304 pages and thus a little daunting, young readers need not be concerned because it is packed with illustrations and other design techniques that break up the text and make it accessible and manageable. Like Monster Hunting for Beginnersthe story centres on an ordinary everyday character who could be any one of the readers and her friends who are the sorts of friends everyone wants,  giving it an appeal to those who enjoy adventure stories, fantasy and the traditional good versus evil theme. Humour softens the anxious, nail-biting cliff-hangers so it becomes a great read-aloud and with the sequel Eye of the Storm  due in March 2022, this is a series that will be perfect for a birthday or Christmas gift. 

Monster Hunting for Beginners

Monster Hunting for Beginners

Monster Hunting for Beginners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monster Hunting for Beginners

Ian Mark

Louis Ghibault

Farshore Fiction, 2021

204pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780755504367

Monster Hunting isn’t as easy as it looks. And Jack should know. Because an ogre has just appeared in his garden and tried to EAT HIS AUNT. (She was the winner of the World’s Worst Aunt competition, but that’s Not The Point).
After (sort of accidentally) defeating the ogre, Jack finds himself apprenticed to a grumpy, 200-year-old monster hunter called Stoop and heading off to Cornwall, where more ogres are causing havoc.  All he has are his wits, his catapult and a magical – sometimes unreliable – book called Monster Hunting for Beginners.

Jack’s a bit worried he might not be the hero everyone’s waiting for. But then again, how many terrifying, bloodthirsty monsters can there really be?

Any book that has a warning that it contains ogres, bogeymen, zomblings, and crusted hairy snot nibblers as its blurb and is written from an author from Ireland, the land most often associated with these sorts of creatures is bound to capture the imagination of its intended audience.  Add in an ordinary, everyday little boy who is little, clumsy, wears glasses, has weird hair and who is not built for trouble -so pretty much like most of the readers -who narrates the story as though the reader is part of it, and there’s a deeper attraction already. But add to that textual effects like illustrations, short chapters, and font changes that make this ideal for newly independent readers and it is not surprising that Jack has lots of positive reviews and a large fan base already.  

Jack is the sort of everyday hero that young readers relate to because their superhero role models are a touch out of reach, and they can appreciate that even they started somewhere. Overlaid with the adventures is wit and humour and all sorts of tips like looking for a secret door or tunnel if confronted by a monster and nothing else has worked, this is the first in a new series that will appeal to those who love their good vs evil stories and who secretly see themselves in the role of the conqueror whether they are 8 or 800!. 

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

Katrina Nannestad

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2021 

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733341656

Imagine being a young girl travelling the world in an old wooden caravan pulled by a horse that decides where they will go and which seems to have magical powers that mean borders and mountains and oceans are no barriers.  And that caravan is full of books, because it, too, has a magic that means that it is like a Tardis with so much more on the inside than appears on the outside. 

That is the life of 10-year-old Miriam-Rose Cohen (who prefers Mim), her father and little brother Nat, Coco the cockatoo and Flossy the horse.  They travel to wherever they are needed, wherever there is a child in need of a book to make their world right again because “the line between books and real life is not as clear as people suppose.”

In this first episode of this new series inspired by her childhood dream of living in a double-decker bus, the author of the 2021 CBCA shortlisted We Are Wolves and the Lottie Perkins series, we are taken to a pretty Dutch village where Mim meets Willemina, a kind and gentle child, who is being bullied by Gerda. Mim is convinced that Willemina will be much happier if her dad would just find her the right book, but is it really Willemina who needs it? 

This is a brand new series that had me at its title, took a greater hold at the image of little Nat being secured to the caravan’s roof because his dad nailed his pants to it, and held me right through to the end with its quirky characters and madcap adventures that will transport any reader far away from this gloomy, long winter. It’s the stuff that allows the imagination to run wild and starts dreams -that just might come true. 

The Ballad of Melodie Rose

The Ballad of Melodie Rose

The Ballad of Melodie Rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ballad of Melodie Rose

Kate Gordon

UQP, 2021

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702263217

When Melodie Rose is abandoned on the doorstep of Direleafe Hall with just a note pinned to her coat, she realises she must be a ghost. Her memories have vanished and her past is dim, but strangely, she is not sad. With the three other ghostly girls Florence, Lucy and Nell who also haunt the school and Hollowbeak, the gloomy crow on her shoulder, Melodie has never felt more at peace. Finally, she has a place to call home.

But just as she is finding her place and coming to terms with the past, a Lady in White arrives with plans to flatten the beloved school  Melodie Rose must act fast to save all she holds dear. But what can one powerless ghost do? How can her new friends and Hollowbeak help? 

This is the second in this series for younger independent readers, a companion to The Heartsong of Wonder Quinna CBCA 2021 Notable, yet, at the same time, it is a stand-alone story. Like its predecessor, it is a gentle ghost story, sensitive and poignant and beautifully written with a focus on being true to oneself, and having the courage to do what you know must be done even if it is scary. 

Again Gordon has selected vocabulary and painted pictures superbly so  that the story becomes alive in the mind, even for those who are only just venturing into this genre. Rather than being scary, it celebrates kindness, love and friendship, and grief becomes just another one of the normal human emotions. For those who are in its midst, there is understanding and hope embedded in Melodie’s continued optimism and strength to keep on trying.  The use of the word “ballad” in the title is entirely appropriate.

One to recommend for those who want something that wraps around them.

 

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

Denis Knight & Cristy Burne

Lothian Children’s, 2021

250pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

 9780734420190 

Wednesday Weeks never wanted to be a sorcerer’s apprentice. She’d rather study science than magic. But when her cloak-wearing, staff-wielding grandpa is captured by a power-hungry goblin king, Wednesday must find a way to embrace her magical heritage and rescue him from the dreaded Tower of Shadows.

Luckily, she’s not alone. Her best friend Alfie is a prime-number fan and robotics expert who’s all-in on Wednesday’s epic plan involving parallel universes, swords of power, and a wise-cracking talking skull.

But it’s going to take more than science, magic, and the world’s cutest robot to take down this bad guy. Because the goblin king is playing for the ultimate prize – and Wednesday and Alfie just walked into his trap…

In a world of magic, can science save the day?

Independent readers who love a story that combines magic and science with great adventure will adore this new series that does just that.  Drawing on the skills of Knight who loves science fiction and fantasy, and Burne who loves science and who has a mission to ” blend STEM and creativity to enthuse, engage and empower” this is a story featuring a smart, feisty female and her best friend who find themselves having to use real-life science to save themselves from the predicament they get into as they travel the Nine Realms, inspiring the reader to perhaps take a greater interest themselves.  This is made possible with the addition of a few activities included at the end of the book and with several more in the teachers’ resources, it is an ideal story to promote to your science and maths enthusiasts. 

Described as being perfect for those who love  Nevermoor, Artemis Fowl and The Witching Hours, the even better news is that Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny, the second in the series, will be out in September, so not long to wait.  

The Kingdom of the Lost (series)

The Kingdom of the Lost (series)

The Kingdom of the Lost  (series)

The Kingdom of the Lost (series)

The Red Wind   (2011)

The Cloud Road (2017)

The Ice Maze (2020)

The Velvet City (2021)

Isobelle Carmody

Puffin Books, 2011-2021

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

In 2011, Isabelle Carmody gave young readers The Red Wind the first in this series, introducing brothers Bily and Zluty who are swept away by a devastating red wind and forced to fight for their survival and journey into the perilous unknown. It was such a powerful, entertaining read that it won the CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers that year 

Over the ensuing 10 years, the boys’ adventures have continued in The Cloud Road and the Ice Maze and now finally, the final book in the series has been released in which Bily and Zluty must each travel to the dangerous Velvet City, where they will learn the shocking truth about themselves . . . even as their beloved Monster faces the fate he fled.

Carmody, who has also given our young readers series like the enchanting Little Fur and the compelling Obernewtyn Chronicles  is one of Australia’s leading fantasy writers and despite this series taking 10 years to complete, it is one that competent readers will engross themselves in as they tackle all four volumes and 1200 pages. Perfect for the long winter nights, so check to see if you have the early ones and offer them to your fantasy aficionados. 

Little Gem and the Mysterious Letters

Little Gem and the Mysterious Letters

Little Gem and the Mysterious Letters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Gem and the Mysterious Letters

Anna Zobel

Puffin, 2021

272pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760896096

When her travelling spell at Witchcraft School went wrong, Gem landed 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 just confused, Gem stepped out to discover just what has happened.

Meanwhile, everyone in Ellsworth Pining thought  Gem was  their new village witch, even when Gem tried to correct them.  

Now in the second in this new series for young independent readers, Little Gem is settling into her life at Ellsworth Pining with the help of Ghost Henry and her other friends. Everyone is preparing for the Midsummer Festival and Little Gem is in charge of the special effects for the Midsummer Play. But when Little Gem’s magic starts to go wrong and she receives several mysterious letters, Gem is worried that the festival is going to be a disaster! Will Little Gem be able to work out who is sending the letters and regain her confidence before opening night?

For those who enjoy a bit of magic mixed in with reality, and who have enjoyed series like Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch.,  this has  all the scaffolding needed to support them including plenty of line illustrations.  The pace is just right with time for readers to engage with the characters such as Henry, the resident housekeeping ghost, Renzo, who helps his postman dad in the holidays, Amira, who now has a pet dragon, and Mrs Silva, who runs the local café, learn who they are but not get too bogged down in minute detail, a skill that those who write for children have to perfect to retain their audience’s attention.  By doing that well, the young reader can then absorb some of the messages from the situations and circumstances Gem find herself in such as  taking responsibility , and learning from your mistakes, even if that puts you in an awkward place, and understanding and reaching out to those  who feel different and find things difficult. 

Whether a read-aloud or a read-alone, this is a way to introduce young readers to mysteries and set them off on a new reading journey.

Fly Free: Skydragon 2

Fly Free: Skydragon 2

Fly Free: Skydragon 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fly Free: Skydragon 2

Anh Do

James Hart

Allen & Unwin, 2021

200pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760876425

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 the second in this new series from the prolific, talented and very popular 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, and this time Amber is on the run. What will happen when she and the Firefighter finally come face to face?. At the top end of the readership for this blog, but one for the more independent 8 year-olds to aspire to. 

Eliza Vanda’s Button Box

Eliza Vanda's Button Box

Eliza Vanda’s Button Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eliza Vanda’s Button Box

Emily Rodda

HarperCollins, 2021

288pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781460759608

Buttons three, attend to me!

Take me where I want to be!

It was a miserable rainy day in Tidgy Bay and no one saw Eliza Vanda arrive .The sign advertising ‘Cabins for Rent’ was almost hidden by a pile of builder’s rubble, but Eliza Vanda didn’t seem at all put out by the mess. In fact her eyes twinkled when she saw the small cottage called Spindrift that sat at the head of the cabins “like a mother duck leading a line of ducklings.” 

‘”This is a nice little pocket,’ she said. ‘It should suit us very well.”

No one, that is, except Milly Dynes who rubbed a patch in the misty window at just the right time to see a small, brown, sturdy woman, neatly clad in a long green coat which was buttoned to her chin, a brightly patterned scarf around her head and black boots, clutching a squishy green bag bulging with who knew what in each hand. And when the woman knocks on the door wanting to rent a cabin and signs herself as a “travelling dressmaker, no fixed address” you just know that this is going to be another cracker story from Emily Rodda – and so it is. 

Perfect for independent readers who like to have one foot in a fantasy world while keeping the other in the real world so they feel they can ‘come home” at any time, this new adventure from the author of the classic Deltora Quest is so engaging and intriguing that even a non-fantasy reader like me became engrossed.  The accompanying teachers’ notes  make it an excellent read-aloud to accompany this year’s CBCA Book Week theme. 

 

Spellbound Ponies (series)

Spellbound Ponies (series)

Spellbound Ponies (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spellbound Ponies (series)

Magic and Mischief

9780008402815

Sugar and Spice

9780008402907

Wishes and Weddings

9780008402938

Fortune and Cookies

 9780008402969

Stacy Gregg

HarperCollins Gb, 2021

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

The ponies of Pemberley Stables have been bound by magic and each of them is trapped in time. Can two brave girls help get them back?

Each story in this new series for newly independent readers focuses on the plight of one of the ponies… Bess the highway pony is very good at robbing the carriages and loves life just the way it is; Prince the racehorse isn’t as speedy as he used to be and his love of fine dining isn’t helping matters; Sparkle the white pony has been magicked to be messy and can’t stop rolling in mud; and Champ the palomino pony has been magicked to be exceptional – or that is what he is telling everyone! How can Olivia and Eliza help each one?.

With fairly simple plots  and capitalising on young girls’ love of horses and magic, this is a new series for those who are moving to reading independently yet who still need the support of short chapters and illustrations to consolidate their skills.  With the first two available now, and two more in early July, this is a great series to introduce young readers so they can while away the winter weeks ahead with reading.  They will put themselves in the shoes of either Olivia or Eliza or become their friend and be engrossed in the stories and waiting for more.