One Hungry Dragon

One Hungry Dragon

One Hungry Dragon











One Hungry Dragon

Alastair Chisholm

Alex Willmore

Hachette, 2023

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


Deep in a dark and gloomy forest, a creature stomps through the trees.

“I am Bernardo, “he roars, ” and I am ONE HUNGRY DRAGON!”

So look out anything that crosses his path including two silly sheep, three hearty heroes, four proper princesses, and a host of other characters straight out of the fairytales of the young readers this is designed for.  But is it the end of the world for all those he swallows or is there a twist in the tale?  Maybe even more than one twist?

Despite Bernardo’s antics, this is a laugh-out-loud book rather than a scary one as both the illustrations and the climax will just delight little ones as they join in the fun, roaring with Bernardo, counting forward and back and learning about the delights of the picture book format.  

If the popularity of any of my storybook cushions featuring dragons is anything to go by, the attraction of dragons in stories remains unabated and this is the perfect addition to the collection. 

Father Christmas and the Three Bears





Father Christmas and the Three Bears

Father Christmas and the Three Bears











Father Christmas and the Three Bears

Lou Peacock

Margarita Kukhtina

Nosy Crow, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


It’s Christmas Eve and Father Christmas has just the last village of the Back of Beyond to visit but he is really tired.  Seeing The Three Bear’s cottage far below he stops for a rest and soon falls asleep in front of the fire.  But when the bears come home they discover  NOTHING will wake him.  Not Baby Bear setting off the alarm clocks;  not Mummy Bear playing Jingle Bells very loudly on the piano; not even Daddy Bear blowing his alpenhorn!  How will the children of Back of Beyond get their presents?

Baby Bear has an idea and very soon the Fairy-Tale Rescue Rangers are there  to deliver the last presents so no one misses out.  But how will they cross the Roaring Rushing River, navigate the Deepest Darkest Wood and get past the Most Monstrous Mountain . . . all before the children wake up on Christmas morning?

This is one of those simple-good-fun stories that young children delight in at this time of the year, even moreso because they will recognise the members of the Fairy-Tale Rescue Rangers and be able to use what they know about them to predict how they might overcome the obstacles that confront them, enabling them to become involved in the story rather than just passively listening.  They might even like to predict how Baby Bear might be able to help the Fairy-Tale Rescue Rangers in the future. 

An interesting storyline, bright pictures, familiar characters, problems to solve – this has all the elements of an engaging story for young readers. 


Roxy & Jones (series)

Roxy & Jones (series)

Roxy & Jones (series)











Roxy & Jones (series)

The Great Fairytale Cover-Up


The Curse of the Gingerbread Witch


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. 















Gareth P. Jones

Loretta Schauer

Egmont, 2021

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


Rabunzel has a teeny tufty tail, a twitchy nose and two wide brown eyes. She also has VERY long ears – so long that her mother worries they will make her easy bait for the hungry creatures of the forest.

The answer? Rabunzel must be kept safe … in towering hutch, high in the sky. Here Rabunzel, bored to bits,  waits grumpily for her mother’s daily visit with carrots and fresh lettuce, letting down her ears so she can climb up the tower.

But one day, it isn’t her mother who climbs up Rabunzel’s very long ears…

Usually I’m wary of these fractured versions of fairytales because they can be a bit silly, but this new series is subtitled Fairy Tales for the Fearless and it has a feminist twist which sits with Neil Gaiman’s message perfectly.

With its rhyming text and lovely pictures, it is an entertaining story in itself and Rabunzel’s solution for dealing with the hungry animals and her rejection of her “saviour” Flash Harry Hare offer lots of discussion points that can initiate some critical thinking of other stories that our girls, particularly, are dished up as essential reading – still! It can also pose some provocative questions to challenge the thinking of some of our boys.

This video clip is the perfect accompaniment and summary…



And if you’re looking for more in this vein, this is from A Mighty Girl… The Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess    ‘These princesses are smart, daring, and aren’t waiting around to be rescued – more than likely, they’ll be doing the rescuing themselves! Fans of independent princesses will also appreciate our collection of girl-empowering dolls, which includes several of the princesses depicted in these stories, as well as our collection of dress-up clothing which features several independent princess outfits. Our clothing section also features a Princess Alternative section with shirts depicting both independent princesses and alternative princess themes. For a diverse selection of more empowering fairy tales, visit our Fairy Tale & Folklore Collection.”


There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story

There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story

There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story











There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story

Lou Carter

Deborah Allwright

Bloomsbury, 2021

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


The Big Bad Wolf is late AGAIN and is ruining stories as he rushes through the forest to Grandma’s house. When the Three Little Pigs get seriously grumpy AGAIN, Wolf tells them he’s had ENOUGH. There will be no more HUFFING and PUFFING from this Big Bad Wolf. The fairytale characters aren’t worried – they can totally manage without him!

But Big Bad Wolfing is harder than it looks … And what happens when they realise that they really need a Big Bad Wolf in this story.

Like its predecessor, There is No Dragon in this Story, this is another charming romp through Fairytale Land, this time The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood, particularly, with some other familiar characters thrown in.  This is more for readers who are familiar with the original tales and characters that are commonly found in fairytales as that will help them appreciate the nuances of the story and its irony. Would the little pigs really want their houses blown down and would the wolf really want to end up in the pot each time? There is also a subtle message about taking others for granted and working as a team that threads its way through  and it offers an introduction to investigating the role of the ‘villain’ in these sorts of stories, as well as the original didactic purpose of the genre itself.  On an even deeper level, some could consider whether stories such as The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood colour a person’s perceptions of the wolf from a young age leading to situations like those of Fourteen Wolves allowing for real differentiation of the curriculum through one apparently simple book.

Nevertheless, even without the maturity to view the story through those lenses, this is one that little ones will enjoy because of its familiar characters, bright illustrations and fast-paced action. But I’m glad it allowed me to dig deeper for possibilities, as all quality picture books do. 

Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive

Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive

Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive











Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive

Chris Colfer

Jon Proctor

Little Brown, 2021

330pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99


When we first meet her in The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, Goldilocks is a beautiful and tough-as-nails outlaw. In this brand new, lushly illustrated full-colour graphic novel, readers learn her origin story as she takes you on adventures where she may or may not break a few laws along the way.

Once upon a time, the kingdoms of the fairy-tale world lived in perfect harmony under the guidance of the Happily Ever After Assembly. But not all creatures and territories have been invited to this peaceful union. Monsters and criminals have found refuge in the Dwarf Forests, a land without rulers or law. When a plot by the Charming brothers is unveiled and threatens to push society’s unwanted from their homes, the fairy-tale world’s harmony and Goldilocks’ home are put in jeopardy…

Not being able to read graphic novels (not even comics as a child) I drew on the wisdom of my colleagues for advice about the suitability of this book and series for those in the target parameters of this blog and I was assured that it would be very suitable for mature independent readers at the upper end of its reach, so late Year 3 and beyond.  The series features on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge for Years 5 and 6  and when I mentioned it to Miss 10, she immediately said, “Save it for me, Grandma.” (The series is now heading for her Santa Sack.)

I love when one book leads to so many more that can satisfy our readers, particularly at a time when reading will be filling many hours. 

Shockingly Good Stories

Shockingly Good Stories

Shockingly Good Stories











Shockingly Good Stories

R. A. Spratt

Puffin Books, 2021

240pp/. pbk., RRP $A19.99


Begin a collection of short stories with the foreword…

This collection of short stories was created to be shared during a challenging time. They were written to be read aloud, preferably in silly voices. So be brave, set dignity aside and go for it.”

Couple that with tips like inserting family members into the roles of the wicked and the weird to personalise the stories and adding in a shouted BOOM or KAPOW deliberately to startle the child so they don’t fall asleep before the end and you know this will be collection that will engage and entertain,  But better still, have the creator of the stories be the same person behind such memorable characters as Nanny Piggins, Friday Barnes and the Peski Kids   and immediately you are building anticipation  for a fun family reading time. 

Fractured fairytales, new adventures with Friday Barnes and a host of other weird and wacky adventures make this a great collection to share and there is also a collection of 75 stories on Spratt’s Spotify channel. Details are on her website.

And having shared and laughed your way through all the tales, the backword encourages the reader to make up some “outrageously silly and unbelievably wild’ stories of their own, even providing a blank page to get them started!!!

Good Question

Good Question

Good Question










Good Question

Sue Whiting

Annie White

Walker, 2020

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


Remember the story of Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky and their mates who were on their way to tell the King that the sky was falling when they met up with Fox? Well, this is the story behind the story that explains just how Fox came to be in the right place at the right time to get himself something to fill his empty tummy.

There is a hint on the front endpapers that there is more to this story than meets the eye with a number of familiar fairytale characters in the woods, although the main story starts with Fox high in a tree talking to the reader and ready to explain why he is there.  It’s an intriguing tale of cause and effect that takes the reader back through his frustrating day told in a monologue that engages the  reader and makes them want to turn the page.  How do all those characters fit in to one story?

Accompanied by action-packed illustrations that enrich Fox’s narrative in the best way, there is a repetitive refrain that drives the story on until we are back to why Fox is up the tree.  And what happens then? Good question.  I thought you’d never ask.  And to discover the answer you have to look closely and follow right to the final endpages.

As well as being a most entertaining story, this has so much potential to be a model for a class or individual story.  The great storytellers always say they start with the end in mind – they know where their main character is going to finish up and then it’s a matter of working backwards to untangle how that happens and how they got there.  So the story end becomes the story start. Younger writers might all start with the same stimulus of a particular picture that has a character in an unusual situation and track the story backwards, offering the potential for a class book of imaginative interpretations while older students might choose their own character and situation.

This really deserves its place as a CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.

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.


Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys

Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys

Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys











Bold Tales for Brave-hearted Boys

Susannah McFarlane

Allen & Unwin, 2019

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


“Bold: typically describes one who is willing to take risks; who is brave in heart as well as deed.”

In this new collection of rewritten, remastered fairy tales featuring  Jack and the BeanstalkHansel and GretelThe Emperor’s New Clothes and Prince Leo and the Sleeping Princess, Susannah McFarlane  editor of Stuff Happens one of my favourite series for boys,  shows that there is more to brave than brawn and bravado slaying dragons and rescuing damsels in distress. It’s about doing what’s right, being clever and honest, that how you do something is as important as what you do.

Illustrated by Simon Howe, Matt Huynh, Louie Joyce and Brenton McKenna, four of our leading illustrators, in a style that takes the book beyond the realm of the cutsey, Disneyfied fairytale, it is the perfect companion to Fairytales for Feisty Girls which turns  Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina around to meet the demands of the modern young lady. 

Designed for independent readers in novel format with chapters within each story, it is ideal for re-engaging young students with the traditional tales of childhood literature and start discussions about how things change over time to meet the needs of the audience – these are indeed a long way from the didactic tales of Grimm et al whose purpose was to scare little ones into doing the right thing because of the dire consequences that awaited if they didn’t.