Truly Tan Shocked

Truly Tan Shocked

Truly Tan Shocked











Truly Tan Shocked

Jen Storer

Claire Robertson

ABC Books, 2021

288pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99


Dear Diary

I am writing to you with the aid of my Ballerina Panda pen. You know, the one that makes your words dance across the page.

Guess who is number one on my Secret Spy Watch List?

Go on. Guess!

It’s Miss Dragone.

Miss Dragone has always been an ordinary, boring, Grade Four teacher with no surprises and a loud voice.

But not anymore.

These days she is acting weird, strange and highly suspicious.

I’ve been watching her very closely.

Conclusion: Miss Dragone is in danger.

I just know it!



Described by Megan Daley of Children’s Books Daily as “the 21st century version of the Secret Seven”, Truly Tan is a series for independent readers confident with their skills and ready to immerse themselves in more complex novels which feature characters and scenarios that they recognise and relate to. She is  the youngest of four very different sisters, each with their own personality- bossy Emerald, girly Amber, and  Goth-aspirant Rose – while she, herself, loves adventure, new words and making the most out of being a kid.  She loves a mystery and uses her ‘Great Detective’ brain to solve them. But she is also very real with a mix of determination, humour, smarts and quirkiness to appeal to her audience.

The first book in the series  begins…” Dear Diary It’s official. Our whole family has moved to the country. The pets are disturbed and restless. My sisters are disturbed and restless – although that’s normal. What is not normal is a cursed fox and a haunted clubhouse. That is definitely unnormal. At least the country people now have an expert in their midst. Someone with a cool head and a sharp eye. Someone who can solve intriguing mysteries and knows how to keep detailed Secret Spy Files. Really, it’s lucky I came along when I did.” and sets the scene for the seven that have followed. 

With enough intrigue to keep the reader engrossed but not scared, this is a series that will particularly appeal to girls and given the threat of looming lockdowns, would be perfect to have on hand for a binge read if it is new to the reader, or to catch up if it is already a favourite. 


Mina and the Whole Wide World

Mina and the Whole Wide World

Mina and the Whole Wide World











Mina and the Whole Wide World

Sherryl Clark

Briony Stewart

UQP, 2021

120pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


More than anything else in the whole wide world Mina wants her own bedroom . And it’s almost ready! Just one more lick of sunny yellow paint and it’s hers.

But then Mina’s parents take in an unexpected guest, and give her room away. At first, Mina is too upset to speak. She is so devastated by her loss and she doesn’t care that this new boy, Azzami, needs a place to stay. Her loss is almost too great to bear. 

At school, the other kids call Azzami names but throughout the bullying, he stays silent.  Mina wishes he’d stand up for himself especially after she ends up in strife for hitting Oliver, the worst of the culprits.  But although Azzami doesn’t speck he draws and he as a tale to tell in his drawings,  a tale made all the more poignant when Mina goes with him to visit his very sick mother.  For the first time she really thinks about the life and loss of the quiet boy, what he has seen and escaped from, the death of his father and the illness of his mother, being the least of them, and gradually the loss of her own bedroom is put into perspective. 

This verse novel for younger readers is an important addition to the collection and a vital inclusion to any study of refugees because it gives the silent among our students a voice.  Even though Azzami himself doesn’t speak, his silence is powerful because it echoes that of so many of those we teach who have experienced trauma and fear that we will never know.  Sadly, there are those like Oliver in every class who cannot cope with difference and manifest their lack of understanding and empathy through a display of power and disdain, but there are also Minas who have a more open mind and benefit by finding friendship and tolerance and gratitude. And there are also wise teachers like Ms Smart who know when to step back and when to step up.

This is a story about finding friendship where you least expect it and making room for everyone across this “whole wide world” and the teachers notes will help guide students’ awareness, knowledge, understanding, compassion and tolerance so that the conversation about acceptance, diversity, and caring for others has a new tone.  In addition, there is much to be learned about Clark’s choice of format, vocabulary and using only Mina’s perspective as a vehicle for  a narrative that needs to be had (seemingly over and over, even though refugees have been a critical part of this country’s fabric and fibre since the end of World War II). 

Look for this among the award nominees in 2022.  


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


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. 

Space Detectives

Space Detectives

Space Detectives











Space Detectives

Mark Powers

Dapo Adeola

Bloomsbury, 2021

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


Connor and Ethan are spending their summer holidays aboard the world’s first orbiting city, Starville , a gigantic space station sailing silently as it orbits Earth and home to over a million humans and aliens. This single city,  brimming with skyscrapers, parks and even an artificial sea is enclosed by a huge, strong glass dome  like a vast snow globe, and is bursting with celebrities and the mega-rich. But Connor and Ethan are too busy selling ice cream to see the sights.

However, neither of our heroes can resist a mystery -they had solved many back home on Earth – and when they discover the space station is hurtling on a collision course with the moon they know they need to step in. This is a case for the SPACE DETECTIVES!

Can Connor and Ethan find the culprit and save Starville from its impending doom?

Fitting perfectly into this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds, this is a new series for young, newly independent readers who like the idea of a mystery mixed with science fiction so anything can happen.  And concluding with an epilogue that sets up their next adventure it promises to deliver for those who like to get to know their heroes better as the series unfolds. 

When someone recently asked for recommendations for series for this demographic to help them consolidate skills and grow their reading, all the old-familiars were suggested – many popular when I was in the library full-time 20 years ago- and while they remain quality reads, this is a new series that could be added to the list. It has all the right ingredients to engage those young lads looking for excitement and adventure. 

Leilong the Library Bus

Leilong the Library Bus

Leilong the Library Bus











Leilong the Library Bus

Julia Liu

Dei Lynn

Gecko Press, 2021

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


The children are late for storytime at the library. Ever helpful, Leilong the enthusiastic dinosaur can get them there one time but riding a brontosaurus through the city can cause issues, When they finally get there, he is not allowed in because his  small head is the only part of him that fits and besides, he doesn’t have a library card.  Rules are rules!  So he must listen through the window. But he gets so excited by the story, he starts to shake the building. and risks destroying the library. When he is ordered out, the children walk out too –  and the library is left empty.  Is there a compromise?

No matter where in the world we live, children love and deserve stories and a quick internet search brings up lots of innovative ways that this has been achieved when going to a physical library is not possible.  From the packhorse librarians of Kentucky to the boom in tiny street libraries adults have found ways to get books into the hands of children, so why not a dinosaur?

This is a charming, unique story that will delight young readers and help them understand just how lucky they are to have access to such a wealth of stories right there in their school!!!

What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did on Thursday


What Zola Did on Friday


What Zola Did on Saturday


What Zola Did on Sunday


Melina Marchetta

Deb Hudson

Puffin, 2021

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

This great series for newly independent readers continues with the  release of three new titles and concludes in September with What Zola did on Sunday.

Readers first met Zola, her cousin Alessandro and her friends last year in What Zola Did on Monday  when she roped her Nonna into helping rebuild the community gardens and as her adventures continued in subsequent books, so the community got to know each other and bonded. And so in these latest releases, even though she continues to get into strife – forming a band and upsetting a cranky neighbour, painting Nonno Nino’s little yellow boat; helping Nonna with her prized tomatoes; and joining in the fun of the St Odo’s Day fete – she still manages to bring the community together so that instead of being isolated individuals as they were to start with, there are now friendships and love and laughter.

Inspired by her own daughter who was intelligent but reluctant to read, Marchetta has written this series with its humour, relatable characters and all the supports for those building their confidence with novels, so that others can grow as her daughter did. She has taken parts of her daughter’s character and family members and events and melded them into stories that not only her daughter was able to relate to, but just about every other child in Australia.  While there is a vast variety of characters, settings and plots in children’s stories today (as opposed to the good vs evil didactic tales of the past) those that resonate with readers, particularly reluctant ones, are those in which they see themselves, where they can put themselves into the events and become a participant rather than an observer.  So creating something with a big family, cousins who live in the house behind you, a hole in the fence to climb through so you can play together and a street of diverse interesting neighbours to explore means that this has wide appeal for so many. 

It’s a perfect series to binge-read during this lockdown and inspire the children to get to know their communities better when they are allowed out to play again. There are teachers’ notes available  and Thursday has an activity pack that could be used as inspiration for children to build their own for the others in the series. 

Zola, her friends and their adventures have become a friend over the last 18 months or so and it’s sad that the series is complete, but I’m glad they were in my life. 















Louise Greig

Hannah Peck

Farshore, 2021

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


When winter snow turns the green grass of the hills to white, Ed revels in his favourite season.  Because that’s when he can get his sleek sled out of the shed and race the other children down the slope.  But instead of the fast sled of yesteryear his now seems old and dull and slow as new, shiny, purple, orange , yellow and red ones flash past. 

Discouraged and disappointed at no longer being the best, Ed takes his sled back to the shed where he spends days and days trying to perfect it.  The voice in his head tells him that it is fine but he ignores it and keeps on tinkering.  But something strange has happened while he has been tucked away all that time. There is blue peeping out of the snow and the blackbird is singing… and with a heavy spring shower the white is turned to green!  

Even though few Australian children will spend their winters sliding down the slopes, this is a timely story that introduces young readers to the emotion of envy, exploring how we can be so consumed by being bigger, better, and faster that we miss out on more important things like fun and friendship. Rather than valuing what now, we get carried away with the anticipation of what next.  It is another in a series in which little people can confront big emotions through story and learn about and from them. 

Told in rhyming text, as well as being a story about emotions, there is also an element of science that can be explored as Ed draws elaborate plans for his new sled to make it magnificent. But what does he sacrifice in exchange for the fancy-dancy add-ons? What are the essential elements a sled needs to glide swiftly over the snow?  And for those in warmer climes than mine, what is snow and why doesn’t it fall everywhere? Why doesn’t it fall all the time?  Why do the seasons change?

I adore books that become springboards for young readers to explore well beyond the pages, that help them make more sense of the world around them and broaden their horizons.  This is one of those. 

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


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


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.  

Moose the Pilot

Moose the Pilot

Moose the Pilot











Moose the Pilot

Kimberly Andrews

Picture Puffin, 2021

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


Among the houses that Puffin the Architect designed for her friends,  was a treehouse at Lofty Lake and from there he flies his amphibian plane on all sorts of missions to help those who live in the surrounding mountains.  Regardless of the weather or the terrain, he is there to deliver whatever is needed. 

I’m Moose! And I fly a plane
with wheels, floats and skis.

I move parcels, food and folk
high above the trees.

But on this day, his adventures are even more exciting than usual – three fluffy youngsters need his help! But on his way there are others who need him to take special requests and pick up their goods – all of which come in very handy when he reaches his final destination.

It is hard to do justice to this intriguing book with its clever text and detailed illustrations in just a paragraph or two, but young readers will delight in following Moose’s trip as he moves around the mountains, looking for cues and clues in both the rhyme and the pictures.  

Children’s author Jackie French has said that when a child turns a page in a picture book there needs to be a new adventure to explore and Kimberly Andrews certainly has mastered the knack of that.  From cover to cover this is a book that is rich beyond measure and if you haven’t discovered Puffin the architect or another friend, Hound the Detective  then I urge you do so and provide the young readers in your life with hours of fun and discovery.