The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act











The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

Jen Carney

Puffin, 2022

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Billie Upton Green (aka .B.U.G.) is 10 years old, in Class Five at school and is weaving her way through life at that age keeping a diary about her life and those people and events that are important in it. 

In the first in the series the reader learns that BUG has two mums and that she is adopted, but the main focus of the story is that there is a new girl in their class who seems to take up more of BUG’s best friend Layla’s attention that BUG would like, which has the effect of totally normalising BUG’s family structure so that those who are also in a different configuration to what is considered “normal” not only relate but appreciate that who they live with is no big deal in the bigger picture.

Of course, there are always those who will raise their eyebrows and so Patrick North personifies those conservative views with his comments but they tend to be water off a duck’s back by this third book, where BUG’s circumstances and adoption are widely known and accepted and it focuses on BUG preparing to have a baby sister, also adopted, but who seems to be taking forever to arrive because of all the rules and regulations, even though BUG desperately wants to hold her up for show and share. Luckily, the school musical is in full swing, giving BUG the perfect distraction. She just needs to watch out for Painy Janey, who has her eyes on the main part and doesn’t care what gets in her way…

Told in an easy-to-read conversational style by BUG herself, and interspersed with her doodles and other comments, this is a quick, enjoyable read for those who don’t want to put too much effort into following complex characters and plots. Yet, in saying that, there are thought-provoking incidents that offer “what-would-I-do?” moments so those who are facing familiar issues (or will do) can consider their own reactions and responses, perhaps even plan a strategy they hadn’t thought of.  

Miss 11 pounced on this in my review pile and stuck her name on it, begging me to “process it, Grandma” before she went home so she could take it with her.  That seems like a sure-fire winner to me. 



What’s New, Harper Drew?

What's New, Harper Drew?

What’s New, Harper Drew?











What’s New, Harper Drew?

Kathy Weeks

Aleksei Bitskoff

Hachette, 2022

214pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


“My name is Harper Drew. I’m using my new journal to take note of all the totally ridiculous things that seem to go on around me with my family and friends. I seem to be the ONLY ONE who sees this all of this stuff for what it is. Completely BEYOND normal.

Recently I’ve been logging Drew Dial Ratings for all the mayhem. On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is someone to SAY or DO something that would be less sensible than (for example) … a demented camel?

First up is the annual Drew trip to France… and while there might not be camels, there are BATS and Llamas – and my brother Troy who is so obsessed with his hairstyle, he won’t even go swimming… that’s a whole lot of ratings. I’m just hoping I land an invite to Maisie Felix’s party when I’m back to distract me from the Drews… for one whole evening!”

Promoted as  being “perfect for fans of Dork Diaries”, this is the first of a new illustrated series, all about embracing family, and finding unique ways to deal with life’s dramas that is most likely to appeal to girls who are independent readers, who are moving into that tween age and wanting something more sophisticated in the stories they read. The diary format, the first person in a stream of consciousness conversation make it a relatively easy read that is somewhat of a bridge between the novels they are used to and the edgier contemporary realistic fiction they will encounter in a couple of years.  While it is still about family and their relationships so it will resonate with the reader, the more objective perspective of examining what is being said and done gives it some punch and given diary-writing is a popular pastime with its age-intended audience, it will have broad appeal. Harper herself is  sensible, logical, considerate, and very resourceful in solving the problems and so she could become a role model. Even though Harper develops the “Drew Dial Rating” assigning a rating to each individual in terms of their “bizarre, odd, weird, and totally ridiculous” behaviour” her assessments are always done kindly as she accepts each for who they are and understands that who they are is what makes her who she is. There is a strong message about accepting people for who they are, while who you are is enough. 

Readers will find themselves fitting themselves into the story easily, if not as Harper then an engaged observer, and that, in itself, is a recipe for success.  




Sophia the Show Pony

Sophia the Show Pony

Sophia the Show Pony











Sophia the Show Pony

Kate Waterhouse

Sally Spratt

Puffin, 2022

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


Sophia is literally a show pony.  Not for her smelly, draughty stables and a manky horse blanket.  “She lived uptown in fancy Flats, the ritziest place on earth” and was “known for her stylish array of hats, paired with coats and designer gowns.”  But Sophia has a secret dream to actually  win the race that she and her friends dress up for.  Her friends discourage her saying that her destiny is being a fashionista and so Sophie settles for that until…’

Waterhouse has combined her fashion and racing backgrounds with her desire to write a book for her daughters which embraces ” all the lessons I want to impart ” about ” following your passion no matter what anyone says and finding your place in the world, and also embracing your individuality.” This message is a common one in children’s stories, but one which needs to be heard often so whatever story it is embedded in is worthwhile.  Choosing to tell it in rhyme can be tricky with both vocabulary and rhythm having to be manipulated but Waterhouse has done this creating a story that gallops along accompanied by illustrations which have all the characteristics that appeal to its target audience.  With its gold borders and pink roses, the book itself wouldn’t look out of place in the member’s area of the racecourse. 


A peek inside...

A peek inside…



Amanda Commander: The Purple Invitation

Amanda Commander: The Purple Invitation

Amanda Commander: The Purple Invitation











Amanda Commander: The Purple Invitation

Coral Vass

Heidi Cooper Smith

Wombat Books, 2022 

72pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


Amanda Caomhánach (aka Amanda Commander) is really upset because it  appears she is the only girl in the class who has not received one of the glittery lavender invitations to the very popular Eve’s birthday.  The other two members of the Dolphin Squad Lucia Cazzoli (aka Rainbow Fudge) and Mai Le (aka Plum Flower) have both received theirs and are as vexed as Amanda as to why she has missed out. And so they devise a plan that will get Eve to give Amanda an invitation…

This is a new series for the newly independent reader, particularly girls, which focuses on the sorts of issues that eight and nine year olds face as they navigate the world of greater independence and making and maintaining friendships. Thus, it will resonate with many who will see themselves in the stories, and start to think about what they might do in the same circumstances.  Even though Amanda has been friends with Eve since Kindergarten and can think of no reason she would have been excluded, is surreptitiously pandering to her just for what she can get, the right/best thing to do?  Or are there other ways she could handle the situation such as asking Eve directly?   

Using all the textual devices that support those making the transition to novels, this is a series that will be a sound stepping stone.  

The Secret Lives of Unicorns

The Secret Lives of Unicorns

The Secret Lives of Unicorns











The Secret Lives of Unicorns

Dr Temisa Seraphini

Sophie Robin

Flying Eye, 2021 

64pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99


Every parent, or grandparent, of a young girl up to about 9 will be aware of the fascination that unicorns continue to hold, their mystique never waning. Thus this is the perfect book for those who want to find out more about who and what they really are, where they live and the various species of them.  For not all unicorns are the same with short hair and rainbow manes.

This exposé by the equally mysterious Dr Temisa Seraphina (who may or may not be the expert behind The Secret Lives of Dragons  and The Secret Lives of Mermaidsreveals everything about this magical creature from its origins and evolution to the truth about the myths and tall tales.  It shows how they are so rarely seen these days because the world is no longer what it used to be, and encourages today’s believers to think about the present day environment and what they might be able to do to improve it so unicorns can once again roam as freely as they used to.

As with the others in the series, taking a fantasy subject and treating in a factual way, just as any non fiction text on any other species, is an intriguing way of not only feeding the child’s thirst for knowledge about the particular creature but also to the concept of non fiction itself, bridging the gap between imagination and information in an absorbing way.  

About 20 years ago, a collection of books known as the Ology series which focused on a range of fantasy and not-so creatures in a similar way, began appearing, offering the newly independent readers of the time an insight into the lives and times of creatures like dragons, wizards, ghosts and others and it was the lucky looker who found one on the shelves. I predict this new series (and hopefully there are more) will be just as popular when this new generation is introduced to it, and what better way to transition from fiction to non fiction, both as reader and teacher.  


Wondermere (series)











Do Not Disturb the Dragons


Do Not Mess with the Mermaids


Michelle Robinson

Sharon Davey

Bloomsbury, 2020-2021

224pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

In the first book in this series, the reader is introduced to “Two intrepid girls go from ladies-in-waiting to knights-in-action when they rip up the rule book and go searching for adventure!”

Wondermere is the luckiest kingdom in the land, all thanks to the dragons that nest on top of the castle. Nobody wants them to fly away, so everyone has to follow the rules and make sure everything stays the same  to keep the dragons happy.  But Princess Grace hates  the rules. They stop her doing everything she loves, like playing Troll-O and wearing trousers and training to be a brave knight.. Why do boys get all the fun?

Determined to prove that the rules are a load of old swamp-rot, Grace and her sister Princess Portia secretly enter the year’s biggest Troll-O. A couple of rule-breakers couldn’t possibly disturb the dragons … could they?

Then in the second, Don’t Mess with the Mermaids Grace has proved to the kingdom of Wondermere that when it comes to courage, determination, playing TROLL-O on unicorn-back and being a brave knight, she’s just as good as any boy! But now Wondermere is expecting a very important  visitor: the Mermaid Queen of the Outer Ocean. That means frilly dresses and best behaviour – and absolutely no rule breaking.  But when a purple dragon egg falls into the moat of Wondermere castle, Grace and her sister Princess Portia find themselves babysitting a big secret.  One teeny tiny little dragon called Dennis couldn’t possibly disturb the royal visit … could he?

This is a series for newly independent readers who are straddling the fantasy worlds of dragons, unicorns, mermaids and princesses but demanding more of their reading heroes than the traditional knight-on-shining-armour-to-the-rescue plots. So while they still have those things that have fascinated them for a number of years, they are wanting the females in the stories to be more like themselves, to have the can-do attitude and determination that they themselves have and to start showing the independence that they are also exhibiting.  

Incorporating all the formatting supports needed to transition to the independent reading of novels, this series fills the gap nicely, making a strong stepping stone. 


The Secret Lives of Mermaids

The Secret Lives of Mermaids

The Secret Lives of Mermaids











The Secret Lives of Mermaids

Prof Anuk Tola

Anja Sušanj

Flying Eye Books, 2020

34pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


At the School of Merology (SoM), Professor Anuk Tola (aka Anja Sušanj has been studying the lives, habits and habitats of merpeople for many years in an attempt to be able to communicate with them and those studies have revealed that

  • The word “mermaid” is a misnomer because there is more than just one gender, their societies are large and varied, and each is a unique individual
  • Merpeople are “a highly complex, curious, social, fierce, intelligent and incredibly secretive” species and what little is known has taken hundreds of years to glean
  • Because the ocean is changing so are the merpeople and they and the merologists (those who study merpeople) have to find new ways to work together. 

In the meantime, she has gathered all that is currently known into this highly informative book, a companion to The Secret Lives of Dragons   and  The Secret Lives of Unicorns. Beginning with a section entitled  “What is a merperson?” the reader is introduced to the species, visits the various kingdoms in the world’s oceans and learns about their beliefs, language and so forth. But perhaps the most important section is the final one which examines how and why the oceans are changing , how that is affecting them and what we, as humans, can do to protect both them and their environment. 

Mermaids (and unicorns) continue to be a source of fascination for many, particularly young girls, and this is a really imaginative way to introduce them to the concept of ocean conservation as well as non fiction generally, . To build a complete world in this way, albeit one based on a fantasy, is a clever way to make the reader stop and think about what might live between the waves and pause before they chuck their plastic bag in the water or let their balloons go into the sky.  Somehow it gives a whole new slant on this year’s CBCA Book week theme, “Dreaming with eyes open…”


The Magic of Magnolia Moon

The Magic of Magnolia Moon

The Magic of Magnolia Moon











The Magic of Magnolia Moon

Edwina Wyatt

Katherine Quinn

Walker , 2021

160pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Magnolia Moon is nine years old, likes Greek mythology, her best friend Imogen May (who understands the importance of questions like, “If you could be one fruit, any fruit, what would you be?”), wishing trees, and speaking crows. She knows instinctively that buffadillos are armadillos crossed with buffalos and believes there are walramingos living in her garden. She’s also the kind of person who can be entrusted with a great many secrets.

But  Magnolia Moon also has other talents – she can walk like a crab, dance with her eyebrows and tidy her room using only her toes. But she can also make magic, and knows that it a way to solve problems. And when you’re starting a new class at school -she’s ten now and about to go into Year Five at Thistledown Primary- and your best friend doesn’t live across the road anymore, problems seem to come easily particularly if you feel you are just put of reach, sailing alone even though others are sailing beside you.

In her latest adventure, the sequel to the award-winning The Secrets of Magnolia Moon Magnolia Moon invents everyday magic to help her navigate the pitfalls of friendship, school, family, and being ten. It’s not your abracadabra type magic though – it’s the sort you see when you’re curious and observant and take the time to be in the moment in the world around you, something that her family and others around her seem too busy to do. “Magnolia felt that Real Life was happening all around her. There was no yesterday, or tomorrow. Only right now.’” With her familiar friends still in the story, including the moon who whispers to her every night, as well as a red robin, Hetty, who makes a home in Magnolia’s feather-filled hair, and a ticking, tutting grandfather clock that nags her for being late to add to the fuss made by her creaking, groaning staircase, her adventures with such recognisable issues not only offer the young reader strategies to apply to their own life but also encourages them to enjoy the now, rather than continually rushing to the next thing as though life is some great race with an intangible reward for some mysterious win. 

And just as she was captivated by the drama and high stakes of the Greek myths in the first book, in this one, Magnolia is inspired by her book of fairytales and she tries to make real-life connections with the stories she reads. It helps her work out who she is and her place in the world, when others are trying to define her in ways that don’t fit her well. 

Like its predecessor, the book spans a year in Magnolia’s life giving the story continuity, each chapter is a separate entity so it is perfect for that bedtime read when just a chapter is enough to transition to the world of dreams. With its recognisable hero mixed with just a touch of fantasy, it is just right for newly independent readers who are reading on and consolidating their love for reading and honing their skills each day. And for those who love this series, there is a third one coming! 

MerTales 3: The Great Treasure Hunt

MerTales 3: The Great Treasure Hunt

MerTales 3: The Great Treasure Hunt











MerTales 3: The Great Treasure Hunt

Rebecca Timmis

Albert Street Books, 2022

136pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


It’s the day of the Great Treasure Hunt and everyone is joining in! Coral is excited to lead her team of best friends to the treasure first. But soon they discover that there is a bigger mystery to solve…  Who is the mer-sterious Count Frumplesquid, and what does he really want in Cockleshell Cove?  Can Coral and her crew work together to uncover the truth and keep the precious treasure safe?

This is the third in this series designed for newly-independent readers who love to read about mermaids and all the other creatures that inhabit that watery world, particularly as many will be fresh from coastal holidays and may even have spotted one of these elusive creatures.

With all the supports needed for those transitioning to more complex novels including short chapters and lots of illustrations, the adventures of the mermaids of Cockleshell Cove will delight those who are fascinated by these mystical beings but who want some substance to their stories. As a new school year approaches and a new batch of readers invades the library looking for something new to feed their passim, this is a series worth promoting. 

The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes 3: The Super Spy

The Super Spy

The Super Spy










The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes 3: The Super Spy

Brenda Gurr

New Frontier, 2021

108pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Zoe Jones has a hidden talent and a secret identity.  Daughter of one of the most famous pastry chefs in the world, sadly dead now, and a secret globe-trotting international food critic, at the age on nine, she has inherited her mother’s interests and talents, and when she is not at school she creates masterpieces that are highly sought after, aided and abetted by her guardian Aunty Jam and her magical cat Coco.

In this, the third in the series for newly independent readers, Zinnia’s class is organising a super fun sleepover in the school’s library while their parents are having a spy-themed party in the school hall. They even order a fabulous Zinnia Jakes cake. Everything is going according to plan until the parents set up a spy trap to catch the secret pastry chef …

Given the rise in the interest in home baking over recent lockdown periods in several states,, it can be assumed that there might be many budding pastry chefs like Zinnia Jakes emerging from kitchens this will be a welcome addition to this series that includes  The Crumbling Castle  and The Tumbling Tortoises, As with the others it includes a recipe for an orange cake with a special surprise inside!

During this year’s Book Week one of the favourite at-home activities was interpreting a book as a cake, and this is the perfect series to inspire that in a bake-off.