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. 


Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : The Lady with the Lamp

Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : The Lady with the Lamp

Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : The Lady with the Lamp












Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : The Lady with the Lamp

Jane Smith

Big Sky, 2021

120pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


On a trip to Sydney before being sent to boarding school in Brisbane, country girl Carly Mills visits the sights and sites of Sydney’s past with her new friend Dora. At Customs House they are refused admission because the exhibits are being changed. but when Carly picks up two shawls that drop off a trolley she is told to keep them as they are probably being discarded.

But what she doesn’t realise is that hers has a magic of its own when she puts it on- it transports her back in time to meet some of the influential women in  history.

In this, the fourth in the series, Carly is in London on holiday and finds herself transported back to the mid-19th century where life and expectations for women were very different from modern times and she meets the iconic “lady with the lamp” Florence Nightingale recognised as being the founder of modern nursing, travelling with her to the battlefields of the Crimea.

Much has been written about Nightingale and her exploits and achievements over the years, but with nurses so much in the frontline of this new battle with COVID-19, this is a timely release that allows young independent readers to learn about the early beginnings of this profession and how far it has come because of the courage and determination of women like its subject. 

 This  series mixes fictional characters like Carly and real-life women who have shaped the world, thus bringing history alive in a more personal way. By becoming involved in the narrative, perhaps even putting themselves in Carly’s shoes, the reader understands how the lessons the characters learn can be applied to the modern world. Other in the series focus on Caroline Chisholm, Dr Lilian Cooper, and Dame Nellie Melba, with Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie and Miles Franklin to come.  

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.


Over the Moon: Let Love In

Over the Moon: Let Love In

Over the Moon: Let Love In










Over the Moon: Let Love In

Colin Hoston

Yujia Wang

HarperCollins, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99


After losing someone, special, Fei Fei a bright young girl fueled with determination and a passion for science, builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess who may hold the answers  to her questions.  There she ends up on the adventure of a lifetime and discovers a whimsical land of fantastical creatures. 

Based on the Netflix original animated film, this picture books retells the story of Over the Moon. Based on a classic Chinese myth, it is a timeless tale of keeping the faith, keeping the love and embracing the unexpected, and the power of imagination.  Young readers will enjoy reliving Fei Fei’s adventures long after the screen image has faded with its simple, direct text and stunning illustrations, and perhaps encourage them to move on to the novelisation.. 

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


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.

The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife

The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife

The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife










The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife

Maz Evans

Hodder Children’s, 2021

225pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Scarlett Fife has BIG FEELINGS. And when she has BIG FEELINGS, they explode out of her like an over-squeezed stress ball.

Scarlett’s in big trouble after a BIG FEELINGS episode leads to a runaway hamster getting into the vicar’s trousers at her aunty’s engagement party. If she loses her temper ONE MORE TIME, she’s going to miss out on her trip to Mega Awesome Sicky Fun World, the best theme park on the planet.

But feelings are like slime in a party bag. No matter how much someone tells you to keep it in, it’ll always find its way out. And very soon, Scarlett notices that every time she pushes her feelings down, something explodes. Like … really, properly explodes.

It might be her teacher’s slimy green smoothie. A huge pot of purple paint. Or a massive pile of elephant poo at the zoo. And let’s hope Scarlett doesn’t get mad at Aunty’s wedding – that wedding cake is HUGE …

Start a story with “I AM SO ANGRY I THINK MY BUM MIGHT FALL OFF’ and populate it with characters who are instantly relatable to its audience, add modern illustrations and a graphic layout and you have a story that is going to appeal to a wide number of newly independent readers, particularly girls who understand Scarlett’s frustrations. This is a new series  (with at least two more scheduled) for those in the 9+ age group who like humour, action and an assertive sassy heroine who can’t always control her feelings and her temper.  Most importantly,  it demonstrates that sometimes the healthiest way to deal with a situation is to let yourself explode, express your frustration and anger and not be the sweet, demure, considerate person that people expect you to be.  (Ask me how I know!!) But it also shows that there are times when you need to suck it up and move on – learning the when and why of both responses is part of maturing and that’s just what Scarlett and her readers are doing. 

Drum Roll Please, It’s Stevie Louise

Drum Roll Please, It's Stevie Louise

Drum Roll Please, It’s Stevie Louise











Drum Roll Please, It’s Stevie Louise

Tanya Hennessy

Leigh Hedstrom

Albert Street Books, 2021

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


Meet Stevie Louise. She’s 12, in her final year of primary school and she is an entrepreneur, an entertainer (obviously), and an extrovert on the inside. Her favourite things are reading, English and watching musicals, but  she hates olives, maths and people calling her Steven, even if that is her own mother (who often embarrasses her as she is “going through a phase”).   

Right now, Stevie has a BRILLIANT PLAN. She’s going to have fun, make money, and most importantly, make sure the Brooke Street kids stay best friends forever.  Then a new neighbour arrives and threatens to derail all Stevie’s plans. And then real disaster strikes. But the show must go on. After all, Stevie is a professional.

Stevie is one of those characters that pre-teens like Miss 10 will really relate to as they see themselves in her at every turn, Narrated by Stevie herself so her voice becomes that of the reader, and supported by a variety of graphic features including illustrations which show the diversity of characters that Hennessy has included, this is one for those independent readers who have dreams and ambitions of stardom while still being sweet little girls just negotiating the transition to young adulthood.  It’s going straight to Miss 10 who will adore it. 















Lydia Williams

Lucinda Gifford

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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


When we first met Lydia Williams in Saved!!!, she was trying to master all sorts of sports with only the native animals to help her.  Now her family have moved to the city which is big and intimidating and without her old friends, she couldn’t practise her goalkeeping skills. Feeling lonely and alone, she goes to the city zoo to cheer herself up but even the animals don’t want to know her, until the fleetingly fast gibbon steals her ball…

Using the metaphor of the zoo animals with their superior skills to show how listening to and learning from others is the best path to self-improvement, Lydia shows how she worked on her game so that she is now the Australian Matildas first-choice goalkeeper making her debut at just 17, and plays for Arsenal in the UK.  With the Tokyo Olympics on the near horizon and hopefully the Matildas making the nightly news regularly, they have become the role models for so many of our young girls and their matches around the world are eagerly followed.  Thus, this and Saved!!! are both perfectly timed for sharing with them to inspire their aspirations.

How did those NSW and Queensland representative rugby league players rise to shine above the rest? 

Even for those whose dreams may be as far from being a champion soccer player as you can get, the message of listening, learning, friendship and teamwork permeates everything so it is one for everyone. 


Spellbound Ponies (series)

Spellbound Ponies (series)

Spellbound Ponies (series)










Spellbound Ponies (series)

Magic and Mischief


Sugar and Spice


Wishes and Weddings


Fortune and Cookies


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. 

Lottie Luna and the Giant Gargoyle

Lottie Luna and the Giant Gargoyle

Lottie Luna and the Giant Gargoyle










Lottie Luna and the Giant Gargoyle

Vivian French

Nathan Reed

HarperCollins, 2021

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


Imagine appearing to be a regular young girl but in reality you are a werewolf with powers that make you super-fast and super-strong and give you x-ray vision.  Lottie Luna is just that and although she doesn’t like to use her powers, preferring to be just the regular young girl,  but if she finds her friends in a pickle she will use them to help them out.

In this fourth adventure in the series, when Lottie’s school holds its yearly talent competition, she finds that she might just have to use them… if she’s going to help her friends save the day and win first prize…

Written for  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, each story is richly illustrated with all the supports needed to carry their reading journey forward making this is an ideal series to offer those looking for something new and different.