52 Mondays

52 Mondays

52 Mondays









52 Mondays

Anna Ciddor

Allen & Unwin, 2019

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Melbourne in the hot summer of February 1964 , in the hot car on the way to Nana and Zayda’s and Anna clutches the library book she can’t wait to read. It’s called Hitty: the life and adventures of a wooden doll and it not only inspired young Anna to own her own antique doll, a dream that lasts 52 Mondays, but also inspired the older Anna, the author, to tell the tale of the joys and disappointments of her real-life childhood search for the doll.

Based on her own life and following the success of The Family with Two Front Doors  which tells the story of  her own family, the Rabinovitches who “dance, laugh and cook their way through an extraordinary life in 1920s Poland”, the author takes the readeron a journey through the life and times of children growing up in 1960s Melbourne.  No computers, no Internet or social media, in many homes, not even a television set – just the day-to-day adventures of children who had to seek and make their own fun.  For those like me it is a trip down memory lane to the days of warm school milk, Mr Whippy, and desks in rows in schools, while for more modern young readers it is an insight into the lives of their grandparents -something very different to that which they know.

Whichever, it is a very readable story about a little girl with a dream, parents who understand and support it, the  highs and lows of following it, and the determination and resilience  required to achieve it. 



Dress Like a Girl

Dress Like a Girl

Dress Like a Girl









Dress Like a Girl

Patricia Toht

Lorian Tu-Dean

Harper, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99


Time for a sleepover and the guests have been instructed to “dress like a girl”.  But what does that mean? 

Does it really mean dresses and high heels, buttons and bows?  Or could it mean a space suit, a wetsuit, a medico’s coat or something entirely original?  

Told in rhyme the opening stanza sums up the focus and purpose of this book perfectly…

What does it mean to dress like a girl

Many will tell you in this big, wide world

that there are strict rules that must be addressed,

rules you will need when looking your best.

But when you are given these rules to obey,

the secret is heeding them-in your own way.

The strong message is that we are each individuals and we should be dressing to suit ourselves rather than what others might say about our appearance, or what “fashion” dictates or other external influences. Written for the young girl who is becoming more aware of the world around her, what others are doing and wearing and starting to shape her own tastes and preferences, this is a timely release that should spark lots of discussions not just about what is “acceptable” but also self-acceptance and the influence of peer pressure. Do “clothes maketh the man”? 

While Tu-Dean has depicted a diverse range of ethnicities and origins in the illustrations, there is a strong theme of events like slumber parties being about the friendships and fun that are common desires of everyone, rather than differences that divide or separate or having to conform to a given look to be accepted. Great for the mindfulness collection.

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up










Lola Dutch When I Grow Up

Kenneth Wright

Sarah Jane Wright

Bloomsbury USA, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Lola Dutch  is frantic because she doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up and even though her sensible friend Bear thinks there is time to discuss it, Lola sees it as an emergency.  So she drags him to the den where she consults all sorts of books and decides that she wants to be on the stage and lets her imagination wander…But then she thinks she might be an inventor, or a botanist, or a high court judge or…

This is another delightful book that explores the wonderful world of Lola Dutch and her imagination, but concludes with her being happy with just who she is – for the moment at least!

Young girls will delight in seeing themselves in Lola while those who are looking for diversity in books about girls will be glad to see the various ambitions that Lola has that go beyond the traditional choices, that open up all sorts of opportunities for dreams and plans but also acknowledges that it is perfectly fine to be just who you are. No decisions have to be made right now! Great as a read-aloud or a read-alone and perfect for satisfying any curriculum outcomes about career education.


Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates

Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates

Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates










Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates

Mark Sperring

Claire Powell

HarperCollins, 2019

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


Princess Scallywag and the Queen are out on the royal yacht enjoying the fresh air when they are invaded by three stinky, sweaty, no-good pirates waving their swords and determined to take them prisoner. 

But three stinky, sweaty, no-good pirates are no match for the quick-thinking Queen and the persnickety princess, although it is touch-and-go for a while as they desperately try to save themselves from being made galley slaves, scrubbing the decks and walking the plank!

A sequel to Princess Scallywag And The Brave, Brave Knight, this is a bold adventure story for those who like their princesses feisty, clever, and subversive.

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party










Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Laura Sieveking

Alyssa Bermudez

Puffin Books, 2019

96pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

There is not much that is more exciting that planning your 8th birthday party because at last you are old enough to have a say in everything. And so that’s what Amelia Chamelia is doing – choosing invitations, making decorations, sorting out costumes, making party bags.  Whatever is required for the best party ever, Amelia is making sure she has it.  The only dark cloud on the horizon is that she has to invite her twin cousins Danny and Andy and she knows they are going to be trouble.  And sure enough they are…

But Amelia has a secret power. A power that nobody else knows about. When she is furious or frightened, she can change colour. Her toes tingle, her knees tremble, her skin prickles, her nose tickles, her breath quickens and then with a hiccup she changes colour to blend in with the background, just like a chameleon.

This is the first in a new series for newly independent readers, particularly girls, who are looking for something that focuses on familiar events but which has a special twist in the tale.  Short chapters, a larger font and plentiful illustrations support the reader in consolidating their skills while offering a well-written story that engages and entertains.  Other titles are Amelia Chamelia and the Gelato Surprise, Amelia Chamelia and the School Play, and Amelia Chamelia and the Farm Adventure.  The first two are out now, just in time for the back-to-school excitement, the other two will be available in early April, 2019.

I think this is a series that will appeal to Miss 7 who is already in the throes of planning her 8th birthday, even though it is still two months away! Let’s hope she doesn’t have any evil twins to invite because I’m pretty sure she can’t change colour!

Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World

Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World

Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World











Marvel Fearless and Fantastic! Female Super Heroes Save the World

Sam Maggs, Emma Grange & Ruth Amos

DK, 2019

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


Superheroes continue to be as popular as they first were when they were introduced in comic form in the 1930s.  The historic nomination of Black Panther for the Golden Globes Best Picture award, the first in this genre to be nominated, and the current success of Aquaman at the box offices around the world, attest to this and this new release from DK focusing on the female heroes of the Marvel world demonstrates that women can also save the world.

It features 50 of the incredible female Super Heroes from the Marvel Comics universe, classified according to whether they are predominantly determined, daring, compassionate or curious , and inspires women of all ages to be powerful, passionate, and persistent.

In graphic novel format, the collection profiles dozens of aspirational female comic-book characters, all of whom use their strength, intelligence, and courage to help others. Fierce fan-favourites such as Captain Marvel, Gamora, and Jessica Jones feature alongside little-known faces from all corners of the Marvel comic-book universe. Young girls will also discover modern, diverse heroes they can relate to and look up to, including America Chavez and Kamala Khan. 

Illustrated with stunning comic-book artwork, each short biography is carefully curated to focus on the character’s abilities and achievements. This book for girls and women of all ages will create new fans of comics, as well as inspiring comic-book creators of the future. Further reading suggestions are given for each character, so readers can follow the adventures of their favourite hero into the panels of Marvel’s finest issues.

While all of those featured were created in the imagination of an author,  nevertheless they can encourage our girls to think about real-life heroines – those that inspire them to be braver, stronger, more influential – and examine how they achieve this without those superhuman powers of their fictional counterparts.  And while people like Anne Frank, Helen Keller and Florence Nightingale will always feature in “famous women” studies, there are thousands of more contemporary figures whose stories can be investigated and told, perhaps in the style of those in this book. Perhaps such investigations may even persuade our girls that they themselves are mighty and have the qualities that will make them their own superhero.

One for inspiration and aspiration.

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa's Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium










Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Belinda Murrell

Random House, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Life could hardly be more different for Pippa.  From a seemingly happy family living in a Victorian terrace house in London to a caravan in her grandparents’ backyard on a tropical island off the Australian coast.  Forced to make changes when her husband decided to work in Switzerland without them, Pippa’s mother has uprooted the family to a totally new environment where she is now running the increasingly popular Beach Shack Cafe created from an old, abandoned boat shed – a huge contrast to being a stockbroker in London!.

But the end of caravan life is in sight as Pippa’s mum finally has enough money to get the apartment finished – the children have even given up their pocket money to add a few more dollars to the pot. So when Pippa is overcome by a wave of unexpected jealousy because she is still wearing her daggy English school swimmers and doesn’t have a bike to go to other parts of the island with her friends, she decides to turn the negative feelings into a positive, particularly when she sees a beautiful pair of swimmers on sale.  And so Pippa’s Perfect Pooch Pampering is born.  Offering dog-walking, pampering and pooper-scoopering, what could possibly go wrong?

As this review is published, Miss Now 12 will be on her way to the Australian Scout Jamboree, on a bus for 15 hours with electronic devices banned.  But no doubt she will have her nose buried in this latest episode in her favourite series which she loves because the story “sounds just like me and my friends and the things we do.”  

For those who are new to the series, they don’t have to have read the others first (although it would be time well spent) because Murrell introduces Pippa, her family and friends and circumstances in an easy-to-read introduction meaning each episode is a stand-alone.  With its theme of just appreciating the pleasures found in friendships and simple things, and reflecting the lives of regular kids, even those who don’t live on a tropical island,  this is a glorious series for girls who are independent readers but who are not quite ready or interested in the contemporary realistic fiction that features in many stories for young adults. 

Even though she is a year older than when I first introduced her to Pippa and her friends, I know Miss 12 will be delighted to have them accompany her on that long bus trip! 


Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma











Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House Australia, 2018

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Clementine Rose is a sassy young girl who was delivered not in the usual way at a hospital but in the back of a mini-van in a basket of dinner rolls.  Living in the magnificent mansion in Penberthy Floss with her mother, her Aunt Violet, Digby Pertwhistle the butler and pet teacup pig, Lavender, Clementine Rose has had many adventures that her readers can really relate to, making her a favourite with newly independent readers.

In this new story, Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma, Clementine Rose is bursting with plans for the school holidays! But with the announcement that a new cooking show will be filmed in the village, everything changes. While Clementine is disappointed that her activities have been cancelled, she soon has an idea and takes to the kitchen in a baking frenzy. If only her mother wasn’t feeling so sick and could help out when things turn sticky.

Everyone wants to be a part of the show – especially Mrs Bottomley! – and it doesn’t take long before temperatures are running high. With the main event being held at Penberthy House, Clementine has the inside scoop and spies some surprising behaviour from the contestants. Will she uncover a secret? And will the show be a flop, or a scrumptious success?

When the first in this series, Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor, was published in September  2012 I introduced Miss Then 6 to it and she was enthralled because here was a feisty young heroine whom she could relate to and each new addition to the series was greeted with much anticipation.  As the series progressed along with her reading skills, she would read them eagerly to her younger sister.  Now she is 12 and moving into high school she has moved on but now her young sister is an independent reader herself and I’m sure she will love this new episode as much as the others, even moreso because she will be able to read it for herself. 

Jacqueline Harvey has certainly created a character who resonates with her readers and as the new school year isn’t that far away,  this is a series to introduce to a whole new group of newly independent readers looking for something that will engage and intrigue as they meet Clementine and her friends.   As my friend Sue Warren says on her Just So Stories blog, “Jacqueline Harvey continually strikes just the right note with her books for younger girls. The mix of adventure, mischief, humour and excitement has great appeal for the intended age group and each book contains much with which these readers can easily identify – even though they don’t live in a big old house or own a teacup pig!” Exactly what I would have said (and have, in previous reviews.)

If this series in not yet in your collection, seriously consider adding it if you want to capture young girls looking for a great read.

The Sisters Saint-Claire and the Royal Mouse Ball

The Sisters Saint-Claire and the Royal Mouse Ball

The Sisters Saint-Claire and the Royal Mouse Ball










The Sisters Saint-Claire and the Royal Mouse Ball

Carlie Gibson

Tamsin Ainslie

Allen & Unwin, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


‘To all the Saint-Claires, you are hereby invited
To join me this Sunday, I’d be most delighted!
Dress in your best for a Royal Mouse Ball 
I’ll open the palace for mice, one and all!’

Queen Julie S. Cheeser has invited the entire village to her glamorous Royal Ball but the villagers don’t want to go because they are intimidated by the Queen’s beautiful gowns and feel they themselves have nothing that is appropriate to wear. But the sisters Saint-Claire, five French mice who love fashion and food have an idea and with some clever thinking and ingenuity all the guests are able to go, and feel comfortable with what they are wearing. 

This is a charming story, a sequel to The Sisters Saint-Claire, that will delight young readers who love to dress up and who can create amazing outfits from whatever is at hand. No rushing down to the shop for a ready-made costume for them. Written in rhyme and with delicate illustrations that inspire the imagination, it is perfect for newly independent readers.

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Beware the Deep Dark Forest











Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Sue Whiting

Anne White

Walker Books, 2018

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


People say that the deep dark forest is thick with danger – carnivorous plants and venomous snakes are just two of its threats – but when Rosie’s little pup Tinky runs into it, she knows she has to face its fearful reputation and rescue him.  Despite the strange noises that made her knees wobble and made her eyes as round as the moon, she put her brave on and in she went, going further and further into the unknown, calling for Tinky.  But then she came across something worse than a venomous snake or a carnivorous plant…

Echoing the perils that heroes have to encounter in traditional fairy tales and illustrated in a style that brings the creepy scariness of the woods to life, this is a story for young readers who like a bit of tension in their tales but no so scary that it can’t be a bedtime read.  There is plenty of scope for the young reader to predict what could be scarier than a venomous snake or a carnivorous plant or how Rosie might cross the “dizzily, dangerously, dreadfully, deep ravine”, encouraging them to let their imaginations roam and reveal a little of their own fears.

As well as immersing themselves in the stunning illustrations which add the atmosphere as well as the detail, they can explore the meaning of the vocabulary which certainly doesn’t talk down to them.  Knowing what words like ‘venomous’ and ‘carnivorous’ mean and investigating why animals and plants have such mechanisms can be very empowering, like being able to say the names of the dinosaurs.  And having them put themselves in Rosie’s shows as she encounters the problem of the ravine enables them to be active listeners rather than passive participants while being Rosie and shouting at the troll would just be pure fun! So much scope for follow-up activities too!

Stories that engage and involve readers so they become part of the action are my favourites – this would be one of those.