Temora and the Wordsnatcher

Temora and the Wordsnatcher

Temora and the Wordsnatcher











Temora and the Wordsnatcher

Kate Gordon

Wombat Books, 2023

300pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Temora Murphy is eleven years old. She lives in a world where she never really fits. The other girls make fun of her. She’s not the “right” sort of girl for anyone – least of all her mother. On the candles of her birthday cake, she wishes for escape. Like magic, in a black pearl box at the bottom of her garden, books begin to appear. The books help her to leave her world and find another where she belongs.

On her twelfth birthday, Temora makes another wish, a wish that alters her life forever. Temora Tempest is welcomed into a world within a book, where everyone else has been waiting for her. But when some of the other apprentices fall victim to a magical disease that could only be caused by one person – a monster thought long dead – Temora realises that there can be darkness in every story. And that it might be her job to save everyone.

Described by the publisher as “a literary children’s story; a portal fantasy work, featuring a diverse cast of characters and a protagonist who marches to the beat of her own drum” this is a story for all those girls like my now-Ms 17 who go through primary school more in touch with the characters in stories than the luminaries of social media and who can not only transport themselves deep into a story but have a solid conversation as though they were a real part of it. Although S grew up in a loving family with a loving mother, and did not have the same adventures as Temora, she certainly had the confidence to march to the beat of her own drum because of her reading (and still does), and would have loved this book when she was in her late primary years. 

A complex read for independent readers who would like to find themselves in their favourite stories  it is one to snuggle up with on cold winter nights, particularly as the next in this Wordspinner series – Temora and the Dreamers – will be out in September. 

Diary of an Accidental Witch (series)

Diary of an Accidental Witch

Diary of an Accidental Witch









Diary of an Accidental Witch

Perdita & Honor Cargill

Katie Saunders

Walker Books, 2021-2023

224pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


At long last, Bea Black has her own diary -something she has wanted for a long time. Her weather scientist dad gave it to her as a celebration/bribe for moving her to Little Spellshire because it has “funny clouds”  but really it is the back of beyond and she has no friends.  So she decides to document her time in the town as well as setting herself some goals to achieve, goals made trickier because not only does she have to contend with all the usual issues of starting fresh somewhere new, but  instead of enrolling her in the local Spellshire  Academy, her dad accidentally enrols her in the School of Extraordinary Arts, the local witch school, where she has to learn to do magic and in a hurry. But, apart from magic,  there is a lot to learn about yourself and those around you when you find yourself in a place you don’t belong. 

Written for younger independent readers, this is a series that is proving very popular. It has all the structures needed to support those consolidating their new skills with characters and situations that engage them as they become immersed in Bea’s life, much of which will be familiar but with that added twist of magic. Because it is told in diary format and thus in Bea’s voice, they will be putting themselves in the story and learning about relationships, overcoming challenges and having faith in yourself along with her.  


Willa and Woof 4: Wedding Rescue

Willa and Woof 4: Wedding Rescue

Willa and Woof 4: Wedding Rescue











Willa and Woof 4: Wedding Rescue

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2023

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99


It’s summer and Willa is looking forward to her Aunty Jane’s wedding.  But it is also a time for bushfires and  and Willa’s town is in danger. When a spot fire burns down the wedding venue, she has to jump into action to save the day. But while she figures out that the showground might be a good new venue, she is trapped with a secret.  Local bully Robbie has hidden some injured koalas there and because he has her diary, he threatens Willa he will tell her secrets if she tells his….

The fourth is this series for emerging independent readers,  Harvey has captured the black-and-white, do-or-die world of eight-year-olds well. What to an adult may seem trivial, young ones seem as really important and they don’t yet have the world experience that enables them to prioritise so the possibility of the “world” knowing about her crush on a particular boy is as devastating as what might happen to the koalas.  Robbie has her over a barrel.  And so whether she is able to rescue the wedding remains to be seen…

The importance of and scope for using series with emerging readers has been outlined in reviews of previous episodes in the series and this one consolidates that work.  Because the series has characters and situations that will be recognisable to the readers, perhaps they can think about how the text relates to their own lives,  and how they would respond if they were in a similar situation.  What can they learn from Willa, Tae and Frank that they could draw on in the future? How has reading this series helped them better understand themselves and their friends?  And if all that is too deep and meaningful for a holiday read, they can look forward to Episode 5 in July! 


The Fix-it Princess

The Fix-it Princess

The Fix-it Princess













The Fix-it Princess

Janeen Brian

Cherie Dignam

Walker Books, 2023

160pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


Princess Shona likes to solve problems, the bigger the better and particularly if they involve practical solutions like rebuilding the chook house.  She is a  is a princess with a Can-Do attitude bur right now she is facing the biggest problem she has ever had to solve.

For their joint birthdays, she made Mum-Queen and Dad-King a wing-thing and they were last seen two days ago soaring over the castle walls and haven’t returned.  Because hard times have fallen, there is no staff left at the castle and so Shona is on her own with 15 chickens (who at least lay eggs so she has food) and an old horse called Wildfire.  To make matters worse, the drawbridge is up and so she can’t get out to start looking for them, because surely if they could get back, they would be…

With all the elements of a good story about princesses including gloomy, scary woods nearby, a dragon who sings but apparently can’t fly, shysters who pretend to be her parents and so on, this is a great novel for any young independent reader who has dreamed of being a princess – but one who is resilient and resourceful rather than waiting for some handsome prince to rescue her.  They will relate to her bubbly personality that refuses to be daunted and like me, will want to keep reading to find out what really did happen to Mum-Queen and Dad-King and whether they are safe. Have they been kidnapped or has her Wing-Thing gone horribly wrong, as so many of her other “solutions” do? 


The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra











Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters (series)

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

Karen Foxlee

Freda Chu

Allen & Unwin, 2022

304pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Although a rather anxious child who prefers  to make lists so she can plan and manage her life because she doesn’t cope with change well, nevertheless Mary-Kate Martin has left the sanctuary of her grandmother’s home to travel the world with her mother whose life is spent on mystery-solving adventures such as why the Woolington Wyrm was causing such destruction in a quiet English village. 

This time, Mary-Kate and her mother are visiting Galinios, an idyllic Greek Island filled with history and surrounded by the shimmering Aegean Sea. An ancient mosaic has been unearthed at the local sardine processing plant and Professor Martin must investigate, leaving Mary-Kate to enjoy a few days of sunshine and antiquity.

But a message asking for help changes everything. A wrecked boat and smashed jetty have recently disrupted life on this tranquil island and point to a monster-sized mystery. Could the local legend of the Two-Headed Hydra be more than a story? If so, what could make this historically serene sea creature so angry?  Armed with her glitter pens and strawberry-scented notebook, Miss Mary-Kate Martin is determined to find answers. She might be scared of heights, but there is no problem too big for her to solve.

This is the second in this series for independent readers who like mystery, adventure and a touch of fantasy, and given that it is based on the creature of Greek mythology perhaps it will inspire deeper investigation, maybe even an entry into the class Monsters book inspired by yesterday’s review.  

The Courage of Magnolia Moon

The Courage of Magnolia Moon

The Courage of Magnolia Moon











The Courage of Magnolia Moon

Edwina Wyatt

Katherine Quinn

Walker, 2022

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


If Magnolia Moon were an entry in her young brother’s book of facts that she is “minding” until he is old enough to read it, it would say, “Magnolia Moon is ten years old (almost eleven). She is good at secret keeping, magic making, tree whispering , feather finding and dancing the Heel and Toe Polka (which she has been practising for the school barn dance). She has three best friends: Imogen May, Casper Sloan and Reuben the angel boy, although she is not so friendly with mathematics. She has a cat called Atlas and is getting her very own bedroom soon…”

In this, the third in this series,  she has to dig deep to find the courage to move forward in a range of everyday situations – like going to the dentist, or repairing her relationship with her best friend – that will be familiar to lots of the young independent readers who enjoy her adventures and may be inspired to face each day a little braver, too.. 

Each chapter is a separate episode in her everyday life but because of the setting, characters and events, the story has a continuity that spans a year of Magnolia’s life.  Easy to read with a few illustrations, this is a series that will appeal to young girls just finding their independence as they navigate the world of the ups and downs of family and friendships.















Sue Whiting

Walker Books, 2022

272pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99


As the 19th century becomes the 20th, hard times have befallen Tilda and her beloved Papa as they grieve the loss of Tilda’s mother, the burning down of the Nimble Ninepence so Papa is out of a job, and his family turning his back on them. Desperate, he puts Matilda into the Brushwood Convent and Orphanage for Girls while he joins the SA Citizen Bushmen Contingent to go to South Africa to fight in the Boer War.  

But he vows to return to her for her, and it is this promise that Matilda clings to as she endures orphanage life with all the harshness that we associate with those institutions, except she has a particularly rough time as head nun Sister Agatha has singled her out for some reason, determined to break her spirit.  Buoyed by her mother’s advice telling her to be strong, and her strong friendship with the sickly Annie, Matilda resists every attempt and every punishment to admit that she is an orphan, until she sees apparent proof that her father has indeed, abandoned her, and her world crumbles…

Ever since I first came to Australia and read Playing Beattie Bow in 1980 (introduced to her by a Tl mate whose job I envied),  I have had a penchant for historical fiction set in Australia, with strong female leads..  Tilda is a worthy addition to my list.  Author Sue Whiting has grounded the story loosely on her grandmother’s life who, like mine, was born in New Zealand in 1896, and then moved as a baby to Australia.  While she has manipulated the events and the timeline slightly, as authors are allowed to do, she has used the little she knows to craft a powerful story of courage and determination, a willingness to stand up to authority and be her own person, that was not the norm in those times.  Or, if they were, it was still very much a man’s world and such resilience in girls was not written in the history books.  Despite the reign of Queen Victoria. the lives of independent young women were relegated to novels. 

More for the older end of the target readership of this blog , nevertheless it is one that more mature younger independent readers will relish as a new world of times past will be opened up to them.  While they may not relate directly with Tilda’s circumstances, nevertheless they will be cheering her on, barracking for her each time she stands up to Sister Agatha, and empathising with her as she is determined to look after Annie.  Who knows – this may be a young girl’s “Beattie Bow” and lead them down reading paths they didn’t know existed.  

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. 

PD McPem’s Agency for Mysterious Mysteries

PD McPem's Agency for Mysterious Mysteries

PD McPem’s Agency for Mysterious Mysteries












PD McPem’s Agency for Mysterious Mysteries

The Recorder Racket


The Puzzling Pet Parade


Anna Battese

Ruth-Mary Smith

Yellow Brick Books, 2022

64pp., pbk., RRP $A11.95

Penelope Delores McPem (aka PD McPem) and her puppy Scooter are staying with PD’s grandparents for the summer holidays which coinicides with her grandparents’ annual cleanup. 

While cleaning up the garage with Grandpa, PD finds a box full of things from the olden days, including Grandpa’s old brown trilby hat, his trench coat and a magnifying glass – everything PD needs to start her own Detective’s Agency!

In the first episode of this new series for emerging young readers,  PD’s most treasured treasure goes missing and she must use all of her new detecting skills to track down the culprit. Can she overcome a shoo-ing Granny, a double-crossing dog and a universe-chomping black hole to save her beloved recorder?

In the second, it’s West Bay Primary School’s annual Pet Parade and Miss Hartnett’s Year One class is excited to showcase their lovable companions.  PD McPem is particularly keen to show off her clever canine assistant, Scooter.  But the arrival of her new deskmate, Theodora Putkins, and her Rhinoceros Beetle Circus creates havoc when both Scooter and Mary the beetle are nowhere to be found! Can PD McPem’s agency for Mysterious Mysteries solve the puzzle of the missing pets before it’s too late?

With all the textual features needed to support those transitioning from instructional readers to more unstructured texts, this is a new series that will appeal to young girls who will see themselves as PD McPem and relate to the adventures she has,  as well as being introduced to the mystery genre, perhaps prompting them to delve further into it, maybe even with classics such as The Famous Five and The Secret Seven giving them common talking points with their parents and grandparents and starting conversations about their favourites.  Those who are traversing the “stepping stones” between reading materials love series because it means they can bring their prior knowledge of the characters and situations to the story so they can get stuck into the new adventure without having to figure out relationships and so forth, and so a new one to add to the mix is always fun.  


A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic












A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

Shivaun Plozza

Puffin, 2022

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Willa is just an ordinary non-magical 12 year old girl, living in the Wild – a city squished between two warring witch covens. She hates the constant conflict and spends her days dodging wayward spells – from raining frogs to dancing chickens – which cause havoc for regular people like her. And it’s all because of the witch war! No wonder she also hates witches.

But one day she’s not ordinary at all. She discovers she does, indeed, have magic, much to her dismay.  Thus, she is taken to the castle where she learns all about spells, witchcraft, and the two waring covens of witches, one of which she will have to join and be initiated into before her 13th birthday. If she doesn’t choose one or the other, her magic will be uncontrollable and she will explode. She seeks help from her new friends -Gish, the castle dogsbody, Marceline, the palace librarian, and Talon, one of her most faithful cat companions – to try to find a resolution but her attempts to control her magic are interrupted by a rogue witch, who begins nefarious spells against the Ordinary Folk. What does the witch want and what does it have to do with Willa? Can she get her magic under control before the whole town is doomed and her birthday arrives? 

Written more for independent readers at the upper end of this blog range, this is an imaginative story that capitalises on the current fascination with all things magical while allowing the reader to put themselves into the story.  Given the choices between the two covens. perhaps exploding might be the better option! It relies on the traditional good versus evil for its basic premise while including the modern scenario of a young girl being able to make her own decisions and choose her own path.