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Little Gem

Little Gem

Little Gem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Gem

Anna Zobel

Puffin, 2021

240pp., hbk. RRP $A14.99

9781760896089

Sometimes getting a little lost can help you discover who you really are . . .

When her travelling spell at Witchcraft School goes wrong, Gem lands 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 but she is confused, Gem steps out to discover just what has happened.

Everyone in Ellsworth Pining thinks Gem is their new village witch, even when Gem tries to correct them. And Gem’s new friends do need her. The Weather Worker is missing, and there are tales of a terrifying beast in the woods. So, with the help of her cat Pomelo and the ghost Henry she not only sets out to solve the mystery but starts to believe that maybe she is not the worst witch after all.

This is a charming new series for young readers who enjoy a bit of magic mixed in with reality, and who, like Miss 9, have enjoyed series like Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch.  With all the scaffolding needed to support them including plenty of line illustrations, the reader will quickly be drawn into the life of Ellsworth Pining engaging not only with this first story but building anticipation for new episodes to come. Zobel was inspired to create the characters by children she had met – share this clip to help aspiring young writers understand that stories don’t appear by magic (even if Gem did) and that story starters are all around if we just look for them.

Tinsel – The Girls Who Invented Christmas

Tinsel - The Girls Who Invented Christmas

Tinsel – The Girls Who Invented Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tinsel – The Girls Who Invented Christmas

Sibéal Pounder

Bloomsbury, 2020

320pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99

9781526619273

Homeless because her parents died before her memories were made and having vowed to never spend another night in an orphanage of 19th century England,  Blanche Claus hates Christmas.  From her shelter under the bridge she called home, she’d spend the day loudly counting down the seconds until it was over – or she fell asleep in the snow.

This Christmas Day started out as many before it but it was disturbed by the appearance of an old woman with a fancy bauble dangling rom her finger. Giving the bauble to Blanche who protests she doesn’t have a tree to hang it on, the old woman assures her she doesn’t need a tree for this one and as mysteriously as she came, she disappears. Looking at the bauble Blanche sees a snowy landscape decorated with tiny houses and technicolor icicles but it is the giant dancing Christmas tree that catches her eye.  This is the first gift she has ever been given and it changes her attitude and her life forever leading her to first Rudy, an old horse ready for the knackery and then a friendship (also a first) with Rinki.

You get an inkling of where the story is going from the tagline of the title, the byline of the blurb – “”What if somewhere along the way we’ve all got the Santa story a bit wrong…”” and Blanche’s declaration that if she could have or do anything in the world it would be to give every child a gift on Christmas morning so they would also know the joy she felt when that old woman offered her the bauble. 

This is a charming story that draws you in until suddenly an afternoon is gone and you’ve done nothing but be captivated by the magic of the Christmas of your childhood days.  It would make the perfect Christmas Countdown read-aloud or evening read-together as we approach this special time together, and this is another that is going to Miss 9 and Miss 14 who, even at their age, still love that special family time sharing a story.  

 

 

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

Rebecca McRitchie

Sharon O’Connor

Angus & Robertson, 2020

320pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781460757659

In Jinxed!, the first in this series, we meet  eleven-year-old Cora Bell who  is a foundling with no memory prior to her life with the elderly Dot and  her cat Scratch. They live in a room hidden behind a wall in the  crowded, industrial city of Urt, where everyone looks out for themselves, and their survival is dependent on scavenging and trading such as rare and exotic things – apple seeds, silver forks, shoe polish amidst fierce competition. Life takes a terrifying turn for Cora when she finds a few words scribbled on a piece of paper. She takes it home and says the words aloud. Suddenly, two plump, hairy fairies named Tick and Tock crash land in her path to warn her that she is in terrible danger. Cora has unknowingly summoned a sinister creature known as a Jinx.  Jinxes eat magical beings and once they have a scent, they never forget it. Cora is thrown headfirst into a world filled with magic, necromancers, shape-shifters, enchantresses, fairies, nightwalkers, witches and giants as her home is destroyed, her family goes missing and she’s pursued by the menacing and powerful Jinx.

Despite the danger she discovers the power of friendship, finds courage, and channels incredible strength against the overwhelming forces seeking to destroy her.

Now in this second episode, Cora Bell has accepted she is full of magic b without her protection bracelet, she is struggling to hold onto all the powers she has gained, especially the dark magic she took from the warlock, Archibald Drake. When she begins to have nightmares and visions, and unusual cracks appear on her skin, it is a race against time for Cora and her fairy friends to not only find a way to fix her magic, but also escape the hunters now chasing Cora, and search the magical world for her family.

Can Cora do it all before her magic takes control? Will she find her family? Or will she become . . . a Havoc?

Continuing the popular trend for storylines about ordinary children having extraordinary powers, this is a series for independent readers consolidating their skills and starting to explore the power of words that take them into worlds other than those they know. Miss 9, who started her fantasy adventure a few years ago listening to Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men is thoroughly enjoying it, being proud of her ability to read it to herself. The short chapters and the illustrations support her developing independence.

With the summer holidays on the horizon, this is a series worth recommending to parents who are looking for something special to put in the Santa Sack. 

Tashi 25th Anniversary Edition

Tashi 25th anniversary edition

Tashi 25th anniversary edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tashi 25th Anniversary Edition

Anna Fienberg

Barbara Fienberg

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2020

112pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760525446

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, a little boy was finally born to a couple who so desperately wanted a child that after consulting Wise-As-An-Owl the wife sipped a special mixture made for her and within a year, Tashi was born.  Right from the start he proved to be very clever and had many adventures before finally fleeing from a wicked warlord, arriving in this land on the back of a swan where he became Jack’s special friend.  Every now and then he would share an adventure with Jack and then Jack recounted these to his incredulous parents.  And so the adventures and legend of Tashi were born…

And for 25 years they have fascinated young, independent readers being the perfect introduction to the world of fantasy and the fantastic, including almost every Year 3 class I’ve taught since the stories were first published.  Presented in a paperback format that contained two stories, they were perfect for real-alouds as well as read-alones, so much so that in 2001 my Year 3 classes led a national Book Rap that had students from all over the country answering the questions my students had posed about the stories via online activities and emails as the power of the Internet was gradually harnessed to connect children beyond the school walls.

Now the first of those stories, including the story of Tashi’s birth and the first indication on his cleverness at the age of one – Tashi and the Silver Cup-  and his becoming Jack’s friend,  have been republished in this special edition to celebrate that special milestone. 

In addition, all the stories have been collected into special editions each containing eight tales in each volume.  The Book of Giant Adventures; The Book of Magnificent Monsters; The Book of Magical Mysteries; and The Book of Spells and Secrets(each 256 pages and $A16.99 RRP) mean yet another generation of young readers can get to know this lovable little character, marvel at the detail in Kim Gamble’s illustrations and think about what they might do if they found themselves in a similar predicament. 

When I recently met up with some of those students who participated in the Rap in 2001, they all remembered it and the fun they had, particularly the power they had because they set the questions and tasks for the other participants, meaning each had to read the story closely to be able to construct open-ended activities.  Such memories would not be possible without having the quality and appeal of the stories to work with.  If your students haven’t met Tashi yet, now is the time to introduce them.

Cinders and Sparks (series)

Cinders and Sparks (series)

Cinders and Sparks (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinders and Sparks (series)

Magic at Midnight

 9780008292119

Fairies in the Forest

9780008292140

Goblins and Gold

9780008292171

Lindsay Kelk

Pippa Curnick

HarperCollins, 2019-2020

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

Cinders lives a boring life with her selfish stepsisters and mean stepmother, doing the chores and tending to their every need, just like her traditional counterpart.  While they prefer to stay indoors all day listening to their mother read, Cinders would dearly love to be outside playing and although they can’t see the value of that she is allowed to do so once her chores are completed.  But something strange happens while she is outside –  her dog Sparks starts talking to her, her wishes start coming true and her fairy godmother, Brian, materialises.  (It’s been hard to track Cinders down because she is not on social media.)

And so begins a new series for young independent girls who are ready for a solid adventure story but still believe in magic and the characters of their childhood.  Easy to read, engaging and funny in parts,familiar characters and an ongoing quest make this a great read but at the same time, it has an underlying message that celebrates diversity and reaffirms that it is OK to be different. 

Miss 9 asked for The Worst Witch series for her birthday six weeks ago, and she is going to be thrilled when she discovers this series in her letterbox as a follow up because it will be perfect for her.  Thoroughly modern, thoroughly entertaining and just right for a winter read.

 

The Dragon In The Library

The Dragon In The Library

The Dragon In The Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dragon In The Library

Louie Stowell

Nosy Crow, 2019

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

9781788000260

Kit can’t stand reading. She’d much rather be outside, playing games and getting muddy, than stuck inside being quiet with a book. But when she’s dragged along to the local library at the start of the school holiday by her two best friends, she makes an incredible discovery: the local library is run by wizards … and she’s one too! The youngest wizard ever, in fact.

But someone is threatening to tear down the library and disturb the powerful magical forces living beneath it. And now it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the library… and the world.

The first book in an exciting, imaginative and brilliantly funny new series, which Miss 8 curled up with on Christmas afternoon when it was too hot to be outside.  Full of illustrations and written in short manageable chapters, it is a fast-paced story with the perfect mix of reality and fantasy to capture her imagination, It also captured mine and it sheds a new light on the value of both libraries and reading for those who think neither has anything of value for them. 

This is the perfect book to recommend to teachers as the first read-aloud for the new school year to encourage students to investigate the magic in your school library.  

Rainbow Magic: Camilla the Christmas Present Fairy

Rainbow Magic: Camilla the Christmas Present Fairy

Rainbow Magic: Camilla the Christmas Present Fairy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainbow Magic: Camilla the Christmas Present Fairy

Daisy Meadows

Orchard Books, 2019

155pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408352465

Best friends Kirsty and Rachel are very excited to give each other their Christmas presents! But when Jack Frost steals Camilla the Christmas Present Fairy’s magical objects, the magic of giving is in danger. Can the girls help get Camilla’s items back and save Christmas for both the human and fairy worlds?

The Rainbow Fairies have been delighting young girls who are newly independent readers since 2003 with 254 fairies published and 11 yet to come.  The series follows the lives of Kirsty Tate and Rachel Walker and their magical adventures with their fairy friends, Queen Titania, Queen of the fairies, King Oberon, King of the fairies and Jack Frost, who is the enemy of the fairies and his servants, the Goblins. With all the elements of fantasy that young girls love, the series has remained popular for 16 years so if you have someone ready to make the transition to novels this could be the one to start them. This new release features three stories, each with short chapters and illustrations to support the reader and with so many others in the series to move on to, it is perfect for managing this new step of the reading journey.There is also an online site so that there is much more to explore and engage in to enrich their experience., as well as suggestions for other series that will broaden their reading horizons.

Arabella and the Magic Pencil

Arabella and the Magic Pencil

Arabella and the Magic Pencil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arabella and the Magic Pencil

Stephanie Ward

Shaney Hyde

Exisle, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781925820010

Arabella was the only child of a duke and duchess who doted on her and enabled her to be granted one special wish each year.  So far she had wished for a pink puppy, an amusement park, even a real-life fairy.  The one thing she did NOT wish for was a baby brother but she got one anyway. And Master Archibald Vermillion Remington XV (aka Avery) was “a master of mayhem” with “ear-splitting acoustics” so that while Arabella loved him, she did not always like him.  For her next wish, she asked for a magic pencil, one that could make everything she drew real/  She had a lot of fun with it until the day she drew a magnificent garden party and Avery invited himself to it.  So Arabella pulled out her pencil and did something…

Dedicated to all those who have become an older sibling, this will resonate well as sometimes it is hard to adjust to the changes. While it might be nice to wish for things to return to what they were, if it actually happened the results might not appeal.  A modern-day cautionary tale.

 

Unicorn Academy (series)

Unicorn Academy (series)

Unicorn Academy (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unicorn Academy (series)

Julie Sykes

Lucy Truman

Nosy Crow, 2019

112pp., pbk, RRP $A12.99

9781788004565

Imagine a school where you meet your own unicorn and have amazing adventures together! That’s what happens for the girls at Unicorn Academy on beautiful Unicorn Island. There are 12 books in the series  (some still to be released), the latest being Ariana And Whisper.

Written for younger independent readers, the series appeals to those for whom unicorns remain a fascination and who dream of having their own one day, a fascination that shows no signs of abating.  Such series are very popular with younger readers just starting their reading journey through novels as they associate with and invest themselves in the characters, putting themselves in their shoes and truly immersing themselves in the experiences.  They form relationships with them that mean they are eager to read and re-read each one in the series, honing their skills and understandings of reading as they do so. So this is a series that will have a strong following because it features all those characteristics that hook these emerging readers in.  Worth the investment, not just for themselves but the reading pathways  that keen readers will then follow.

Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch

Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch

Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch

Nikki Greenberg

Allen & Unwin, 2019

288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760523671

In 2017 we were introduced to Zelda Stitch, a new character from the zany imagination of Nikki Greenberg…

“Zelda Stitch isn’t much of a witch – she’s hoping she’ll make a better primary school teacher. But if the vice principal finds out about her, her dream will go up in a puff of smoke. Keeping her magic secret isn’t the only trouble bubbling in Ms Stitch’s classroom: there’s wild-child Zinnia, lonely Eleanor, secretive Phoebe and a hairy, eight-legged visitor called Jeremy. Not to mention the nits… With NO HELP AT ALL from her disagreeable cat Barnaby, Zelda must learn to be a better teacher, a better friend and a better witch – even if that means taking broomstick lessons.”

Now, in this recently released sequel. Zelda is preparing to face term 2. With her secret exposed, she is hoping that it will be easier and has set herself some goals – 

1. Be the best teacher I can be.
2. Keep my spells to myself. 
3. DO NOT UPSET MELODY MARTIN.

But of course, nothing goes to plan and readers are plunged into another maze of magic, mischief and mayhem. Written in diary format with lots of illustrations for support, this is an enchanting read for the newly independent reader who is looking for some fun and fantasy.  So even though it looks thick and daunting it is actually suitable for those who are moving beyond the more traditional stepping stone novel but are not quite ready for the full-blown item.  Miss 8 will adore it and will no doubt be looking forward to Term 2’s adventures!.