The Champ (series)

The Champ

The Champ











The Champ

The Champ 1


Rock ‘n’ Roll


Anh Do

A & U  Children’s 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

Popular and prolific storyteller is back with a new series for young readers transitioning to novels with all the supports these readers need including action-packed plots and relatable characters who have a touch of superpower to turn them from ordinary to extraordinary in times of need.

Summer loves sport, and there is nothing she would love more than to charge down the field towards an open goal, or soar through the air over the basket. She would love to be part of a team but instead she always seems to be the last one picked, probably because of her lack of co-ordination which even she recognises. Then one day something amazing happens and Summer discovers she is no longer the spectator but the superstar. The purple gloop that covered her and landed her in hospital has turned her life around. However what is magical for Summer is misery for her older brother Carl who goes from being a talented upcoming footballer to being in a wheelchair, and Summer finds herself with a lot more responsibility.

With her new expertise, Summer decides to enter contests to earn money to support her family, but as it turns out, there are far more important things for her to do, starting with sorting out a witch who looks strangely familiar and is causing trouble in her home town while keeping her new powers secret because  a government agency, armed with a robotic minion, begin to take an interest in her.  In the second in the series, she has to deal with the mysterious Book Witch again when everyone’s favourite rock band is kidnapped.

Younger readers who are just meeting Anh Do as an author will like what they read and easily be able to fit themselves into the story, perhaps even venturing into his many other series  as they wait for Summer’s next adventure, but those more familiar with his works, particularly SkyDragon may find parts of the plot familiar.  That doesn’t decry from the appeal of this new series as there is a reason Do is so popular and this is yet another way to get readers on the cusp of being independent to keep reading. 




The Pharaoh of Asco Express

The Pharaoh of Asco Express

The Pharaoh of Asco Express












The Pharaoh of Asco Express

Jake R. Wilson

New Frontier, 2022

138pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Whatever happens, no matter what, DO NOT step into Asco Express because you might just end up leaving with more than you bargained for…
When eleven-year-old Wesley stops by at a mysterious local shop to buy a drink, he does not realise the trouble he is getting himself into. CURSED by the fiendish Pharaoh AKAHTEN IX, Wesley and his friends, Marishana and Aiden, must solve the evil spell quickly or be trapped for all ETERNITY!

This is a new series for younger readers that not only introduces them to past times but also the mystery genre  Using modern children and time travel is a familiar hook to capture a new audience, and this story has the added bonus of a mystery set in Ancient Egypt, a time and place that fascinates many.  It includes a glossary of some of the people and objects encountered in the story so the reader can quickly check for anything they’re not sure of. With the ending setting the scene for the next adventure, this is a series that will appeal to those younger, independent readers who are looking for something different. 

As well as the story itself offering an opportunity to travel an historical path to explore life in Ancient Egypt, teacher’s notes  promote an exploration of the mystery genre generally, with explanations of the key elements of a strong hook, a crime, an investigator, a villain, clues, a twist and a conclusion which, in itself, invites readers to add other mysteries they have read to a list which could broaden others’ reading horizons.  


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.  


Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens

Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens

Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens











Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens

Allison Rushby

Bronte Rose Marando

Walker, 2022

144pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


1872.  Miss Strickland’s School for Girls of an Enquiring Mind and Penny Pickering’s mind is wandering, as it often does, in Miss Pugh’s lessons.  She’s sketching ideas about what might happen if bears invaded the school when her daydreams are interrupted by a summons to the principal’s office. 

Although she has often dreamed of being taken away from the school by her Aunt Harriet who writes very popular short stories known as “penny dreadfuls” (hence the nickname other girls in the school have given Penny), she is most surprised when it actually happens and she finds herself on the way to Mr Toddington’s Museum of the Curious and Absurd with her aunt, the pet monkey Jones and the surly Mr Crowley.  For there is a mystery about some strange kittens to be solved… and Penny finds herself actually drawing on those boring lessons from Miss Pugh, not only to solve it but to think of a solution that means win-win for everyone.

With an intriguing cast of characters, but not so many that the reader loses track, and short chapters, this is a great new series for younger readers who enjoy mysteries, that takes them back to a time when beliefs and attitudes were very different so the plot is very plausible and the atmosphere for more mysteries is established, particularly as this story ends on a cliff-hanger setting them up for the next episode – just what has happened to her parents because the cryptic postcard her aunt gives her makes no sense… 

Is it a case of “dreaming with eyes open” or “be careful what you wish for”?



Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast











Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Sue Whiting

Walker, 2022

224pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


When the special phone rings in the middle of a storm, a phone that is a secret landline of the Adventurologists Guild and only meant to be answered by qualified members of that group, Pearly Woe is sent into a panic,  Her parents are members, she is not, but they should have been home hours ago and it keeps ringing – MOOOO, MOOOO, MOOOO. Should she answer it and break the rules or does she use her initiative and pick it up because such non-stop ringing is so unusual?

For despite being able to speak 27 languages, including some animal tongues,  Pearly Woe is one of the world’s greatest worriers and her over-active imagination creates a dozen different scenarios for even the most common situation. But when she does finally lift the receiver, hearing her mother’s voice does not bring her comfort – instead the strange message with its cryptic clues set off a chain of events that even Pearly’s imagination couldn’t have conjured.  Pearly’s parents have been kidnapped by Emmeline Woods, who is not the nice character she portrays on screen, and who demands that Pearly hand over Pig, her pet pig  whom she talks to all the time to ease her anxiety.  Alarm bells are ringing loudly already but seeing Woods shoot Pig with a tranquiliser gun  galvanises Pearly into mounting a rescue mission that sees her in the icy wastes of Antarctica and having to confront her worries, fears and imagination in ways the she would not have dreamed possible. 

This is a fast-paced, intriguing adventure for young, independent readers who are beginning to want some depth to the stories they read and the characters they meet.  While there are subtle environmental messages embedded in the story, it is Pearly’s anxiety and self-doubt that many will relate to personally, while others will cheer her on to believe in herself and overcome those fears.  It can be amazing how our love and concern for those who are most precious can spur us to do things we never though we would be capable of… even if we can’t speak 27 languages to help us out.

To me, the mark of a quality story is if I can hear myself reading it aloud to a class, and this is definitely one of those. 


Sherlock Bones and the Art and Science Alliance

Sherlock Bones and the Art and Science Alliance

Sherlock Bones and the Art and Science Alliance











Sherlock Bones and the Art and Science Alliance

Renee Treml

Allen & Unwin, 2022

288pp., graphic novel., RRP $A14.99


Sherlock Bones, a talkative tawny frogmouth skeleton,  his companion Watts, a mute, stuffed Indian ringneck parrot and Grace, a sassy raccoon return in the third in this series, with a new mystery to solve in their natural history museum home.  This time there is a new exhibition called “The Art and Science Alliance” and the rumour is that the painting of the ancient Greek hydra – an enormous snake-like monster with nine heads – comes alive at night, hissing and Sherlock and his cohorts are determined to find the truth. 

Once again Treml has drawn on her degree in environmental science and passionate love of natural history to craft an intriguing story that informs as much as it entertains. Using the technique of Bones telling the story as a conversation with the reader, interspersed with lots of humour mostly consisting of puns better classified as ‘dad jokes’, she has crafted a graphic novel for young readers who have the skills to follow a story in this format. 

This story opens up lots of different avenues for the interested reader to follow from the relationship between art and science (an initial discussion between Sherlock and Grace) to the intrigue of Greek mythology while being an engaging story in its own right.   



The Book Club Bank Heist

The Book Club Bank Heist

The Book Club Bank Heist











The Book Club Bank Heist

Ruth Quayle

Marta Kissi

Andersen Press, 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Easter holidays and Joe is on his way to stay with his Granny in Muddlemoor, a quintessential English country village (complete with a vicar fund-raising for a new church roof)  and he’s very excited because not only does he love going there but his Welsh cousins Pip and Tom are joining him. 

But when they  discover that a dangerous gang of robbers is hiding in the local area, it seems like this is another mystery for them to solve, and so they start an investigation straightaway. At first, a number of people and places come under suspicion as they follow the procedures in Tom’s favourite series of books by ace detective Albie Short, but it’s when  Granny’s Book Group seems to be acting RATHER suspiciously that their focus shifts..  Could Granny’s Book Group be the true-life bank robbers? After all, they always seems to be short of cash until Granny seems to start splashing it around, they NEVER talk about books and for another thing they keep going on about a local bank. There’s only one thing for it. The cousins must stop Granny getting arrested, even if it means putting themselves in danger.

Told by 9 year-old Joe in the conversational style of the age group with lots of illustrations to break up the text, this is a good story for newly independent readers who like down-to-earth stories that they can feel they are a part of, either as an observer or a participant.  Because they’re straddling the line between working with the concrete and the abstract, having to be involved and being able to be objective, they will probably join the dots like Joe and his cousins do and they will delight in the way the robbers are eventually caught. A great way to introduce this genre that might lead to classics like The Famous Five, The Secret Seven or perhaps Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys, each taking them into the world of mystery adventures as well as a time before the internet and mobile phones, maybe even into conversations with their grandparents about books shared and enjoyed. 

Einstein the Penguin

Einstein the Penguin

Einstein the Penguin











Einstein the Penguin

Iona Rangeley

David Tazzyman

HarperCollins, 2021

224pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


December in London “where the days end early and forget to start on time” can be cold and miserable and so the Stewart family decide to spend the afternoon at London Zoo. Six-year-old Arthur and nine-year-old Imogen each have their favourites to see, but Arthur particularly wants to visit the penguins.  And while he is there, it seems he connects to one tiny one in particular, reluctant to leave, and so Mrs Stewart bids it farewell saying, “And you, Mr Penguin, must come and stay with us whenever you like.  Penguins are always very welcome at our house.”

So everyone is very surprised when Mr Penguin actually turns up on their doorstep that evening, with a rucksack labelled ‘Einstein’ on its back…

But what is a fairy penguin from Sydney, Australia doing in London in the first place?  Imogen, who fancies herself as a detective like her favourite book character, enlists Arthur’s help on a mission to find out… But will the discovery mean saying goodbye to Einstein forever?

This is a thoroughly enjoyable, very different story for newly independent young readers who will love the fact the Mr and Mrs Stewart are not only willing to go along with having Einstein stay but also enable the children to discover what’s going on.  Rarely are parents so amenable to their children’s wishes. But the story also throws up questions about keeping pets, and whether it’s fair to keep some creatures in captivity either as a pet or in a zoo, so it offers an opportunity for the reader to reflect on issues broader than the story itself. 



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. 

Space Detectives (series)

Space Detectives (series)

Space Detectives (series)











Space Detectives


Extra Weird Creatures


Mark Powers

Dapo Adeola

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

Connor and Ethan are spending their summer holidays aboard the world’s first orbiting city, Starville , a gigantic space station sailing silently as it orbits Earth and home to over a million humans and aliens. This single city,  brimming with skyscrapers, parks and even an artificial sea is enclosed by a huge, strong glass dome  like a vast snow globe, and is bursting with celebrities and the mega-rich. But Connor and Ethan are too busy selling ice cream to see the sights.

However, neither of our heroes can resist a mystery -they had solved many back home on Earth – and when they discover the space station is overrun with cosmic chaos! Boys have two heads, dogs have three tails and even aliens who normally have six arms are growing extra ones!  What is going on? Can Connor and Ethan get to the bottom of this intergalactic mystery?

This is the second in this  series  for young, newly independent readers who like the idea of a mystery mixed with science fiction so anything can happen. With the third episode, Cosmic Pet Puzzle,  coming in August 2022, the beginning of the new school year is the perfect time to entice those emerging readers into continuing their reading with series written and formatted just for them.  This is one to recommend.