The Grade Six Survival Guide (series)

The Grade Six Survival Guide (series)

The Grade Six Survival Guide (series)










School Rules are Optional 


A Class Full of Lizards


Alison Hart

Allen $ Unwin, 2021

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

In the first in this series which takes a fun look at life in Year 6, Jesse is in his final year of primary school and should be living it up as one of the ‘Kings’, but he can’t even get his Prep buddy to follow school rules. There is a a plumbing problem the size of Niagara Falls, not to mention the dreaded compulsory school camp.

“It’s the first day of school and I’ve already got three problems:
1) Mrs Leeman is my classroom teacher. She’s so ancient she taught my dad.
2) I might have accidentally been voted school captain. I had an unusually popular day when the class voted last year.
3) Somehow I’ve lost my Grade Six jumper between receiving it and Mrs Leeman’s lecture about being responsible.

That’s a lot to go wrong in half an hour. On top of that, it’s a million degrees. So that’s four problems. It’s worse than I thought! At least things can only get better, right?

In the second book his problems continue as he returns from holidays, not the least of which is the class being overrun by lizards.

Although focused on that final year of primary school, this is a duo that will appeal to those independent readers who are looking for something similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid  with characters and situations that are familiar and thus relatable.  A funny, light read that will take the mystery out of Year 6 and entertain even the most reluctant readers. 


Fish Kid and the Turtle Torpedo

Fish Kid and the Turtle Torpedo

Fish Kid and the Turtle Torpedo










Fish Kid and the Turtle Torpedo

Kylie Howarth

Walker, 2021

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


Originally, Bodhi did not share his parents’ love of the underwater world – his dad is a marine biologist and his mum an underwater photographer – and while they travelled the world together to explore what really happens beneath the surface, he preferred dry land until he discovered he had magical powers…

In the third in this series that introduces the reader to life beneath the waves and the hazards the inhabitants face,  the reader is taken to the Maldives where Fish Kid’s friendship with bestie, Emely, soon hits a snag during a tricky sea turtle rescue. Secretly wishing for powers of her own, Emely’s strange behaviour leaves Fish Kid wondering if their friendship and the super-sick turtle will survive. And if things weren’t bad enough, another turtle from the sanctuary goes missing. 

Full of action, adventure and humour, and all the techniques proven perfect for supporting those transitioning to longer novels, this series also includes fact boxes about the various creatures encountered and draws on the author’s personal knowledge of the world under the waves enriching the reader’s understanding and awakening an awareness to protect it. 

A powerful series that hopefully will inspire young readers to wonder and find out more, perhaps even be like Miss 14 who is currently studying oceanography and marine biology in Year 9 and undertaking her diver’s qualification!  The power of story to spark the “what if…” and while a mask and scuba tank aren’t quite the same as Bodhi’s powers, they work just fine!


The Valley of Lost Secrets

The Valley of Lost Secrets

The Valley of Lost Secrets











The Valley of Lost Secrets

Lesley Parr

Bloomsbury, 2021

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


September, 1939. Jimmy and his little brother Ronnie are “in another country that feels like another world [and] there’s a big scary war on that no one seems to be talking about.”  Evacuated from London to a small coal-mining village in Wales where the landscape is so different; the family they are billeted with are viewed with suspicion by the locals; and London friends are now enemies and vice versa it is no wonder that 12-year-old Jimmy finds it so much harder to fit in than 6-year-old Ronnie.  And on top of that, by accident he finds a human skull in the hollow at the base of an old tree.  What are the secrets it holds?

This is an intriguing read that kept me absorbed from beginning to end as it will any young independent reader who likes a mystery that twists and turns but ends up just as it should. Taking them to a real period in history when the children were sent to stay with strangers in strange places to keep them safe from the expected bombs that would fall on London, the characters, although unfamiliar, are very relatable and the whole thing epitomised this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds opening up a different but real way of life.  While it’s not the green lush countryside his Dad promised him, and he can’t read the sign at the train station, to Jimmy nothing feels right  and everything feels wrong. Although Ronnie quickly settles in and embraces his new life with Aunty Gwen and Uncle Alun, Jimmy is reluctant, resentful. and, at time, rude. Confused by the circumstances, and convinced the war will be over by Christmas, he doesn’t want to accept their kindness feeling like it would be a betrayal to his family. Despite being surrounded by people, he feels alone. His best friend has changed and there’s no one he can confide in. Even though he knows that when he finds the skull it is a discovery that is too big to bear alone, and his imagination goes wild, he still keeps the secret close in a town where everyone seems to know everyone’s business and have an opinion about it.

While this is a debut novel, it has the power to send readers on a new reading journey as they seek to find out more about this period and the stories of children who endured so much more than they will ever know. Both Jimmy and Florence learn a lot about themselves and each other as the story evolves, encouraging the reader to perhaps look beyond the surface of their peers and be more compassionate and considerate in the future.

Added to that, the author has embedded another mystery in the pages for the reader to solve, making this a must-have read that deserves all the praise it is getting.


Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : Superstar

Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : Superstar

Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : Superstar












Carly Mills Pioneer Girl : Superstar

Jane Smith

Big Sky, 2021

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.50


When Carly Mills goes to Melbourne with the school choir, she gets more than she expected.  Thanks to her magic shawl that transports her back in time, she takes a trip back to 1867 and a chance meeting with a mischievous little girl who might just grow up to be the world famous opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba. If Carly is to help the little girl achieve her dream, she will have to endure Nellie’s practical jokes, an angry headmaster, and her father’s belief that opera is not a fit career for a lady. Not to mention Simone’s bad moods and Dora’s terrible singing. But at the same time, she discovers her own abilities to persevere if she wants to make her own dreams come true. 

This is the third in this series, written for newly-independent readers who are interested in learning about the lives of women who have shaped history  With a mix of fictional characters like Carly and real-life women it brings them  alive in a more personal way through the narrative and showing how what the characters learn can be applied to the modern world. With her own website, and a host of resources for teachers and students, this is a series that will appeal to young girls in a similar way that Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy appeals to young boys. 


The Last Bear

The Last Bear

The Last Bear










The Last Bear

Hannah Gold

Levi Penfold

HarperCollins, 2021

304pp.,  hbk., RRP $A18.17


When her mother is killed in a car crash, April’s scientist father retreats onto himself as he tries to deal with his grief and becomes the epitome of the absent-minded professor, leaving11-year-pld April to pretty much fend for herself.  So when he tells her he has applied to man the weather station on remote Bear Island in the Arctic Circle and they will be there alone for six months over the northern summer, April sees it as a chance to reconnect with her dad and start to build a new relationship with him.

However, things don’t work out that way with her dad becoming more and more withdrawn, leaving April to explore the island and entertain herself all day and all night as the sun does not set at this time of the year. Although she has been told that once polar bears roamed the island freely, because of climate change and the melting of the sea ice, there are now no bears left,  one evening, on the horizon, silhouetted against the sun , something moves. Something big and loping and gone in the blink of an eye but a polar bear, nonetheless. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…

This is one of those stories that stays in the mind long after the final page has been turned – indeed, Michael Morpurgo labelled it “unforgettable”. A modern story that brings the real effect of climate change home it is ideal for introducing children to the concept through their natural affinity with nature as few will be untouched by Bear’s plight and they begin to realise  that small, individual actions can have cumulative consequences. Perhaps, like April, the reader will find their own voice and their own passion and despite the obstacles, roar as April does. 

But it is more than another story about the environment and its vulnerability, albeit one with such a setting and such a storyline.  It is about April finding her voice and her passion as Bear teaches her how to roar from deep-down within as well as learning about that deep grief her father has been experiencing when she has to leave Bear. It’s about hope for families that are permanently changed finding a way to become whole again, if different, and going forward.  The most important thing in this world is the relationships we form with others, that shape our knowledge, understanding and values, and this book explores these to the fullest – between April and her dad, April and the bear, and the impact of the island and its isolation has on everyone and everything. 

Whether offered as a read-aloud or a read-alone, this is a book so well-written it will be a highlight of the reading year. 

Rise of the Mythix (series)

Rise of Mythix (series)

Rise of the Mythix (series)











Rise of the Mythix (series)

Golden Unicorn


Mighty Minotaur


Flight of the Griffin


Anh Do

Allen & Unwin, 2020-2021

200pp.,. pbk., RRP $A15.99

The tyrant known as the Soul Collector (who is a physically weak man filled with greed who boosts his energy with his daily rituals) hunts down anything that is beautiful, unusual or unique. Among is his collection are  The Holy Grail and Lucifer’s Ring, artefacts of Heaven and Hell which he has united in defiance against their creators.

Stanley is the Collector’s finder. He hates his master and wants to change his situation. He discovers an ancient text on Prophesies and Portents that speak of three instruments of power – The Golden Unicorn, the Minotaur and the Griffin, that will return in human form, unite, and restore balance and harmony to the Kingdom.

Kelly, who is trying hard to be an ordinary teenager and fit in with her peers,  finds that every day her powers are growing: she can run faster than the wind, she can hear people’s thoughts, she is not normal. So when he captures Kelly Smith’s mother and holds her hostage after Kelly and Stanley escape his attempts to capture them,  she knows she can’t linger in the shadows any longer. But who is she really? Can she be the one in the prophecy? Is she…the Golden Unicorn?

The Golden Unicorn, the Minotaur and the Griffin – Only these three united to a common purpose can fell him who seeks to triumph over all. 

Kelly didn’t believe in ancient prophecies. But now she must. And she needs to find the Minotaur.

Meanwhile, Minh knows something epic is going on. His body is changing; his strength is otherworldly. But he has no idea that this is just the beginning…

Kelly and Minh must help each other if they are to have any hope of rescuing the people they love. )The king of beasts and the lord of birds, together once more, will know a third companion, as the days grow dim.  The Unicorn, the Minotaur and the Griffin are united at last. Surely together they will be unstoppable!

But the Collector is not going to give up without an epic fight, and not all the beasts of legend are on the side of good …

Have Kelly, Minh and Jimmy met their match? Will the prophecy fail just when it looks most like coming true?

Anh Do is one of Australia’s most popular writers for young, independent readers for good reason  and this series is one that may well tempt the lover of Weirdo and Ninja Kid up to the next level of their reading journey, just because of his name alone. Fast moving, well-illustrated and moving within that superhero domain that is so popular right now, with characters that appeal to a wide audience, it is a series for more mature readers which may open them up to discovering more about these mythical creatures of ancient times. 


Over the Moon

Over the Moon

Over the Moon










Over the Moon

Wendy Wan-Long Shang

HarperCollins, 2021

208pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99



Fueled with determination and a passion for science, a bright young girl named Fei Fei builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess. 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 illustrated novel retells the story of Over the Moon and includes original concept art!

Directed by animation legend Glen Keane, and produced by Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou, Over the Moon is an exhilarating musical adventure about moving forward, embracing the unexpected, and the power of imagination.

Although I am unfamiliar with the screen version of this story, this novelisation offers an engaging tale of a modern young miss who likes both sides of the story – the one her mother used to tell her of the fantasy and the scientific explanation of the same phenomenon given by her father.  Does the moon change its shape because the Space Dog bites chunks from it until the Moon Goddess Chang-e makes him spit it out, or is there another explanation? There is a delicate balance that keeps the reader entertained as Fei Fei fulfils her quest, at the same time as offering the reader another, deeper layer to accompany the screen version.  

Just as very young readers like to connect with the print versions of their favourite screen characters, so too those who are older and independent.  The subtle nuances of the written word add substance to what might be lost in the whizbangery of the animation. 

This will be a great addition to those who have a focus on screen-print matches this year while offering a quality read to take our girls to new worlds. It also opens up the world of traditional tales that have carried the stories of generations over generations.

Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy

Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy

Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy










Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy

Vivian French

Nathan Reed

HarperCollins, 2021

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


Lottie Luna is a werewolf. She’s super-fast, super-strong and has X-ray vision. Lottie doesn’t really like to use her special skills, though – she just wants to be like everyone else. But when Lottie and her friends go camping, she finds that she might just need to – if she’s going to find out the truth about the fang fairy…

This is the third in this series 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. Richly illustrated with all the supports needed to carry their reading journey forward, this is an ideal series to offer those looking for something new and different. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Little Gem

Little Gem

Little Gem











Little Gem

Anna Zobel

Puffin, 2021

240pp., hbk. RRP $A14.99


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.

Funny Kid Next Level

Funny Kid Next Level

Funny Kid Next Level











Funny Kid Next Level

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020

176pp., pbk, RRP $A4.99


Every kid wants to laugh, but Max is the boy who can make it happen.

He’s not the smartest kid; he’s not the fastest kid; he’s not the prettiest kid; but he might just be the funniest kid you’ve ever met.

In this novella from the unstoppable Matt Stanton, Max, like most of his mates, has been swept up in the craze for the new video game sweeping the school. He really wants to be the champion but can he get the time and access to beat the mystery pro gamer? 

Toilet snoozes, student protests, parent-teacher nights that go horribly wrong and an epic courtroom battle against Max’s baby sister are just some of the things in store for Max and his friends in this Funny Kid adventure.

The perfect length (and price) for a quick holiday read, Funny Kid fans will be happy to spend a few hours with this and then spend some time learning how to draw Max and Duck, the Stanton way.