Cally & Jimmy (series)

Cally & Jimmy (series)

Cally & Jimmy (series)











Cally & Jimmy (series)

Twins in Trouble 




Twins Together


Zoe Antoniades

Katie Kear

Andersen Press, 2020-2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Cally has a twin brother Jimmy who has ADHD, finds learning tricky because of the way his brain works and is always getting into some kind of mischief – which usually means double trouble! Thankfully their Greek granny is usually on hand to help – or add to the mayhem! 

Each book in this series has four stories, perfect for newly independent readers who are looking for something that they can relate to but is short enough so they can consolidate their new skills without taxing them with longer reads involving complex characters and plots. As well as being entertaining stories, they also give an insight into being a twin but more importantly, they help the reader understand the world of those whose brains are wired differently and whose thought processes are different to what is expected.  

A new series to add to your Stepping Stones collection. 

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Tomas and Ironskin


Cara and Silverthief


Ellis and Pathseeker


Mira and Flameteller


Alastair Chisholm

Nosy Crow, 2022

160pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

In the land of Draconis, there are no dragons. Once, there were. Once, humans and dragons were friends, and created the great city of Rivven together. But then came the Dragon Storm, and the dragons retreated from the world of humans. To the men and women of Draconis, they became legends and myth.

But in this new series for newly independent readers, the dragons show that it is their extinction that is the myth! But only a few special selected children can see them, befriend them and work with them.

Tomas has always been told that now, dragons are extinct, and so he can’t believe it when a mysterious stranger invites him to join a secret society, the Dragonseer Guild – and tells him that not only do dragons still exist, but also that Tomas has a very special power… he can summon his very own dragon! But Tomas faces a difficult choice, and he and his dragon, Ironskin, must learn to trust each other – and together, they have to save their home from a deadly threat.

Meanwhile, Cara has spent her life on the streets, relying on her wits – and a mysterious voice that seemed to live inside her head – for survival. She’s amazed when she learns that the voice actually belongs to a dragon – her dragon – and she’s also invited to join, the Dragonseer Guild, for those who can summon their own dragon. But Cara isn’t used to having friends, and so when she and her dragon Silverthief uncover a dangerous secret, they must decide who they can trust… and their lives will depend on it.

Adding to these already published episodes are two more coming soon…

It’s the Maze Festival in the city of Rivven, and young dragonseer Ellis and his dragon Pathseeker are determined to be the first to complete the three mazes in the grounds of the king’s palace and win this year’s tournament. But after they discover someone secretly using dangerous dragon magic, Ellis and Pathseeker face a far greater challenge – and it will take all of their skills and courage to find their way back home, and keep the existence of the dragons a secret from the king.

The fourth story tells the tale of young dragonseer Mira and her dragon Flameteller love finding out how things work and fixing them, and so they’re excited to learn about the ancient magic that powers the home of the Dragonseer Guild – and helps keep its existence a secret. But when the King of Draconis announces a plan to hunt down and destroy all dragons, and the magic that powers the Dragonseer Guild begins to fail, threatening to expose it to the world, Mira and Flameteller must find a way to fix it – before the Guild, and the dragons, are found by King Godfic’s soldiers.

And to top it off there are two more scheduled for 2023 –  Kai and Boneshaow and Erin and Rockhammer. 

The long, cold days of winter are always a good time to introduce newly independent readers to new series, as they have the time and inclination to snuggle down and read.  And if the episodes in the series are published close together so they don’t have to wait too long to meet their new-found friends again, even better. As a read-alone, it is aimed at the 7-9 year olds who still need the support of a  larger font, short chapters and illustrations but who want an absorbing plot that has characters to whom they can relate as well as a touch of the extraordinary.  But it would also work as a read-aloud to younger readers, offering a gentle, safe introduction to not only the world of dragons but also to fantasy in general.  While the first, Tomas and Ironskin is more of a world-building, scene -setting story it is the perfect foundation for young readers who still need to orientate themselves in the world of fantasy and its particular characteristics while building a platform for the stories in the rest of the series.  Using it as a taster -read-aloud to build desire and anticipation to know what happens to the rest of the children is a great way to keep young readers reading.

I think your collection will need more than one copy of each of these to satisfy demand. 

Bluey: A Jigsaw Puzzle Book

Bluey: A Jigsaw Puzzle Book

Bluey: A Jigsaw Puzzle Book











Bluey: A Jigsaw Puzzle Book


Puffin 2022

8pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99


Just as the new season of Bluey appears on the screen, and the controversy about whether Bandit is a “bad dad” fills talk shows, comes a new, interactive print edition  for the lovable character’s fans. 

Each double page includes a put-together puzzle that emerges into a new adventure for Bluey and her family, then young readers can flip each puzzle over for a new picture.

Despite what those who have to politicise everything through their narrow, adults lenses have to say, this series, its characters and situations remains one of the most popular for young children ever, and interactive books like this which rely on their interaction with both the book and the story are perfect for developing those critical early reading behaviours!  At last the preschool population are being seen as a real audience with specific needs and interests and these are being met by print-based publishers. While Mem Fox has continually stated, “” If every parent -and every adult caring for a child – read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy in one generation!” it is also essential to actively engage the child in the story, either through the reading itself, talking about it, creating something or music and movement, giving the child the power to manipulate it, as this does, is also vital.  

Another essential for those who care for our very young. 

Where’s Wally?

Where's Wally?

Where’s Wally?











Where’s Wally?

Where’s Wally? The Super Six

boxed set, six books + puzzle & poster.,  RRP $A69.99



Where’s Wally? At the Movies Activity Book

24pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99



Martin Handford

Walker Books 2021-2022

One of the most enduring memories from my days in the library is watching groups of young boys, particularly, racing in at lunchtime to get hold of a Where’s Wally book and then being bunched around a table, heads together, eagerly being the first to spot him amongst all the other incredible busyness on the page. They were so popular that they had to be on the Not For Loan shelf, and I can still hear the shouts of delight as new discoveries were made – often not even involving the finding of Wally, but something else intriguing. So as well as developing their visual acuity, so important for discerning letters and words accurately and interpreting details in illustrations, they were thoroughly engaged in a print resource at a time when the personal screen was just emerging as the entertainment-du-jour.

So it is grand that Walker Books have just released a compendium of six of the classic titles – Where’s Wally?, Where’s Wally Now?; Fantastic Journey; Where’s Wally in Hollywood?; The Wonder Book and The Great Picture Hunt–  all in the original large size format and at a price that allows libraries and families who don’t have these basics to afford them.

Then, as well, there is the new Where’s Wally? At the Movies Activity Book in which readers can visit the sound stage to watch a song and dance rehearsal, plan out your own film plots in the writers’ room, choose a star-studded cast, then step on to the red carpet for a glitzy, glamorous movie premiere through an array of games, puzzles, searches and stickers.

There are a handful of series of books that were available 20 years ago that I credit with getting a generation of reluctant readers to engage with text and start a lifelong journey of reading – the incredible work of Martin Handford in the Where’s Wally series is one of them.

Bluey and Bingo’s Fancy Restaurant Cookbook

Bluey and Bingo's Fancy Restaurant Cookbook

Bluey and Bingo’s Fancy Restaurant Cookbook












Bluey and Bingo’s Fancy Restaurant Cookbook


Puffin, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


Fancy an omelette? Some fish and chips?  Perhaps a pavlova? Or even a duck cake for your birthday?

All the familiar characters of the popular Bluey series, have come together to share their favourite foods in this easy-to-follow recipe book that might start young readers off on a culinary career! Beginning with the usual safety and hygiene tips and the necessary equipment list, including an adult helper, budding young cooks are stepped through each recipe with the help of their familiar friends.

With a sturdy spiral binding and wipe-clean pages, as well as opening up the world of food made at home, there is also all the literacy and maths of interpreting recipes, such as the vocabulary of cooking, sequencing, measuring, following instructions, time management and so on.  To tempt the taste buds before buying,  there is even a free recipe on offer.

When this generation grows up, this might be the one recipe book that they share with their own littlies as they proudly share where their cooking journey began!!!

Bored: Milo Finds $105













Bored: Milo Finds $105

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2022

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Milo is so bored that he is having a conversation with an ant, when suddenly he spies money lying in the middle of jis cul-de-sac.  There’s $105 to be exact and he ha s no idea who it belongs to or what he should do about it.  His stepmum, Liz, tells him it is “finders keepers” but his mum, a law student, says he must try to find the owner.

Being somewhat shy, introverted  and anxious, this causes issues for Milo who is afraid of Rocco the bully; would love to know Evie better but she’s always got her headphones on, and is somewhat overawed by the confidence of Frog; the new kid who has invented his own brand of martial arts.  Suddenly, having so much money becomes a nightmare, particularly when Frog and Rocco look like they’re going to get into a fight about it t the bus stop. “Some kids just have power and other kids don’t, and I don’t understand it. Where do you get power from? Because if I knew, I’d happily spend a hundred and five dollars to buy some.

But then Frog hatches a plan…

Told by 11 year old Milo, this is a new series from the author of Funny Kids and The Odds in which Stanton again demonstrates his ability to turn everyday situations and authentic characters that readers will recognise into stories that engage even the most reluctant readers.  While there is a strong sense of family because Milo misses his older brother Henry who has joined the army, rather than his having two mums, (which is just accepted by kids if not by adults) it is the evolving and changing friendships between the children that carry the story along, just as they do in real life.

When Milo muses, “Some kids just have power and other kids don’t, and I don’t understand it. Where do you get power from? Because if I knew, I’d happily spend a hundred and five dollars to buy some, ” some readers will be urging him to find his voice while others will be feeling just as concerned as he is.  Being able to evoke such opposite emotions is the sign of a writer who knows kids well and how to relate to them through story, and achieves his goal of creating stories with “emotional guts”, with “truth and understanding” and allow the reader “to feel a little less alone.”

The second in the series, due in September, is told from Frog’s perspective as he tries to fit into this new neighbourhood and one suspects that the other children in the street will also get their say in the future.


The House at the Edge of Magic

The House at the Edge of Magic

The House at the Edge of Magic










The House at the Edge of Magic 


The Tower at the End of Time


Walker Books, 2021-2022

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

Crouched behind the stacked crates of the fishmonger’s stall in the market, Nine’s muscles are tensed, her senses alert waiting for just the right moment to snatch the lady’s handbag… For the streets are her world and stealing treasures for Pockets, the leader of the gang, is her life and she knows all the tricks of pickpocketing and all the twists and turns of the alleys and lanes  back to the Nest of a Thousand Treasures. He’s called her Nine because she in the ninth member of the gang, offering her a place to sleep and the odd meal in exchange for the things she steals.  

But Nine dreams of bigger things, a better life and when she steals a house-shaped ornament from a mysterious woman’s purse, things begin to change… She knocks on its tiny door and watches in wonder as it grows into a huge, higgledy-piggledy house squeezes between its neighbours. Inside are characters as strange as the house – Eric the housekeeper troll who is lost without his feather duster; a Scottish wooden spoon who wields a sword and Flabberghast , a young wizard who’s particularly competitive at hopscotch… But they have all been put under a spell by a wicked witch, a spell that only Nine can help them break before the clock winds down and which, while offering her a better life means she will have to sacrifice the thing that is dearest to her…

While the time and place of this new three-part series aren’t identified, it is reminiscent of the Dickensian world of Oliver Twist and Fagin but with magic and fantasy thrown in. But there the similarities end for Nine is not Oliver – she is clever, smart and thanks to her visits to the local library where she is actually welcomed, very well-read, and her willingness to save her new “friends” is more about giving herself a prosperous future than any altruistic concerns for them. She is determined to find the strawberries that Pockets says don’t exist… But then, given her life so far she has never known friendship and kindness and her defensiveness and self-interest have been built on the walls of self-protection. So, if she succeeds in breaking the spell, will she be able to just walk away with her prize?  

There is a plethora of fantasy books in the children’s book market at the moment with characters and plots whose limits know only the bounds of their authors’ imaginations, but this one stands out because of Nine and her emotional growth as she begins to understand that there is more to life than the untold wealth promised by the glowing jewels imprisoned by the witch’s spell.  The characters are not scary and unimaginable – we can all picture a troll, a wizard and a wicked witch and what can be confronting about a game of hopscotch?

As soon as she saw them on my desk, Miss 11 claimed these for herself and had her nose in them – now she must wait patiently for the third and final, although its title and release date remain as mysterious as Flabberghast’s house.  

Bluey: Typewriter

Bluey: Typewriter

Bluey: Typewriter









Bluey: Typewriter


Puffin, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99


As Bluey listens to a story from Calypso, he decides that she can write one with a better ending, but when she looks for her typewriter it is gone!  She believes she can’t be a real writer without her typewriter but while she, Snickers and Winton are on their way to ask Calypso for help with their problems, they are ambushed by the Terriers. But Bluey is cluey and uses the unique talents of her friends to get past and each discovers something more than Bluey’s typewriter…

This is another print version of an episode of the popular television series which is enhanced by lift-the-flap interactivity.  While very young readers may be mystified by what a typewriter is, it could open up up discussions about how things such as keyboards, phones and other household items have changed just within the lifespan of their grandparents. But it could also lead to a chat about whether we need the newest/smartest/flashiest tool to do a job or whether simple is often best.  

The World’s Worst Pets

The World's Worst Pets

The World’s Worst Pets











The World’s Worst Pets

David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2022

312pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99


Imagine if instead of your cat Tiddles or your dog Fido, you had Houdini, the magician’s rabbit or Zoom, the supersonic tortoise, or Griselda, a grizzly bear with a big secret or even Furp, the monstrous goldfish! Good pets, bad pets, supervillain pets, pets as big as a house and pets that could eat you in one gulp! What would your life be like? 

Well, you can catch a glimpse in this new addition to Walliams’ World’s Worst series that includes The World’s Worst Children, The World’s Worst Teachers and The World’s Worst Parents as he brings his unique sense of humour and writing style to another ten stories of humour and horror.  Short stories, crazy characters, and hundreds of full-colour illustrations – the perfect recipe for encouraging newly independent readers to keep reading despite the book being among the heaviest they will ever pick up!!!

As winter closes in and the grey, cold, wet days seem unending, this is the perfect fill-a-minute read-aloud to cheer up a class or a child.  And perhaps lead them to other works by Walliams to read alone such as the escapades of Gangsta Granny or the more serious Code Name Bananas .


Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil












Tasmanian Devil

Claire Saxby

Max Hamilton

Walker, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99


Anyone who has ever heard the screech of a Tasmanian Devil split the night will know why these creatures, which once roamed mainland Australia but are now found only in Tasmania, have been so-named.  The largest living carnivorous marsupial in the world, , they live a solitary life as adults but will occasionally share carrion if it is large enough and the feasting is accompanied by blood-curdling cries as each tries to assert dominance.

Endangered because of the devastating Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). which is contagious and kills them within 3-6 months of the lesions appearing, this new addition to the wonderful Nature Storybook series, a narrative non fiction series which introduces young readers to the wonders of the natural world, is ideal for bringing these creatures into the realm of our young readers.  It traces the development of two young devils known as imps (or joeys or pups) as they become more and more independent showcasing different elements of the habitat, behaviours, and day to day life of one of Australia’s most famous marsupials.

Saxby, also the author of Big Red KangarooEmu Koala, Dingo,  Kookaburra and  Great White Shark, again brings her ability to create pictures with her words to create magic on the tongue, ensuring this is as much an engaging, entertaining story as much as it is educational.