Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party










Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Laura Sieveking

Alyssa Bermudez

Puffin Books, 2019

96pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

There is not much that is more exciting that planning your 8th birthday party because at last you are old enough to have a say in everything. And so that’s what Amelia Chamelia is doing – choosing invitations, making decorations, sorting out costumes, making party bags.  Whatever is required for the best party ever, Amelia is making sure she has it.  The only dark cloud on the horizon is that she has to invite her twin cousins Danny and Andy and she knows they are going to be trouble.  And sure enough they are…

But Amelia has a secret power. A power that nobody else knows about. When she is furious or frightened, she can change colour. Her toes tingle, her knees tremble, her skin prickles, her nose tickles, her breath quickens and then with a hiccup she changes colour to blend in with the background, just like a chameleon.

This is the first in a new series for newly independent readers, particularly girls, who are looking for something that focuses on familiar events but which has a special twist in the tale.  Short chapters, a larger font and plentiful illustrations support the reader in consolidating their skills while offering a well-written story that engages and entertains.  Other titles are Amelia Chamelia and the Gelato Surprise, Amelia Chamelia and the School Play, and Amelia Chamelia and the Farm Adventure.  The first two are out now, just in time for the back-to-school excitement, the other two will be available in early April, 2019.

I think this is a series that will appeal to Miss 7 who is already in the throes of planning her 8th birthday, even though it is still two months away! Let’s hope she doesn’t have any evil twins to invite because I’m pretty sure she can’t change colour!

DK Life Stories (series)

DK Life Stories

DK Life Stories









DK Life Stories


Diane Bailey


Albert Einstein

Wil Mara


Helen Keller

Libby Romero


Katherine Johnson

Ebony Joy Wilkins


128pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

At last the people with the power of the purse strings are beginning to realise that not everything is available online, and what is there is unlikely to be at a reading level accessible to our developing readers, and publishers are responding to the resurgence in demand for quality non fiction resources in print format.  While DK have continued to produce quality print materials throughout this misguided era of everything having to be screen-based, their new Life Stories series, biographies for younger readers, is a welcome addition to a genre that can be the entry point to a world of inspiration for a new generation.

Currently comprising about a dozen  titles, including most of the usual subjects found in this sort of series, the one that caught my eye was that of Katherine Johnson, she who is now the famed NASA mathematician and one of the subjects of the best-selling book and movie Hidden Figures. Miss 12 was just awarded her school’s Science and Technology prize for her work in coding and so this is just perfect for inspiring her to maintain her passion and continue to break down barriers as she moves on to high school.  

Using accessible text, photographs and the usual DK production quality, this series tells the stories behind the celebrities bringing them alive for students who now understand that their world is much larger and older than they are and that many have gone before as pioneers, often against incredible odds, so that they can enjoy the life they do.  Perhaps others would eventually have done what Katherine Johnson did, but for Miss 12 who has the self-doubt and mood swings so typical of her age group, it is Katherine’s story of resilience and determination that is as important as her achievements, just as it is for all the others featured in this series, so it is inspirational on many levels.  When she feels overwhelmed, hopefully she will draw on Katherine’s story to find the courage to take the next step.

That sort of engagement doesn’t come from reading a dispassionate fact-and-figures webpage and so this book in particular and the series in general will be a superb addition to both private and school libraries this year.   


DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation










DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK, 2019 

128pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Being the daughter of journalists who were sticklers for correct grammar, the structure of our language was drummed into me from an early age and I have to say that all these years on, I’m still what is commonly called a “grammar Nazi.” In fact, just this morning I corrected this image on a friend’s Facebook feed stating that it should read, “What would you do if you knew you COULD not fail?”

And with the return of the “back to basics” of the English strand of the Australian curriculum where even our youngest students are expected to know what “rime and onset” are, the syntax of our language can be overwhelming.  Thus, having a ready reference text that helps young children understand the common parts of speech like nouns, verbs and adjectives and supports their growing knowledge of more obscure things like prepositional phrases, fronted adverbials and reported speech will be a welcome addition to any young student’s collection, (and perhaps, even their teacher’s.)  

While text speech and spelling seems to have overtaken much of our everyday writing, being able to put words on paper that carry a message over time still remains part of that which makes us human and so grammar and punctuation both have a vital place in our learning if we want to be understood by others. 

But although the more formal aspects of writing might seem daunting to those moving on from writing random thoughts and having an adult interpret and transcribe them for them, students are reassured that they know much of what they are going to learn already because every time they speak they use grammar – the purpose of this book is just to show them the different kinds of words and how they fit together.  There’s a clear explanation of how to use the three parts of the book – parts of speech, sentences and clauses, and punctuation – as well as a demonstration of what grammar and punctuation are and how they are critical to both speech and writing. 

We are all familiar with memes like this…

so teaching young children from the get-go the difference is essential if they are to realise those big dreams.

This book is one of six in the 2019 DK Australia First Reference series, which also includes First Children’s DictionaryFirst Science EncyclopediaFirst Maths GlossaryFirst Encyclopedia and First How Things Works Encyclopedia, and is going to be a valuable addition to Miss 7’s writing toolkit as she enters the new phase of her formal education. 


DK First Reference Dictionary

DK First Reference Dictionary

DK First Reference Dictionary









DK First Reference Dictionary

DK, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99


I love this time of the year – the madness that is Christmas is over, the new school year is becoming real and it’s time to reflect on just where Miss 7 and Miss 12 are at with their learning, and how much they have accomplished in the past 12 months.

This year, Miss 12 begins the whole new adventure of high school while Miss 7 moves into Year 3, already an independent reader and wanting to start writing her own stories.  She has a big imagination and big dreams just like May Gibbs so this new Australian dictionary from DK is going to be the perfect addition to her desk.  As part of the generation that believes having a broad vocabulary and using and spelling it correctly is critical for engaging the audience and getting the message across, I believe dictionaries are an essential part of the writer’s toolkit and this one is perfect for the budding storyteller.

With more than 4,000 words and definitions, and featuring a full alphabet on every page to make finding words easy, colourful photographs that bring words to life, and helpful information on word families, spelling and writing, this essential dictionary for Australian children is the perfect reference book, both for home and at school. Each entry provides the part of speech and the word’s plural while the definition is in everyday English so that it is accessible to the user.  It acknowledges that the user has moved on from junior picture dictionaries so there is not a picture for every entry, allowing space for exploring the words that children of this age use. 

This book is one of six in the 2019 DK Australia First Reference series, which also includes Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation, First Maths GlossaryFirst Science Encyclopedia and First How Things Work Encyclopedia., all of which will be important additions to Miss 7’s bookshelf this year as well as being extremely useful in any library collection as they could be the central focus of teaching this age group the value of reference tools and how to identify the cues and clues to use them.   Alphabetical order is an essential skill that reaches well beyond understanding how a dictionary works, but the dictionary is the ideal place to master it. 

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night









Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night

Mark Carthew

Simon Prescott

New Frontier, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


With the wind howling, branches swishing and all sorts of scary noises, Marigold Mouse is terrified and decides the safest place for her on this wild, stormy night is under her bed.  But she puts her brave on to let her neighbour Marvin in because he is just as frightened as she is and sometimes it’s better to be scared together. But when there is a bump, thump, boom at the door, will they be brave enough to answer it?

Stormy nights can be very frightening for little ones, so  this story that acknowledges their fears but also shows them how to be brave is perfect for sharing and reassuring them, particularly at this time when storms are common.  The third in this series about the mouse friends, the rhyme and rhythm carry the story along at the pace of the storm while the illustrations capture all the emotions of two fearful little creatures.

A great kickstarter for investigating storms, their noises and the things that frighten us.


Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa's Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium










Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Belinda Murrell

Random House, 2018

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


Life could hardly be more different for Pippa.  From a seemingly happy family living in a Victorian terrace house in London to a caravan in her grandparents’ backyard on a tropical island off the Australian coast.  Forced to make changes when her husband decided to work in Switzerland without them, Pippa’s mother has uprooted the family to a totally new environment where she is now running the increasingly popular Beach Shack Cafe created from an old, abandoned boat shed – a huge contrast to being a stockbroker in London!.

But the end of caravan life is in sight as Pippa’s mum finally has enough money to get the apartment finished – the children have even given up their pocket money to add a few more dollars to the pot. So when Pippa is overcome by a wave of unexpected jealousy because she is still wearing her daggy English school swimmers and doesn’t have a bike to go to other parts of the island with her friends, she decides to turn the negative feelings into a positive, particularly when she sees a beautiful pair of swimmers on sale.  And so Pippa’s Perfect Pooch Pampering is born.  Offering dog-walking, pampering and pooper-scoopering, what could possibly go wrong?

As this review is published, Miss Now 12 will be on her way to the Australian Scout Jamboree, on a bus for 15 hours with electronic devices banned.  But no doubt she will have her nose buried in this latest episode in her favourite series which she loves because the story “sounds just like me and my friends and the things we do.”  

For those who are new to the series, they don’t have to have read the others first (although it would be time well spent) because Murrell introduces Pippa, her family and friends and circumstances in an easy-to-read introduction meaning each episode is a stand-alone.  With its theme of just appreciating the pleasures found in friendships and simple things, and reflecting the lives of regular kids, even those who don’t live on a tropical island,  this is a glorious series for girls who are independent readers but who are not quite ready or interested in the contemporary realistic fiction that features in many stories for young adults. 

Even though she is a year older than when I first introduced her to Pippa and her friends, I know Miss 12 will be delighted to have them accompany her on that long bus trip! 


Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma











Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House Australia, 2018

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


Clementine Rose is a sassy young girl who was delivered not in the usual way at a hospital but in the back of a mini-van in a basket of dinner rolls.  Living in the magnificent mansion in Penberthy Floss with her mother, her Aunt Violet, Digby Pertwhistle the butler and pet teacup pig, Lavender, Clementine Rose has had many adventures that her readers can really relate to, making her a favourite with newly independent readers.

In this new story, Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma, Clementine Rose is bursting with plans for the school holidays! But with the announcement that a new cooking show will be filmed in the village, everything changes. While Clementine is disappointed that her activities have been cancelled, she soon has an idea and takes to the kitchen in a baking frenzy. If only her mother wasn’t feeling so sick and could help out when things turn sticky.

Everyone wants to be a part of the show – especially Mrs Bottomley! – and it doesn’t take long before temperatures are running high. With the main event being held at Penberthy House, Clementine has the inside scoop and spies some surprising behaviour from the contestants. Will she uncover a secret? And will the show be a flop, or a scrumptious success?

When the first in this series, Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor, was published in September  2012 I introduced Miss Then 6 to it and she was enthralled because here was a feisty young heroine whom she could relate to and each new addition to the series was greeted with much anticipation.  As the series progressed along with her reading skills, she would read them eagerly to her younger sister.  Now she is 12 and moving into high school she has moved on but now her young sister is an independent reader herself and I’m sure she will love this new episode as much as the others, even moreso because she will be able to read it for herself. 

Jacqueline Harvey has certainly created a character who resonates with her readers and as the new school year isn’t that far away,  this is a series to introduce to a whole new group of newly independent readers looking for something that will engage and intrigue as they meet Clementine and her friends.   As my friend Sue Warren says on her Just So Stories blog, “Jacqueline Harvey continually strikes just the right note with her books for younger girls. The mix of adventure, mischief, humour and excitement has great appeal for the intended age group and each book contains much with which these readers can easily identify – even though they don’t live in a big old house or own a teacup pig!” Exactly what I would have said (and have, in previous reviews.)

If this series in not yet in your collection, seriously consider adding it if you want to capture young girls looking for a great read.

The Sisters Saint-Claire and the Royal Mouse Ball

The Sisters Saint-Claire and the Royal Mouse Ball

The Sisters Saint-Claire and the Royal Mouse Ball










The Sisters Saint-Claire and the Royal Mouse Ball

Carlie Gibson

Tamsin Ainslie

Allen & Unwin, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


‘To all the Saint-Claires, you are hereby invited
To join me this Sunday, I’d be most delighted!
Dress in your best for a Royal Mouse Ball 
I’ll open the palace for mice, one and all!’

Queen Julie S. Cheeser has invited the entire village to her glamorous Royal Ball but the villagers don’t want to go because they are intimidated by the Queen’s beautiful gowns and feel they themselves have nothing that is appropriate to wear. But the sisters Saint-Claire, five French mice who love fashion and food have an idea and with some clever thinking and ingenuity all the guests are able to go, and feel comfortable with what they are wearing. 

This is a charming story, a sequel to The Sisters Saint-Claire, that will delight young readers who love to dress up and who can create amazing outfits from whatever is at hand. No rushing down to the shop for a ready-made costume for them. Written in rhyme and with delicate illustrations that inspire the imagination, it is perfect for newly independent readers.

Giraffe Problems

Giraffe Problems

Giraffe Problems










Giraffe Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker Books, 2018 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Edward the giraffe does not like his long neck.  In fact, he’s embarrassed by it. 

It’s too long.

Too bendy.

Too narrow.

Too dopey.

Too patterned.

Too stretchy.

Too high.

Too lofty.

Too … necky.

He thinks everyone stares at it, and as he tries to disguise with ties and scarves and hide it behind trees and shrubs, he admires those with much smaller necks.  And then he meets Cyrus the turtle who is frustrated by his short neck and…  Together they learn that they can co-operate to solve problems and accept themselves as they are.

The creators of Penguin Problems  have combined forces again to bring young readers a new book, one that focuses on acknowledging and being grateful for those things we do have because what we see as a negative may well be a positive to others.  They may even envy it.  Someone’s long legs might be just what the shorter person desires; someone’s auburn hair might be the thing that makes them stand out in a crowd… Encouraging children to accept themselves as they are physically and to celebrate that which makes them unique is all part of their development and may help them to become more comfortable in their own skin, more self-assured and less likely to follow fads and trends or even risky behaviour as they get older. Given that body image issues are concerns of even some of the youngest readers, any story that helps with self-acceptance has to be worthwhile. To discuss this without getting personal, children could make charts of the pros and cons of features such as the elephant’s trunk, the zebras stripes, the lion’s mane or other distinctive characteristics of different species that they suggest. 

There is also a subtle sub-text about not being so self-focused.  While Edward is busy admiring the necks of the other animals, they feel he is staring at them and making them feel self-conscious so children can be encouraged to think of their actions from the perspective of others. Learning that there are “two sides to a story” is an important part of growing up.

Another addition to the mindfulness collection as we try to foster strong, positive mental health in our young readers. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…


Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake

Ho! Ho! Ho! There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake

Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake











Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake

Hazel Edwards

Deborah Niland

Puffin Books, 2018 

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


That thump, thump, thump on the roof is not the man fixing tiles that my daddy says it is.  It’s the hippopotamus getting ready for Christmas and he’s as excited as I am.  He’s up there making a big Christmas cake, writing his long list for Santa, doing his special Christmas cake dance, doing all the things my family is doing to make Christmas extra special again. He even sings carols by candlelight!

This is another heartwarming story in this series about the hippopotamus that lives on the roof, first released 35 years ago with There’s a Hippopotamus on our roof eating cake  and which has delighted generations since then. With both the boy and the hippopotamus involved in many of the activities prior to Christmas that young readers will recognise, this book will bring lots of joy as together they share their experiences, compare them to what happens in their home, talk about why things might be different and generally just get wound up in anticipation of the Big Day.  There’s even a free activity pack to download for even more fun.