The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure











The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

Jacqueline Wilson

Mark Beech

Hodder Children’s, 2022

285pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00


2856pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Seventy-plus years ago, the stories of Enid Blyton were the core of the young child’s reading diet.  A trip in the magic wishing chair or a visit to a land through the mysterious cloud above a huge tree were a much-anticipated part of the bedtime routine introducing us to the fantasy genre and leading us on to read series like The Famous Five and The Secret Seven  or any other of her 700 books and 2000 short stories for ourselves. 

Such were the memories made that that generation went on to share her work with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and some, like me, went on to become teachers and shared them with a new class of fans every year for 50 years!!! So to discover that Jacqueline Wilson had been given permission to weave new adventures among the branches of the Faraway Tree so new, modern readers can share the magic and mystery made this high on my list of review requests.  And I’ve had my nose in it all afternoon not only meeting the new and familiar characters like Silky, Moonface, the Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot among others but recalling my own introduction to them all those years ago and the joy and wonder I’ve brought to children over the years when I have shared them.  

In this new adventure, Milo, Mia and Birdy are on a countryside holiday when they wander into an Enchanted Wood and following a rabbit who can speak to them through the thick forest with its mysterious whispering leaves, discover a beautiful tree that stands high above the rest. The Magic Faraway Tree is home to many remarkable creatures including a fairy called Silky, her best friend Moonface and more. Little Birdy is only too happy to find that fairies are real. Even her older brother and sister are soon won over by the magic of the Faraway Tree and the extraordinary places they discover above it.

Keeping true to the original concept, including the writing style, this is both a nostalgic visit to past pleasures as well as the gateway to reading the entire series which remains in print.  IMO, this is one of the best series to introduce young readers to reading novels because each chapter is pretty much complete in itself making it ideal for a both a read-aloud session and a read-alone session, yet there is the continuity of both the storyline and the characters to be able to pick it up and set it down without having to orient yourself to a whole new read.  While there is drama in each chapter . the plot remains straightforward so there are not too many twists and turns to confuse the novice reader. 

My well-thumbed, well-read 1971 editions of the series have pride of place on my bookshelf, and this new adventure will be sitting there with them too, ready for when my grandchildren are ready to read it to theirs.  Hachette, the publishers, kindly sent me a hardcover version but it is also available in paperback at a more accessible price so more generations can lose themselves in the magic.  

Little Bat Up All Day

Little Bat Up All Day

Little Bat Up All Day










Little Bat Up All Day

Brian Lies

HarperCollins, 2022

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


Little Bat has never stayed up all day before! He always goes to sleep at the end of the night and so he is very curious about how the world looks when he’s normally asleep. He’s excited to see how everything looks in the sun and so he decides to stay up all day.

It turns out the world is a much different place – it’s hot, bright, and noisy and full of new things. . Luckily, Rusty the Squirrel is willing to show Little Bat around, even though Little Bat struggles to stay awake.  But when these new, fast friends separate at the end of the day, how will they stay in touch when one is usually awake while the other is asleep?

With a distinctive illustrative style that has won him a Caldecott Honor award among others for The Rough Patch,  this is a charming story to share with young readers who always want to stretch their bedtime because they think that something magical happens to the world after dark.  And it does – for all sorts of creatures who have slept during the day emerge when the sun disappears and the shadows take over.  So it’s no wonder Little Bat is curious about what happens in the world while he is asleep. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As well as shining a light, so to speak, on the activities we diurnal creatures tend to take for granted, this is also an opportunity for young readers to learn about nocturnal creatures and consider why that is the best time for them to be awake. Why does Little Bat sleep during the day?  It can lead to investigations about why we have day and night, the phases of the moon, and even why all creatures need to sleep at some time.

More than just a bedtime story.  


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. 




Toodle the Cavoodle: Sniffle Snuffle

Toodle the Cavoodle

Toodle the Cavoodle











Toodle the Cavoodle: Sniffle Snuffle

Richard Tulloch

Heidi Cooper Smith

Big Sky, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Toodle the Cavoodle like to sniffle and snuffle because there were always lots of smells to tickle his nose.  

Sweet smells and sticky smells, muddy smells and messy smells, stink y smells, sweaty smells and could-be-good-to-eat smells…

But now the grandparents of Lillipilly Lane want to clean up the old abandoned scritchy-scratchy grass patch with its rusty cans, plastic bottles and old car and make it a safe play area for the sparkly-sandals girl and the other neighbourhood children.  Smelly sneakers grandpa and grubby-gumboots grandma shoo him away but can disaster be averted when he takes refuge in the old car?

This is a new picture book series for young readers – Whoops-a-diddle is due in December – that will delight dog lovers with its charming artwork and roll-off-the-tongue language that changes a simple story into a family favourite.  

Both the Australian Curriculum  and the new NSW syllabus have a focus on how the use of particular vocabulary promotes imagery and understanding of texts, and this is a perfect example of how the clever use of both alliteration and onomatopoeia combined with inspired design can invoke all the senses to make reading a 3D experience in the way that only print can.  Young readers will love hearing and playing with the language and then making up their own – have a look at their own shoes and think of how they would describe themselves, and then the  two words they would use for their grandpa or grandma or teacher or…? Have them lie in the grass and discuss how it feels or sniff the air and see what they can identify.  Apart from playing with language, there are extensive, AC-linked teachers’ notes available.

Taking it further is the hallmark of a quality read and this does it so well.   


The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra











Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters (series)

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

Karen Foxlee

Freda Chu

Allen & Unwin, 2022

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


Although a rather anxious child who prefers  to make lists so she can plan and manage her life because she doesn’t cope with change well, nevertheless Mary-Kate Martin has left the sanctuary of her grandmother’s home to travel the world with her mother whose life is spent on mystery-solving adventures such as why the Woolington Wyrm was causing such destruction in a quiet English village. 

This time, Mary-Kate and her mother are visiting Galinios, an idyllic Greek Island filled with history and surrounded by the shimmering Aegean Sea. An ancient mosaic has been unearthed at the local sardine processing plant and Professor Martin must investigate, leaving Mary-Kate to enjoy a few days of sunshine and antiquity.

But a message asking for help changes everything. A wrecked boat and smashed jetty have recently disrupted life on this tranquil island and point to a monster-sized mystery. Could the local legend of the Two-Headed Hydra be more than a story? If so, what could make this historically serene sea creature so angry?  Armed with her glitter pens and strawberry-scented notebook, Miss Mary-Kate Martin is determined to find answers. She might be scared of heights, but there is no problem too big for her to solve.

This is the second in this series for independent readers who like mystery, adventure and a touch of fantasy, and given that it is based on the creature of Greek mythology perhaps it will inspire deeper investigation, maybe even an entry into the class Monsters book inspired by yesterday’s review.  

Diper Överlöde: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Diper Överlöde

Diper Överlöde











Diper Överlöde: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (17)

Jeff Kinney

Puffin, 2022

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



When Greg Heffley decides to tag along with his brother Rodrick’s band, Löded Diper, Greg doesn’t realize what he’s getting into. But he soon learns that late nights, unpaid gigs, fighting between band members, and money troubles are all part of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. That it’s not all fame and glory and adoring fans. 

Can he help Löded Diper become the legends they think they are? Or will too much time with Rodrick’s band be a diper överlöde?

This is the 17th in this series that follows Greg Heffley and his friends through the trials and tribulations of middle school and remains as popular today as it was when it was first released in 2007 as  new waves of readers relate to his adventures.  And with a new movie Rodrick Rules  being released on Disney+ on December 2, it is likely to gather many more fans, particularly among boys.  Written in the first person that echoes the voice and thoughts of so many boys like Greg, full of humour and heavily illustrated with cartoon-like figures, this is a series that will appeal to your reluctant readers as not only is it an easy read, but its popularity puts the reader in the in crowd, important to those who might feel marginalised because they’re struggling academically.

Definitely one for the library’s collection, and one to recommend to parents for the Santa Sack. 


The Trip

The Trip

The Trip










The Trip

Paul Beavis 

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95


When a little girl and her dog take a trip into outer space in their hot air balloon, they are quite comfortable until they see footsteps in the surface that are not theirs… Are they afraid or do they get together for a picnic?

 This is a deceptively simple book about the nature of inclusiveness because the story is told solely through the use of pronouns – me, you, us, mine, yours, ours,  and so on – and the reader really has to interpret the illustrations to tell the story making it perfect for encouraging those connections between text and picture that are critical early reading behaviours.  It also means they can tell the story using their own language as they expand on the illustrations to explain what is happening , particularly if the astute adult sharing it with them guides their reading with targeted questions to draw out the events. and thus enabling the child to return to the story independently when they wish, helping them to understand that they do have power over print and they can  read. They also learn that print stays constant – they can return to it again and again whenever they wish and take as much time as they like to absorb and tell the story.  

This is another story evolving from The Book Hungry Bears television show in which the main characters share picture books, hungry to learn all they can from those they settle down to share together, encouraging young readers to do the same. 



The Courage of Magnolia Moon

The Courage of Magnolia Moon

The Courage of Magnolia Moon











The Courage of Magnolia Moon

Edwina Wyatt

Katherine Quinn

Walker, 2022

160pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


If Magnolia Moon were an entry in her young brother’s book of facts that she is “minding” until he is old enough to read it, it would say, “Magnolia Moon is ten years old (almost eleven). She is good at secret keeping, magic making, tree whispering , feather finding and dancing the Heel and Toe Polka (which she has been practising for the school barn dance). She has three best friends: Imogen May, Casper Sloan and Reuben the angel boy, although she is not so friendly with mathematics. She has a cat called Atlas and is getting her very own bedroom soon…”

In this, the third in this series,  she has to dig deep to find the courage to move forward in a range of everyday situations – like going to the dentist, or repairing her relationship with her best friend – that will be familiar to lots of the young independent readers who enjoy her adventures and may be inspired to face each day a little braver, too.. 

Each chapter is a separate episode in her everyday life but because of the setting, characters and events, the story has a continuity that spans a year of Magnolia’s life.  Easy to read with a few illustrations, this is a series that will appeal to young girls just finding their independence as they navigate the world of the ups and downs of family and friendships.

Pages & Co.5-The Treehouse Library

Pages & Co. 5-The Treehouse Library

Pages & Co. 5-The Treehouse Library












Pages & Co. 5-The Treehouse Library

Anna James

HarperCollins, 2022

416pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99


“From outside on the busy north London high street, Pages & Co looked like an entirely normal bookshop. but once inside it didn’t quite make sense how everything fitted inside its ordinary walls. The shop was made up of five floors of corners and cubbyholes, sofas and squashy armchairs, and a labyrinth of bookshelves heading off in different direction.  A spiral staircase danced up one wall, and painted wooden ladders stretched into difficult-to-reach corners.  Tall arched windows above made it feel a little like a church when the light spilled in and danced on the air. When it was good weather the sun pooled on the floor and the bookshop cat – named Alice for her curious nature- could often be found dozing in the warmest spots.  During the summer the big fireplace behind the till was filled to bursting with fresh flowers, but at it was October, a fire was roaring there…”

Does this not conjure up every booklover’s dream of a magical place, a bookstore where magic and mysteries, adventures and escapades beckon?  And for it to be the home of Tilly who prefers the company of book characters to the people in real life and, although not having been outside London, is a seasoned traveller within the pages of the books that abound on the shelves  for in the first in the series she discovered her father was a fictional character and she, herself, was half fictional.  There is much more to her grandfather and grandmother and the family’s history and lives than she ever imagined. Bookwandering is what this family does, and it might explain the mysterious disappearance of her mother and the absence of her father. As she and her best friend Oskar search for her missing mother, they meet the powerful but sinister Underwood family, search for the mysterious  Archivists and encounter the Sesquipedalian, a magical train that uses the power of imagination to travel through both Story and the real world. It is owned by Horatio Bolt who specialises dodgy dealings as a book smuggler trading in rare books, and his nephew Milo…

In this, the second last in this series, Tilly and Milo hurtle towards their final showdown with the Alchemist, and the stakes are higher than ever – though there is always time for hot chocolate!
Milo Bolt is ready to be the hero of his own story. With Uncle Horatio trapped in an enchanted sleep by the power-hungry Alchemist, he sets off with his new friend Alessia to find a cure and save them all.  Their journey leads them to the magical treehouse – home of the Botanist, the Alchemist’s sworn enemy. Against the clock, they hunt for the cure: foraging in the Secret Garden, challenging Robin Hood and confronting the mighty Jabberwock.

But the Alchemist will stop at nothing to unlock the powerful secrets of The Book of Books, and Tilly, Pages & Co. and the whole world of imagination are under threat as a battle for the fate of bookwandering is set in motion…

Created for independent readers or perfect for classroom read-alouds, this is a series that really needs to be read from the first one in order so that the subsequent adventures have context but it will have the book lover hooked from the start, regardless of their age, and wishing they too could bookwander into the magical, mystical world of their favourite characters. Miss Now 12 is going to be delighted when her copy arrives in the post as she has been hooked on this from the start.

And if you have readers looking for similar stories about magical bookshops, suggest The Bookseller’s Apprentice and The Grandest Bookshop in the World.  to tide them over while they are waiting for the final of Pages & Co., probably about this time next year.  In the meantime, those who haven’t ventured into the doors of this magical place have time to catch up! 


DK Life Stories (series)

DK Life Stories (series)

DK Life Stories (series)

DK Life Stories (series)


DK, 2022

128pp. hbk., RRP $A14.99

Over time and across generations there are people who have such a significant contribution to the world that they have changed its direction – people our children should know about regardless of their origins or field of endeavour.

The lives of some of these people like Martin Luther King Jr and Marie Curie are featured in this series for independent readers who are beginning to realise, understand and appreciate the size of the shoulders on which we stand and whose names and achievements are seen as common knowledge.   A leader in publishing non fiction for children, the books have full-colour photographs and hand-drawn illustrations to complement thoughtfully written, age-appropriate text creating an engaging book children will enjoy reading. Definition boxes, information sidebars, maps and inspiring quotes add depth and demonstrate that each person started life as a fairly ordinary child who later found themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

Young readers are always keen to find out about the lives of their own personal heroes, an interest that leads them to the autobiography/biography/memoir genre and this series is one that offers them an accessible and engaging starting point.