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The Goblins’ Revenge

The Goblins' Revenge

The Goblins’ Revenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Goblins’ Revenge

Andy Prentice

Tom Knight

Usborne, 2024

288pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781803706467

For 93 years the land of Sibele has been ruled by the evil wizard Darkmoon, and now he is hunting down the last few rebels who dare to oppose him, and the only one who can save them and end his reign is the reader. With a horde of undead warriors on the trail and a series of blood-curdling dangers ahead , it would be a terrifying task for anyone – but you’re just a goblin, which makes things even more challenging. Confronted by menacing monsters, ghostly magic and a thrilling race against time in this spectacular fantasy adventure gamebook, the reader becomes the hero whose decisions and choices determine the outcome.  

Decades ago the choose-your-own adventure genre hit the shelves and were an instant success with those who like to insert and immerse themselves in the stories, and this 21st century version combines that genre with the gaming craze, combining three loves of the current generation – video games, fantasy and a story in print which becomes a new adventure with every choice made. 

It begins with instructions on how to play complete with items, weapons and abilities, a logbook to keep track of the relevant details of the quest as  well as all the other things needed to play a game and complete a quest in this modern era.  There are crucial picture puzzles to solve along the way, and although a computer is not needed to play, there are links to an online dice roller if physical dice (needed to play the combat system) aren’t available as well as a printable logbook.

I am the first to admit that this is not my sort of game and my granddaughters gave up in frustration as they tried to teach me some of theirs, but nevertheless, this seems to be something that teacher librarians should be aware of so they can capture the imagination and minds of those engaged by this sort of activity, thus demonstrating that the library has resources that are relevant to them. In fact, while the publisher suggests this is suitable for 9+, it could be one to give to your gamers for feedback on suitability both for reading /comprehension age as well as future releases in the series.  

Lily Halfmoon: The Magic Gems

Lily Halfmoon: The Magic Gems

Lily Halfmoon: The Magic Gems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lily Halfmoon: The Magic Gems

Xavier Bonet

A & U Children’s, 2023

80pp., graphic novel, RRP $A16.99

9781761180354

It’s Lily’s birthday and she has moved to a new village, a new house and now it’s time for her to start a new school. She has all the same trepidations about it as other children do but when she gets there she finds things are a bit different from her previous school because this one is especially for witches to learn their craft!  Lily had no idea she had magical powers but now a lot of things in her life start to make sense. 

And now, in The Royal Academy and Library of Magic Studies, Creatures,  Potions and Spells (aka The Library) she must learn magic, and find her animal guardian and gemstone, while keeping her new identity a secret -even her family can’t be told. With her friends Gigi and Mai  she is part of a group of witches who have to protect the people of Piedraville from evil, tricky when there is a dangerous creature on the loose. And she’s found a rare and unique gem that no witch has ever had before – what does it all mean?

There are so many stories in this vein for emerging independent readers to choose from, and this one appeals because it can be both a stepping stone to more complex reads like Harry Potter as well as to the graphic novel format because it combines the new-to-some format with elements of a traditional layout. There are the familiar panels and speech bubbles of the former, although the text is written in the usual way with capital letters, lower case and punctuation, as well as the conventions of the latter for introductions, instructions, maps and other diagrams.  

Those readers who are verging on independence often view “real readers” as those who can read thick books or graphic novels and that is the yardstick by which they measure their success, so this is the ideal bridge for them capturing their imaginations through a popular theme but putting it in a setting that they can relate to.  Genius. 

Diary of an Accidental Witch (series)

Diary of an Accidental Witch

Diary of an Accidental Witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of an Accidental Witch

Perdita & Honor Cargill

Katie Saunders

Walker Books, 2021-2023

224pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760656607

At long last, Bea Black has her own diary -something she has wanted for a long time. Her weather scientist dad gave it to her as a celebration/bribe for moving her to Little Spellshire because it has “funny clouds”  but really it is the back of beyond and she has no friends.  So she decides to document her time in the town as well as setting herself some goals to achieve, goals made trickier because not only does she have to contend with all the usual issues of starting fresh somewhere new, but  instead of enrolling her in the local Spellshire  Academy, her dad accidentally enrols her in the School of Extraordinary Arts, the local witch school, where she has to learn to do magic and in a hurry. But, apart from magic,  there is a lot to learn about yourself and those around you when you find yourself in a place you don’t belong. 

Written for younger independent readers, this is a series that is proving very popular. It has all the structures needed to support those consolidating their new skills with characters and situations that engage them as they become immersed in Bea’s life, much of which will be familiar but with that added twist of magic. Because it is told in diary format and thus in Bea’s voice, they will be putting themselves in the story and learning about relationships, overcoming challenges and having faith in yourself along with her.  

 

Garlic and the Witch

Garlic and the Witch

Garlic and the Witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic and the Witch

Bree Paulsen

HarperCollins, 2023

160pp., graphic novel, RRP $A24.99

 9780062995124

Brave little Garlic is back in this standalone companion to Garlic and the Vampire, with another tale of friendship, magic, and self-discovery. 

Garlic loves spending time with Witch Agnes, Carrot, and her new friend, the Count, who has proven to be a delightful neighbour to the village of vegetable people rather than the scary vampire the village feared in the first story,. But despite Agnes’s best attempts to home-brew a vegetarian blood substitute for Count, the ingredient she needs most can only be found at the Magic Market, far from the valley.

Before she knows it, with a broomstick in hand, Garlic is nervously preparing for a journey.

But Garlic is experiencing another change too—finger by finger, she appears to be turning human. Witch Agnes assures her that this is normal for her garden magic, but Garlic isn’t so sure that she’s ready for such a big change. After all, changes are scary…and what if she doesn’t want to be human after all…

As with the first one, this is not a complex read,- cheerful rather than chilling – with a subtle message about believing in stereotypes and rumours, readers will still need to have the reading skills necessary to interpret a graphic novel, seamlessly integrating the illustrations with the plot because there are many passages where there is no speech.  That said, with its warm colours, and faces which are friendly rather than frightening, this is a gentle introduction into both the format and fantasy. 

A fresh, new series to entertain readers who are looking for something a bit different. 

The Champ (series)

The Champ

The Champ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Champ

The Champ 1

9781760526870

Rock ‘n’ Roll

9781761065620

Anh Do

A & U  Children’s 2022

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

Popular and prolific storyteller Anh Do 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. 

 

 

 

Wizelda

Wizelda

Wizelda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wizelda

Maggie May Gordon

Natasha Hagarty

Little Steps, 2022

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

9781922358608

Everyone knows what a witch looks like – always dressed in black with a funny old black hat.  And what they do – stirring strange brews in big pots with large spoons. And what they have – broomsticks that they fly around on at night, with cats perched on the back and accompanied by owls and bats. 

But what if that’s not what you want?  If you’re left out of the other children’s games because of your black dress but you can’t afford to buy the coloured fabric they are all wearing? And your black pointy hat crushes your curls? Then one day you spot a beautiful  rainbow, full of colour and your mother tells you about the pot of gold at the end of it? Of course you climb it – but is this a case of be careful what you wish for or is there a more magical ending?

An interesting book to share at this time of the year with Halloween and all things witches in the spotlight, or any time you want to introduce children to the concepts of colours and rainbows and they are as curious as Wizelda. 

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

Shivaun Plozza

Puffin, 2022

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761043994

Willa is just an ordinary non-magical 12 year old girl, living in the Wild – a city squished between two warring witch covens. She hates the constant conflict and spends her days dodging wayward spells – from raining frogs to dancing chickens – which cause havoc for regular people like her. And it’s all because of the witch war! No wonder she also hates witches.

But one day she’s not ordinary at all. She discovers she does, indeed, have magic, much to her dismay.  Thus, she is taken to the castle where she learns all about spells, witchcraft, and the two waring covens of witches, one of which she will have to join and be initiated into before her 13th birthday. If she doesn’t choose one or the other, her magic will be uncontrollable and she will explode. She seeks help from her new friends -Gish, the castle dogsbody, Marceline, the palace librarian, and Talon, one of her most faithful cat companions – to try to find a resolution but her attempts to control her magic are interrupted by a rogue witch, who begins nefarious spells against the Ordinary Folk. What does the witch want and what does it have to do with Willa? Can she get her magic under control before the whole town is doomed and her birthday arrives? 

Written more for independent readers at the upper end of this blog range, this is an imaginative story that capitalises on the current fascination with all things magical while allowing the reader to put themselves into the story.  Given the choices between the two covens. perhaps exploding might be the better option! It relies on the traditional good versus evil for its basic premise while including the modern scenario of a young girl being able to make her own decisions and choose her own path. 

 

Garlic and the Vampire

Garlic and the Vampire

Garlic and the Vampire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic and the Vampire

Bree Paulsen

HarperCollins, 2022

160pp., graphic novel, RRP $A16.99

9780062995087

Garlic feels as though she’s always doing something wrong. Again, she is late for market day different vegetables selling themselves to the humans in an old-fashioned rural village. Originally created by the kindly but powerful Witch Agnes to be “mute little helpers”, she  has enjoyed their growth into independent contributors to the community. At least with Carrot by her side and the kindly Witch Agnes encouraging her, Garlic is happy to just tend her garden, where it’s nice and safe.. So when the vegetables notice smoke trailing from the chimneys of a nearby castle, Agnes uses her magic to investigate and discovers that a vampire has moved in.

Because of the belief that garlic drives away vampires,  and in spite of her fear and self-doubt, Garlic is tasked with slaying the bloodsucker. Celery goes with her reluctantly, payback for his willingness to sacrifice her for the mission. So, with everyone counting on her, Garlic reluctantly agrees to face the mysterious vampire, hoping she has what it takes…

Although the theme of believing in yourself in this story is a common refrain, everything else about it is new and refreshing. Vampire lore and information about witchcraft are woven throughout the story, offering an introduction to the premises which underlie many other stories with these sorts of characters,  and Witch Agnes’ wisdom often speaks directly to the audience drawing them into it rather than being passive observers. 

While this is not a complex read, cheerful rather than chilling, with a subtle message about believing in stereotypes and rumours, readers will still need to have the reading skills necessary to interpret a graphic novel, seamlessly integrating the illustrations with the plot because there are many passages where there is no speech.  That said, with its warm colours, and faces which are friendly rather than frightening, this is a gentle introduction into both the format and fantasy. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

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 

9781406395310

The Tower at the End of Time

9781406395327

Amy Sparkes

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 squeezed 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.  

LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts at Christmas

 

 

 

 

LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts at Christmas

LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts at Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts at Christmas

Elizabeth Dowsett

Dorling Kindersley, 2021

80pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780241469392

Next year, 2022, celebrates the 25th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and I can still remember receiving a copy and thinking, “Who will read a book with that title.” At the time, I was a member of the UK School Libraries Network and suddenly the chatter started, led by someone who generally annoyed me, but this time I was so grateful I read what he had to say!  It started a love affair with arguably the most enduring characters to have emerged in recent literature which has included many hours spent reading a genre I’m not in love with, and many dollars on the original merchandise – all of which my grandchildren would like left to them in my will!

So to have new things coming out all these years later is wonderful. In this book, we are introduced to Harry’s first Christmas at Hogwarts, exploring and sharing his excitement at what is effectively his first real Christmas ever. Illustrated with figurines and models made from Lego and including a Harry Potter figurine to use, we get to know the main characters and share their Christmas with them. While it is not a building guide, there are lots of opportunities to be inspired by things to make to build ne or re-create familiar scenes and objects.