Wyrd, by Cate Whittle

A sudden gust of wind brushed the curtains aside, setting the candles on the dresses quivering, and sweeping around the feather into the centre of the star. It swirled to a halt, quill towards Emma. At the same time, the candle representing ‘Fire’ flared up, and the door rattled in its frame.
Everybody froze.

Emma is delighted when her Dad falls in love and proposes – until she realises  that  this means that Pip will be her stepsister. Emma and Pip do not see eye to eye about anything, and now they are going to be living together!  Things don’t improve after the wedding, with Pip doing everything she can to make Emma’s life difficult. Then, when she drags Emma into her attempts to cast magic spells, something strange happens – it is Emma who can suddenly do magic. Emma has never wanted to be a witch, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to reverse the spell. In the meantime, can she use her powers to change the status quo?

Wyrd traces the challenges of blended families, friendship and bullying, in a story which uses just a touch of fantasy, with Pip’s fascination for magic seemingly unproductive until well into the story.  Young readers will enjoy the challenges and moral dilemmas which Emma’s new skills create.

Suitable for middle primary aged readers.


Wyrd, by Cate Whittle
Omnibus Books, 2018
ISBN 9781742994321

Keeper of the Crystals 7: Eve and the Rebel Fairies by Jess Black

Eve felt sleepy. She and Oscar had been out all day with Eve’s Dragon, Ingvar, enjoying the brilliant summer weather and celebrating school holidays. It was past their bedtime, but she and Oscar needed to get his bed sorted out before they could crash.
‘It was nice of your gran to let me stay for a few days while Mum and Dad are away.’ Oscar yawned as he helped Eve unroll the spare mattress.

Eve, her friend Oscar and Eve’s dragon, Ingvar are back in a new magical adventure. This time, it’s the fairies who need help. There’s only a finite amount of magic in the enchanted world and two rogue fairies are ensuring that it’s being used faster than is sustainable. If they are to help safe the tree of life, Eve and co will need to find the fairies and somehow convince them to change their ways. Illustrations accompany each chapter heading.

Keeper of the Crystals is a series of early chapter books. In each, Eve is able to access the worlds of magical creatures. In fact, she is called to help when other worlds are in danger. Although she can’t fly herself, she does have a companion dragon who is happy to carry her (and Oliver) if and when necessary. ‘Eve and the Rebel Fairies’ has a strong message about the effect humans are having on the planet and the consequences for other occupants. An adventure for lovers of magic and of our world. Recommended for newly confident readers.

Keepers of the Crystals 7: Eve and the Rebel Fairies, Jess Black New Frontier Publishing 2018 ISBN: 9781925594218

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables by Tim Harris ill James Hart

Mr Bambuckle’s first day at Blue Valley School was a most remarkable day. the fifteen students of 12B straggled in after the bell to find their new teacher balancing on a unicycle, on top of a desk. He was singing in full voice about ‘glorious days’ and ‘magical ways and, as the students took their seats, he told them it was a rare Mongolian welcome song.

Mr Bambuckle is like no teacher the students of 12B have ever encountered. It’s not just that he can balance on his unicycle on the desk. It’s not just that he seems more exciting than Miss Schlump. He has an answer for their every question, even when he’s saying that it’s too dangerous to meet his Indian spark-maker beetle. Within minutes, he is smiling at their principal, Mr Sternblast, despite the latter’s gruffness. ‘Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables’ begins with character sketches of all the class, and illustrations are scattered throughout.

Mr Bambuckle is more than a little magical. He knows the students’ names before they tell them and he can immediately see what they need from him as a teacher. But even though he can see it, he structures his classes so the students discover their own strengths and challenges. There are no cross words, no punishments, and every member of the class starts to perform to their abilities. In between these subtle lessons, there are stories, jokes, magic and even bacon. What’s not to love? Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables’ is a new series for readers who like their stories wrapped in ridiculousness and humour. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers. Would also work a treat as a read-aloud.
Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables by Tim Harris ill James Hart Random House Australia 2017 ISBN: 9780143785859

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Jinny & Cooper: My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret and Revenge of the Stone Witch, by Tania Ingram

‘Eat the carrot, Fuzzy.’
The scruffy ball of fur gave a little cough as though clearing his throat. then he looked directly at Tyrone and in a clear voice said, ‘My name is NOT Fuzzy, it’s Cooper. I don’t like carrots and if you keep poking one in my face I may be forced to do something that you will regret!’
Tyrone fell off the bed with a scream.

Jinny has always dreamt of owning a beautiful, golden guinea pig. But the pet shop owner has a deal Jinny’s mum can’t resist, and now Jinny owns the scruffiest, messiest guinea pig ever. Still, at least she has a guinea pg. But Fuzzy has a secret. He can talk – and the first thing he makes clear is that his name isn’t Fuzzy. Jinny and her brother Tyrone decide to keep Cooper’s skills a secret, but it isn’t easy when cooper’s other skills – such as invisibility – become apparent. And Cooper doesn’t always do what he’s told.Still, Jinny soon finds that having Cooper around can be very helpful when trouble turns up.

In My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret, it is Cooper who realises Jinny’s seemingly kind old teacher, Miss Bunney is actually a witch, and in Revenge of the Stone Witch, Jinny and Cooper combine to figure out what is causing the strange goings on in their neighbourhood. Both books blend fantasy, humour and action for an entertaining blend perfectly suited for middle primary aged readers.

The premise of a talking, magical guinea pig with connections to the fantastical world will leave readers eager for more adventures from Jinny and Cooper.

Jinny & Cooper: My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret
Jinny & Cooper: Revenge of the Stone Witch
both by Tania Ingram
Puffin Books, 2016

Goldenhand, by Garth Nix

‘I’m a messenger!’ bawled the nomad. She was even younger than the young guard, perhaps having seen only sixteen or seventeen of the harsh winters of her homeland. Her lustrous skin was acorn brown, her hair black, worn in a plaited queue that was wound several times around her head like a crown, and her dark eyes appealing. ‘I claim the message right!’

With the Abhorsen, Sabriel, and her husband the King on holidays, the Abhorsen-in-waiting Lirael is responsible for protecting the Old Kingdom from the Dead and any Free Magic creatures. The last six months have been quiet, but two messages are coming her way. One, carried by a stranger from beyond the walls, is in danger of not being delivered because its carrier, a girl named Ferin, is being pursued by sorcerers determined to stop her. The other message, carried by a messenger hawk, is more successful in getting through. It’s from Nicholas Sayre, who Sabriel feared she might never see again. When she responds to the message she finds him unconscious, near to death. To help him heal, and to learn more about the taint of Free Magic he carries, she must take him to her childhood home with the Clayr. With Nicholas safe she must turn her attention to the other message – one which predicts great danger for the Old Kingdom.

Fans of the Old Kingdom series will be delighted with this latest installment, featuring favourite characters including Lirael, Sabriel, Nicholas and Sam, alongside new ones. Nix seemingly weaves his stories with the magic that is found in his world. The Old Kingdom is a richly woven setting, and the people and beings that populate it are intriguing. This is deeply satisfying fantasy at its very best.

With a bonus Old Kingdom story, Goldenhand is divine.

Goldenhand, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781741758634


Also in the Series:


Clariel (Prequel)

Newt's Emerald, by Garth Nix

9781760112653.jpg‘One – two – three – heave!’ cried the admiral, and the table was slid back in place. He gazed down on its polished surface happily, observed there wasn’t a single irreperable scratch, and then his smile faded like a powder disolving in a glass. A red flush spread up his neck and across his face, and he swayed on his feet as he treid to speak.
‘The Emerald! Where is the – ‘
This was all he got out before he pitched headfirst onto the table, his great bulk making it resound like an enormous drum.

It is Lady Truthful Newington’s eighteenth birthday and, at a small family gathering, her father is keen to show off the Newington Emerald which will one day be hers. The night goes well until a sudden storm hits the house and, in the chaos that follows, the emerald disappears. As her father lies ill, Truthful decides she must travel to London and attempt to recover the heirloom.

Soon, Truthful is balancing twin roles – that of herself, and that of her alter-ego, a young Frenchman. Disgused as a man she can take risks and gain entry to places she never could as a young man. But there are many dangers, not the least of which is discovery.Then there is the risk of falling in love. Truthful must stay safe and focussed if she is to find the Emerald and save her father’s life.

Newt’s Emerald is a treat. In the style of a Regency Romance, the fantasy blends mystery, romance and intrigue, with the addition of magic and sorcery for an absorbing, satisfying whole.

Fans of Nix’s work will find this a little different – but still with the quality we’ve come to expect. Lovers of regency romances such as those of Georgette Heyer will also enjoy Newt’s Emerald.

A ripping read.

Newt’s Emerald, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760112653

Lily the Elf: The Wishing Seed & The Elf Flute, by Anna Brandford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts

The Wishing Seed (Lily the Elf)
Lily hugs the seed tightly. Then she whispers into the fluff.
Lovely dandelion seed
(not a pest and not a weed),
grant my wish
with super-speed,
a princess crown
is what I need!

Lily’s dress up crown is broken and tattered. She dreams of having a sparkly, unbroken princess crown. So, when a dandelion wish seed floats by, she knows what to do. She makes the wish and waits impatiently for it to come true. But nothing happens. Her wise dad and granny tell her that sometimes fixing things is better than wishing things, but Lily isn’t convinced – until both adults help her to fix her crown into something very special.

The Elf Flute (Lily the Elf)
First, she holds the flute sideways. Next, she wiggles her fingers over the holes. Then she blows over the big hole at the top.
She waits for lovely music to fill the room. But there is only a whiffling sound.

When Lily is given a brand new elf flute, she decides she will play it at the Grand Elf Concert, rather than recite the poem she has written. But learning to play the flute is harder than she thought. Will she master it in time for the concert?

The Wishing Seed and The Elf Flute are two new titles in the delightful Lily the Elf series. Each self-contained chapter book features Lily and her family – her father and her granny. Lily tackles problems which are a charming blend of elfish and human problems – wanting or wishing for something, mastering a new skill, appreciating individual talents and so on.

Black and white illustrations on most spreads, simple sentence structures and large font make these titles suitable for emergent readers, but accessibility has not compromised the story quality.

A lovely pair.

The Wishing Seed (ISBN 9781925081060)
The Elf Flute (ISBN 9781925081077)
both by Anna Brandford & Lisa Coutts (ill)
Walker Books, 2015

The Witch's Britches, by P. Crumble & Lucinda Gifford

Don’t lose these britches, look after them well.
They’ll stop being magical if they smell.

It seems we’ve all been conned into believing that magic could come from a wand. Witches’ magic, it seems, actually come from their magical underwear. When young witch Ethel arrives at magic school she receives a package of britches and a note reminding her to keep them clean. She follows this instruction faithfully until a strong wind springs up one washing day and carries her pants away. When the underwear lands in a local park, all sorts of magical chaos ensues, until Ethel can round it all up.

The Witch’s Britches is a humourous rhyming picture book about magic, witches and, of course, underwear. Youngsters will enjoy the silliness of both the premise and the chaos caused by the flying undwear. The bright digital illustrations have lots of detail to be enjoyed, and work well with the story.

Good fun.

The Witch’s Britches, by P.  Crumble & Lucinda Gifford
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781760151539

The Warlock’s Child 3: The Iron Claw by Paul Collins & Sean McMullen

In the entire world there are few things that can strike fear into the heart of a king. The sight of his army retreating would be high on the list, and the royal taster clutching his stomach and collapsing would be even higher. At the very top, however, there could be nothing to rival three very angry dragons the size of warships towering over you and asking questions for which you have no answers.

Although King Lavarran II of Savaria was backed up by five thousand of the city militia and fifty of his shapecasters, he felt very exposed. He was standing on the open plain outside his palace to shield him from the forge-hot breath of the dragons – not that the palace walls would have stopped the dragons for very long.

In the entire world there are few things that can strike fear into the heart of a king. The sight of his army retreating would be high on the list, and the royal taster clutching his stomach and collapsing would be even higher. At the very top, however, there could be nothing to rival three very angry dragons the size of warships towering over you and asking questions for which you have no answers.

Although King Lavarran II of Savaria was backed up by five thousand of the city militia and fifty of his shapecasters, he felt very exposed. He was standing on the open plain outside his palace to shield him from the forge-hot breath of the dragons – not that the palace walls would have stopped the dragons for very long.

The three dragons hovering above the city are puzzled. They sense the presence of a young dragon in the city of Savaria, but there hasn’t been a dragon hatchling for 3000 years. Although they can tell when a human is lying, their questions to the king and his court don’t provide any helpful answers. But the answers do buy the humans some time. While Velza and Latsar are trying to do their own investigations, Velza’s brother, Dantar and his friend Marko are being both helped and hindered by Merikus in their quest to leave town. Dantar and Velza’s father cannot be found, although his presence and influence is felt everywhere. The race is on to discover just what the warlock, Calbaras is up to.

The Iron Claw is book three in ‘The Warlock’s Child’ six book fantasy series. Each is told from three viewpoints: the dragons; Velza, a young female warrior, and Dantar. Velza and Dantar are children of Calbaras a highly skilled but secretive warlock. Neither child seems to have much of a relationship with their father. There are twists and turns aplenty as the children (and the dragons) seek to find Calbaras and also to unravel the mystery of why the dragons seem to be protecting Dantar. Each action-filled title is short enough for younger readers, almost as if the stories are serialised, rather than stand-alone novels. Either way, readers will be looking for the next instalment. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

The Warlock’s Child 3: The Iron Claw, Paul Collins & Sean McMullen Ford St Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925000948

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller


Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Okyto, by Geoffrey McSkimming

Mrs Lowerblast took out her lilacious handkerchief and touched it to the corners of her lavender-lipsticked mouth. ‘Oh, Phylis, I’ve gone over it a hundred times in my head, maybe two hundred times. I’ve tried to remember every single thing that happened when he visited and looked at the bookends, every little detail. But I still can’t work out how he substituted this for the genuine article!’

Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto

Phyllis Wong loves conjuring, which is hardly surprising given that she is the great-granddaughter of one of the world’s most successful magicians. When her friend, Mrs Lowerblast, is the victim of a clever theft, Phyllis guesses there’s some sort of magic trick at work, but can’t figure out what’s been done. Then other robberies happen, and Phyllis is sure that they are all linked. Her friend Chief Inspector Inglis is on the case, but he’s baffled. Phyllis is determined to figure out who the thief is, and how he is achieving the seemingly impossible.

Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto is an exciting magical mystery which will intrigue young sleuths and would-be sleuths. The blend of mystery and the world of conjuring makes for an intriguing mix which will keep readers guessing and turning pages.

From the creator of the successful Cairo Jim Chronicles, Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto is sure to be well received by middle and upper primary aged readers.

Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto, by Geoffrey McSkimming
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742378213

Available from good bookstores or online.