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

To the Moon and Back, by Dianne Bates

Seeing Claire’s anxious face, Mum added, ‘But I love you. And your dad loves you. It’s just that we don’t love one another. Now I’ve found Mac, someone I like more than your dad. And I want to live with my two favourite people – you and Mac. Do you understand?’
Claire nodded, but didn’t really understand. All she understood for sure, was how she felt. She wanted to live with Dad forever.

Claire loves both her parents, but her mum has been keeping secrets from her dad, and now she’s told Claire that they have to leave. Mum and Dad have had lots of fights, and Dad has even hurt Mum sometimes. But he’s never hurt Claire, and she isn’t happy about leaving him behind and going to live with Mum’s new friend, Mac. Hopefully, it will only be temporary and Mum and Dad will reunite so Claire can live with her ‘real’ family.

For younger readers, To the Moon and Back explores the issue of family breakup, and the impact of both domestic violence and new relationships on children. Claire faces problems which all too many young readers will be familiar with, either in their own lives or in the lives of their peers and Bates tries to make the issues accessible by showing them through the eyes of a child.

To the Moon and Back, by Dianne Bates
Big Sky Publishing, 2017
ISBN 9781925520293

Star, by Catherine Bateson

‘You’re hurting me,’ she said, and her voice sounded lonely and sad. ‘This attitude you have, Star. Where does it come from? Those kids are going through a rough time. You know that. How would you feel if you suddenly weren’t living with your dad?’
I glared at her. ‘I’m not,’ I said. ‘Remember, he’s dead.’


After Dad died, it was just Star and her mum, and, together, they managed. But Mum’s old friend Charlie has come to live with them and life has changed. Sometimes Charlie can be fun – suggesting walks on the beach, or teaching Star how to write Haiku – but other times he lies on his fold up bed unmoving, or says mean things to Star and Mum. But what Star hates most is when his pesky kids come to visit. There isn’t much going right in Star’s life, but it seems Mum hasn’t got the time or patience to listen.

Star is the story of a girl struggling to be heard in a household where there’s lots going on. Not only are she and her mother still trying to cope with the loss of her dad, but Charlie is coping with the end of his marriage, and his children with the changes this has wrought. Star is ofent asked to keep an eye on the younger children, and her unhappiness with all these changes, and with her isolation at school, is overlooked by both adults, or regarded as selfishness on her part. Adult readers will find this a little confronting, but probably quite realistic. Thankfully, as the story progresses the adults redeem themselves and, even when they are at their least likable, Star is supported by Mum’s friend Cara and a wise librarian at school.

Star is an endearing first person narrator who will have the reader cheering for good things to happen to her. At times she is, as her mother accuses, self centred, but this adds to the sense of realism. She is, after all, a little girl with a lot going on and must look out for herself when it seems no one else is. She also cares about those around her.

Ultimately, Star is a feel good novel about being given a chance to shine.


Star, by Catherine Bateson
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 9781862919815

Available from good bookstores and online.