Lucy’s Dawn, by Juliet Blair

Today has been the most important day of my life. I still don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
This is how it all began…

Lucy wants nothing more than to to work in the printing industry, like her father, but because she’s a girl, her dream seems unattainable. When an opportunity arises to work in Louisa Lawson’s Printery, she is delighted. She’ll be working in the office, but she hopes that, one day, she might be promoted. In the meantime, she loves working in the printery, where all the staff are female except for the owner’s son, the young poet Henry Lawson.

Lucy’s Dawn is the diary format story of a fictional girl set amidst the historical lives of Henry Lawson and his mother, and events in Sydney in 1889, particularly those surrounding the printer’s union and the rights of women to work in the printing industry.

Giving an insight into the lives and rights of women, and daily lives in Australia prior to Federation, the story will be of interest to young history enthusiasts.

Lucy’s Dawn , by Juliet Blair
NLA Publishing, 2018
ISBN 9780642279170

The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch, by Nicki Greenberg

This time there’ll be no hiding at the back of the classroom, hoping no one notices me. No pretending to have a stomach ache or locking myself in the toilets to cry. In just nine hours I’ll be standing in front of a while class of the little monsters, trying not to make some kind of terrible mistake. Although I think I’ve already made one, taking this job in the first place.

Every teacher is nervous when they start their first job. But Zelda Stitch has an extra thing to worry about: how to keep the fact that she’s a witch secret from her students. especially when she isn’t even good at being a witch. When term starts she soon realises that it isn’t going to be easy. When the children play tricks on her, she struggles to keep her magic hidden. And it seems she isn’t the only witch in the room. One of her students seems to developing witch skills. And someone in the school has put a hex on the principal.

The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch is a humorous diary-format novel, complemented by equally humorous illustrations by the author. Zelda is bumbling but likeable, and supported by an interesting cast including her seemingly objectionable cat, Barnaby.

An easy read, with plenty to keep readers turning pages.

The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch, by Nicki Greenberg
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760294908

Black Sunday, by Evan McHugh

The other thing Mrs Kearsley says you can do in a diary is write down your dreams and aspirations/ That’s even easier. I want to be a Bondi lifesaver like Grampa Jack. So, that’s my life story done. I’m goin’ down the beach.

Nipper is not impressed whn his teacher makes him keep a diary. He doesn’t want to spend his free time writing – he just wants to be at the beach. He’s even less impressed when she wants to read what he’s written, and his refusal to show her lands him in a lot of trouble.

In secret, Nipper starts preparing himself for his future career – swimming distances, imagining he’s rescuing someone. He has to wait until he’s 16 before he can get his Bronze Medallion and become part of the brigade. But one eventful day in 1938 – a day that would become known as Black Sunday – his secret is revealed in dramatic fashion.

Black Sunday is a diary format novel for primary aged readers fictionalising the events of Black Sunday, 1938 and bringing to life the Bondi of the time. Although Black Sunday is a feature, the book spans a year, so covers events both before and after the day.

Nipper is a likable narrator, and his story will appeal to middle and upper primary aged readers.

Black Sundaym by Evan McHugh
Scholastic Australia, 2016
ISBN 9781743627990

My Australian Story: Vietnam, by Deborah Challinor

It’s supposed to be a fair way to decide who does national service and who doesn’t, but Mum reckons it isn’t. She says the fate of a mother’s son shouldn’t depend on a number picked out of a barrel. The marbles that go in the barrel have the days of the month on them. An agreed number of marbles are drawn out of the barrel, and if your birth date is on one, you’re ‘balloted in’.

It’s 1969 and Davey’s big brother Tom has been conscripted. Chosen because of his birthdate, he has no choice but to report for service. Soon, Tom is in Vietnam and his family are back home worrying about him. But there are other things happening in Davey’s life, too. He and his two best mates love surfing, and are determined to win the inaugural Newcastle Under-14 Championship. Thye are fascinated, too, by the planned moon landing, and follow preparations keenly. But growing up isn’t always fun, and Davey and his mates have some hard lessons to learn.

Vietnam , part of the My Australian Story series, is a wonderful diary format story giving an insight into Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War through the experiences of one family. It also offers a snapshot of late 1960s life, including the music of the time, key events in the year, the union movement, the impact of war on generations of Australians and more.

An excellent offering for primary aged readers.

My Australian Story: Vietnam , by Deborah Challinor
Scholastic Australia, 2015
ISBN 9781743628003

Ella Diaries 1: Double Dare You

Dear Diary

Hello Diary. My name’s Ella and

Once upon a time there was a girl called Ella. She lived

How are you supposed to start a diary? I’ve never had one before. Mum and Dad gave me this one for Christmas because

a) I like writing. I’m always writing stories and they love the poems I make up for their birthdays and other special days.

b) They think I have a good imagination and they think writing something every day is a good way to ‘exercise’ it.

c) I’m going into Grade 5 this year (starting tomorrow!) and Dad says Grade 5 was the best year of his life.

Dear Diary

Hello Diary. My name’s Ella and

Once upon a time there was a girl called Ella. She lived

How are you supposed to start a diary? I’ve never had one before. Mum and Dad gave me this one for Christmas because

a)      I like writing. I’m always writing stories and they love the poems I make up for their birthdays and other special days.

b)      They think I have a good imagination and they think writing something every day is a good way to ‘exercise’ it.

c)      I’m going into Grade 5 this year (starting tomorrow!) and Dad says Grade 5 was the best year of his life.

Ella starts Grade 5 with high hopes, but from the beginning her first day is disastrous. It begins with the no-show of her best friend Zoe, and goes downhill as everyone else sits at the classroom tables in pairs. Only Ella is alone. And just when she thinks this is the worst thing that can happen, the door opens and in comes mean girl, Peach, who isn’t even supposed to be in this class. Of course, she sits in the only spare chair – on Ella’s table. As the days and weeks pass, Ella records her life both in and beyond school. Peach continues to cause trouble. Ella’s diary is written in a handwriting font and includes ‘hand-drawn’ images and words picked out in red. There are also crossed out spelling mistakes and phrases. Ella includes some of her poems. At the end there is room for readers to make their own diary entry, write their own poem and draw their own picture. There’s also a sneak-peek of ‘Ballet Back-flip’, the next title in the ‘Ella Diaries’ series. Cover art includes ‘doodles’ that give hints about some of the adventures within.

‘Ella Diaries’ is a new series for mid-primary readers, primarily girls. Double Dare You begins with the new school year and establishes the characters and the world Ella occupies. Ella is a bright, energetic student who displays a positive outlook on most of her world (with the exception of her relationship with bully Peach). She is a leader, a supportive friend and keen to learn. Young readers will recognise characters from their own classroom, the good and the less so. When Ella has to make a decision about whether or not to do a dare, or in this case, a double-dare, she thinks about what it would be like to be the victim. Double Dare You lets the reader peek into Ella’s innermost thoughts, fears and enthusiasms. Recommended for mid-primary readers.


Ella Diaries 1: Double Dare You , Meredith Costain ill Danielle McDonald
Scholastic Australia 2015 ISBN: 9781743628638

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Convict Girl, by Chrissie Michaels

Almost one year ago I arrived in this colony on board an English transport. I am about to leave on board a French discovery ship…the Geographe…a journey I cannot fathom.

It is 1802 and fourteen year old Mary Beckwith is struggling to adjust to her new life. She and her mother have been transported for life to New South Wales, for stealing fabric. Assigned as nursemaid to a judge’s daughters, Mary tries hard to settle down and do her job, but it isn’t long before she falls foul of the lady of the house, and is sent to serve a French explorer, Nicholas Baudin, who is visiting the colony. Soon, Mary is travelling with the explorer, also crossing paths with Matthew Flinders as the two explorers make their Voyages of Discovery.

Convict Girl , part of the My Australian Story series, is a diary-format tale. As such we are offered insight into Mary’s thoughts and motivation, including her mixed feelings about what loyalty and honesty really mean. Set in the early days of the colony, readers are taken inside the life of the times, and issues such as the treatment of Aborigines and of convicts, as well as the journeys of the two famed explorers Baudin and Flinders.

A wonderfully accessible way to explore Australia’s history, the series is suitable for primary aged readers and younger teens.


Convict Girl (My Australian Story)

Convict Girl , by Chrissie Michaels
Scholastic, 2014
ISBN 9781743620151

Available from good bookstores and online .

Gallipoli, by Alan Tucker

The attack has been timed to the minute. Thirty minutes from now we’ll climb down the rope ladders into the lighters and find our seat. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve been chosen as one of the 500 men from my battalion who will be in the first wave to land. The Turks won’t know what’s hit them…

Victor Marsh longs for adventure. Not looking forward to a a career as an underground miner, he jumps at the chance to enlist and fight for his country – even though, at just 14 years of age, he has to lie to be able to enlist. Soon, with his new friends Fish, Needle and Robbo, he is trained and sailing for Egypt then on to Gallipoli where, over eight torrid months, he fights not just for his country, but for survival, learning just what war really means, the value of friendship, and just how much courage is needed to carry on.

Gallipoli , part of Scholastic’s My Australian Story records the events of 1915 from the first person perspective of a young soldier, through diary format and the letters he sends to and receives from his mother. Whilst the story is not new, this diary format and the young age of the protagonist, allows the child reader an insight into the realities of the Gallipoli campaign and of war in general. The sub plot of Victor’s ‘gut’ friend Hans, an elderly family friend who, because he is German, is interned for the duration of the war, adds an element which may be less familiar to young readers, and a story which needs to be told.

A valuable educational tool but also simply an absorbing story.

Gallipoli (My Australian Story)

Gallipoli , by Alan Tucker
Scholastic, 2013
ISBN 9781742836935

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Romance Diaries: Ruby, by Jenna Austen

And that’s when it hits me like a thunderbolt. The REAL reason people make mistakes in romance is that they imagine they’re in one kind of story but actually they’re in another!

Ruby believes that real life romances, like romantic stories, fall into two categories – the Jane Austen-esque romantic comedy, or the Jayne Eyre gothic romance. The problem, though, is that people think they’re in one kind of romance when really they’re in the other – and so they fail. But because she knows so much, Ruby has the solution a Romantic Action Plan (RAP) to help her best friend Bella, her sister Jo, and even her mum find true love. What could possibly go wrong?

The Romance Diaries: Ruby is a sweetly romantic diary format offering with a Jane Austen-esque mix of comedy, cads and drama. The first in a new series from ABC Books and Jenna Austen (a pseudonym of award winning author Sophie Masson), the story is told over three months of narrator Ruby’s life as she navigates the challenges of friendship, family and first love.

Aimed squarely at tween readers looking for gentle romance novels, the series is sure to be a hit.

The Romance Diaries - Ruby

The Romance Diaries: Ruby, by Jenna Austen
ABC Books, 2013
ISBN 9780733331527

Available from good bookstores or