Star of Deltora: The Hungry Isle, by Emily Rodda

She hurried to the porthole and looked out. The sky was filmed with cloud through which the sun glowed sullenly, casting an eerie yellow light. The sea was dull and oily-looking. At first she could see nothing unusual. And then she began to pick out dark shapes beneath the surface of the water, many, many dark shapes, and as she realised what they were, the hair on the back of her neck began to prickle.
‘Turtles!’ she whispered.

Although the Star of Deltorahas managed to escape Illica, Britta is still in danger. She must stay in her cabin, safe from the moody distrust coming her way from the ship’s crew, who think she is a witch and the reason the voyage has been beset with problems. In spite of Britta’s protestations, the ship is being surrounded by turtles, seeming to want to steer the ship. Britta soon realises that the Staff of Tier has sensed her, and wants her to come to the Hungry Isle. Could it be that her secrecy has lead her and her friends, including Trader Mab, into terrible danger?

The fourth title in the Star of Deltora series, The Hungry Isle provides a gripping climax to the journey that Britta and her fellow would-be Trader’s apprentices have been on. Britta has managed to keep her true identity – as the daughter of the hated Dare Larsett – a secret, but when everything hangs in the balance, the secret is no longer hers to keep.

Best read after the first three titles, The Hungry Isle is a satisfying conlusion to the series.

The Hungry Isle, by Emily Rodda
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781742991337

Lola's Toy Box: Party at Cuddleton Castle, by Danny Parker

‘This party must be for a very important toy,’ said Lola.
She was right. On the cake, written in sprinkles, it said:
Happy birthday,
Great High Bear!

Lola has a magic toy box. When she opens it and jumps inside, she is never quite sure where she will end up. This time it has taken Lola and her toy friend Buddy to the great High Bear’s castle, where his birthday party is just about to start. But Lola notices something suspicious about the cake.

Party at Cuddleton Castle is the sixth title in the Lola’s Toy Box series. There is enough backstory and explanation for readers new to the series to read this one, and fans of the earlier books will enjoy this new adventure.

Good sized font, full page illustrations in each chapter (by Guy Shield), and fast paced action make Party at Cuddleton Castle accessible for newly confident readers.

Party at Cuddleton Castle, by Danny Parker
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016
ISBN 9781760126858

Princess Betony Series, by Pamela Freeman, illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie

“Mother,” she hissed, but her mother didn’t hear. The shadowy figure set out across the terrace and down to the lawn below, heading across the grounds.
Betony’s breath caught in her throat.
Her mother was going into the Dark Forest of Nevermore. She was leaving.

Princess Betony adores the queen, her mother, and knows that her mother loves her, too. But her mother is a dryad, a tree spirit, and misses the Dark Forest. And with the Lord Chancellor, the King’s chief advisor, making life very difficult for the queen, Betony is worried she will lose her to the forest. So, when she sees her mother disappear into the trees in the middle of the night, Betony follows her, even though she knows it is dangerous. She will do whatever it takes to get her mother back – even catch a unicorn.

Princess Betony and the Unicorn is the first of four adventures featuring the adventurous, feisty but loyal Princess Betony. First published in 2012, its has been re-released along with the other three titles. Each features a magical adventure and is beautifully illustrated with grey scale illustrations on each spread, and charming cover designs.

Suitable for young fantasy lovers and those new to the genre, these are gorgeous books which will be treasured.

Princess Betony and the Unicorn (ISBN 9781925381023)
Princess Betony and the Thunder Egg (ISBN 9781925381030)
Princess Betony and the Rule of Wishing (ISBN 9781925381047)
Princess Betony and the Hobgoblin 9ISBN 9781921720260)
Walker Books, 2016

Meet My Book: Sage Cookson's Sweet Escape, by Sally Murphy

It’s always great to have an author drop by to introduce readers to their new book – but today I’m especially excited because the ‘visiting’ author is me. That’s right, I’m busy celebrating the release of my newest book, and first ever series.DSCN2727

  1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.    Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape, published by New Frontier, with illustrations by Celeste Hulme (ISBN 9781925059618) Its release date is today – July 1!
  2. Why did you write the book? I was asked by New Frontier if I was interested in creating a series for younger readers. Of course I said yes, then set about thinking up a premise for the series as well as individual storylines. I love television cooking shows and also mysteries, so I combined those two interests to create a series where the main character, Sage, travels with her parents who have their own television show. Everywhere they go, something goes wrong, and Sage is at the centre of solving it.
  3. How long from idea to publication? About 18 months. First I wrote an outline for the first four titles, then we discussed the strengths and weaknesses of my ideas before I started writing. Then, as with any book, there were multiple drafts, plus editing and copyediting, as well as things like illustration and design.
  4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?  Overcoming chocolate cravings! I love chocolate A LOT and in Sweet Escape, Sage and her parents visit a chocolate factory. I kept thinking about all the yummy goodness and wanting to race out and buy more chocolate.
  5. Coolest thing about your book?  The chocolate. Oh, and the fact that it’s the first title in my first ever series. Four books have been commissioned so far, but we are currently talking about adding to the series.
  6. Something you learnt through writing the book?   That I CAN write series fiction. I had always wanted to write a series –  because I’ve always liked reading them – but had to stop and think about the whole series before I wrote this first one. The first book must tell a story of its own but also sets the scene for what’s to follow.Advance Sage 1
  7. What did you do celebrate the release?  Today I will open a bottle of something bubble and share it with my family. I’m also trying to organise a book launch in a month or so.
  8. And how will you promote the book? Lots of ways. I will blog on my own website and on other blogs. There is also a website dedicated to the series, which will have recipes, activities, sample chapters and more. And I will talk about the book at school visits and festivals.
  9. What are you working on next?  At the moment I am finalising book 4 of the series, and also working on finishing Doctoral studies. As part of my  thesis I have written three new creative works, which I hope to see published in the future.  I am also working on some picture book projects.
  10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?  At my website and at Sage Cookson’s website. Sweet Escape is now available in good bookstores and online. Check out the gorgeous cover. Cover Sage Cookson 1

Little Lunch: Triple the Treats, by Danny Katz & Mitch Vane

Rory ran all the way to the school gate and pressed his face against the wire fence so hard he got crisscross marks on his nose.
He was about to do the unthinkable, he was ready to do the impossible. Rory was about to go …
Out of bounds.

Rory is always forgetting his playlunch, and nobody has any food to share with him – so he has a great idea. He’ll sneak over to the shop and get some hot chips. Not everybody agrees that it’s a good plan – and if Mrs Gonsha finds out he’ll be in big trouble!

The Milk Bar is one of three funny stories that make up Little Lunch: Triple the Treats . The Little Lunch stories have amused young readers for several years, but now they have also been made into a television series and the stories in Triple the Treats are based on episodes of the show.

The stories are humorous, fast moving (each takes place within a single recess break) and well woven, with the characters both diverse and likeable. Black and white illustrations by Mitch Vane are complemented by still photos from the television series.

Lots of fun.

Triple the Treats , by Danny Katz and Mitch Vane
Black Dog Books, 2016
ISBN 9781925126907

Tiny Timmy: Soccer Superstar! by Tim Cahill

A word of advice, lad,’ Coach Roach said. ‘Practise until you can practise any more. Work on your game. You may not get any bigger, but you’ll definitely get better. Then who knows, it might not matter how big you are.’

Tiny Timmy desperately wants to make the school soccer team. He tries hard to show the coach what he can do – but he keeps getting tackled, tripped and bumped. When the team sheet goes up, Timmy is on orange duty. Coach tells him that his problem is his size – but encourages him to keep practising. So Timmy plays soccer and practises his skills at every opportunity. He also tries to figure out ways to get taller. But it is when he discovers that he has a special skill nobody knew about, that he finds a way into the team.

Soccer Superstar is the first in in the Tiny Timmy series written by Socceroos legend Tim Cahill. For young soccer fans, or anyone who loves humour and action, the story blends funny moments with sport and personal discovery. The text is accessible with good sized font and embellishments, and complemented by comic style illustrations by Heath McKenzie.

A strong start to the series.

Soccer Superstar , by Tim Cahill
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781760158880

Danny Best: Full On, by Jen Storer & Mitch Vane (ill.) creep across the grass like a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Secret Agent. I am silent. I leave no trail.
I pick up a stone and hurl it at the chook shed. The stone hits the tin rook with a CLANG and the chooks SQUAWK.
That’ll trick Fab.

Danny Best and his best mate Fab are playing cops and robbers. Danny is the robber, and his job is to get away from Fab for long enough to steal the treasure. But hiding under the house is a bit tricky, and policeman Fab has got back-up in the form of their other friends.

“Cops and Robbers” is one of five short stories featuring Danny and his friends in Danny Best: Full on, the first book in a new series. Danny doesn’t just think he’s the best – he knows it. And most of his adventures feature races or competitions of some sort, including obstacle courses and child-built race circuits.

Danny is a little bit full of himself (aren’t most 8 and three quarter year olds?) but is able to laugh at himself when things go wrong, and his friends have his measure. The stories are fast paced and humorous and feature cartoon-style illustrations, maps and more, including humorous quizzes after each story.

Lots to like here for primary aged readers.

Danny Best: Full on, by Jen Storer, illustrated by Mitch Vane
ABC Books, 2015
ISBN 9780733333330

Star of Deltora: Shadows of the Master, by Emily Rodda

And at that moment, Britta threw caution to the winds. She tore her eyes from the model ship and looked up at the old man staring at her so anxiously.
‘I will be at the Traders’ Hall tomorrow,’ she said. ‘How can I resist?’
‘Hooroar!’ Gaptain Gripp bellowed, punching the air. ‘Did you hear that, Bosun? She’ll try for it! An’ you mark my words, Bosun, she’ll do us proud! She’ll show those other traders’ daughters a thing or two!’

For as long as she can remember, Britta has wanted to be a trader like her father. But since his quest to find the Staff of Tier brought disgrace to his name and to his family left behind, that dream has seemed unreachable. Now, though, she has a chance. There is a challenge to select the apprentice to the Trader Rosalyn. and Britta is eligible – as long as the townspeople don’t realise who she is. Determined to be selected, Britta risks everything for the opportunity of a lifetime.

Shadows of the Master is the first in the new Star of Deltora series. Set in the same reality as the Rowan of Rinn and The Three Doors series, this new series promises to be as much loved as its predecessors. Readers will bond with the resourceful Britta and her efforts to follow her dreams in spite of her insecurities. Other characters are also intriguing, and it will be interesting to see how her fellow apprentices – three every different characters – develop across the series.

While young fantasy fans are likely to appreciate the book, it also likely to appeal to those who are perhaps less familiar with the genre, because it is both accessible and well-paced, at a length that is not too daunting.

A gripping introduction to what promises to be an excellent series.

Shadows of the Master, by Emily Rodda
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 9781742990620

Ella Diaries: Dreams Come True by Meredith Costain ill Danielle McDonald

Wednesday, after school

Dear Diary,

I can’t believe it. It can’t possibly be true.

But it IS!

Cassi Valentine – the best most excellent pop star in the WHOLE WILD WORLD – is coming here. To my town.

Maybe even to MY SCHOOL!!!


I heart Cassi Valentine SOOO MUCH!

Wednesday, after school

Dear Diary,

I can’t believe it. It can’t possibly be true.

But it IS!

Cassi Valentine – the best most excellent pop star in the WHOLE WILD WORLD – is coming here. To my town.

Maybe even to MY SCHOOL!!!


I heart Cassi Valentine SOOO MUCH!

Ella is back in a new adventure told through her diary. In ‘Dreams’ Come True’ Ella is excited to hear that her music idol is coming to town and that if they can win a competition, Cassi might perform at their school. She has a last-minute brilliant idea and then discovers she has to work with her enemy, Peach Parker. Everything goes wrong and it begins to look like not only will winning be impossible but that Ella will have alienated all her friends. Dreams Come True is written in a handwriting font complete with larger, coloured, all-caps words. Each opening includes doodle-type illustrations in black and red.

‘Ella Diaries’ is a new series from Scholastic, an Australian pitch at the market for ‘Dork Diaries’. Ella is a passionate and energetic main character and she is surrounded by a supportive family and teachers. She is stubborn and loyal and just a tad sure she’s generally right. About most things. In Dreams Come True she is excited that maybe her favourite singer might visit, but very challenged by having to work with Peach. The action is fast-paced and although filtered through Ella’s own words, the dynamics are visible to the reader. There is an intensity of emotion that many parents and teachers will recognise and young readers will empathise with. Recommended for newly independent readers who like a mixture of text and illustration.

Ella Diaries: Dreams Come True , Meredith Costain Danielle McDonald
Scholastic 2015 ISBN: 9781760153045

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller


Ella Diaries: I Heart Pets by Meredith Costain ill Danielle McDonald

Friday, after school

Dear Diary,

You know how some days are better than others? Well, today was one of those days. It was an exceptionally excellent, outstanding, superb, very, very GOOD day.

Friday, after school

Dear Diary,

You know how some days are better than others? Well, today was one of those days. It was an exceptionally excellent, outstanding, superb, very, very GOOD day.

Ella is excited when Careers Day introduces her and her classmates to people who work with animals. She’s sure she’s found her calling in life. After all, she loves animals. She and her friend Zoe establish a pet-care business and wait for the millions to roll in. But surprisingly, it takes longer than she expects, and there are hurdles she didn’t imagine. Not least, their first job is much less active than they imagine. Written in diary format, there are images on every opening. Text is in a handwriting font, and some words are picked out in colour (green). Cover is decorated with doodles and collage.

Ella Diaries is a new series from Scholastic featuring Ella, her friends, her family and her arch-rival, Peach Parker and cronies. Ella is dramatic and passionate, but her drama and passion are genuine and relatable. Each story in this series is fully rounded and believable, with realistic twists and turns. Ideal for newly-independent readers transitioning to full novels. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Ella Diaries: I Heart Pets, Meredith Costain ill Danielle McDonald

Scholastic ISBN: 9781760153038

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller