Tag Archives: Friendships

Eliza Vanda’s Button Box – Emily Rodda


Harper Collins Australia

May 2021

  • ISBN: 9781460759608
  • ISBN 10: 1460759605
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 22.99 AUD

Buttons three, attend to me!

Take me where I want to be!

Emily Rodda returns with her own special brand of sparkling magic inthis delightful new fantasy adventure. Milly Dynes has been a bit down in the dumps of late. She still loves living in Tidgy Bay, in the holiday park she and her dad have called home for six years but there seem to be problems surrounding her which sometimes make her wish she could escape. Things have been changing at home with Julie and a new baby sister to think of, her friends are all going away for the holidays, high school is looming and grumpy old Mrs Meaney have all been causing Milly some real anxiety.

Then on a cold and wet wintery day, when there is never an expectation of anyone wanting to rent a cabin, along comes Eliza Vanda with her sewing, her small brown mouse friend and assistant, Victor, and her amazing button tin. And just like that Milly also becomes an assistant and helper for Eliza, finding herself whisked away with Victor on some very magical adventures and meeting some very odd characters. This is no overly dramatic on-the-edge-of-your-seat adventure but a gentle and winsome one where small deeds ensure happy results to problems.

Your readers who revel in imaginative and feel-good stories will love this – who wouldn’t want to go on errands to places where unicorns, frog princes and other magical beings abound?

Very highly recommended for readers from middle primary upwards – it’s a delightful and highly enjoyable read.

100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze – Clayton Zane Comber


Harper Collins Australia

June 2021

  • ISBN: 9781460759455
  • ISBN 10: 1460759451
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD
  • Age: From 14 years

Believe me when I tell you that you will fall in love with Xander, and be sad to leave him at the end of this beautiful feel-good coming-of-age novel.

Xander loves to make lists and #1 on his list of People I Love Most in the World is his Nanna, who has lived with him and his mum since Xander’s dad died. Nanna has been Xander’s ally, confidante, support team and his very best friend and now that she has stage 4 cancer, Xander is determined to do whatever it takes to save her. Nanna wants him to make a list of 100 remarkable feats that he will hope to achieve by the end of the school year. It’s going to be a very tricky mission especially with feats like:

#2 Make a friend

#10 Kiss a girl (preferably Ally Collins)

#28 Go to a party

#58 Get a job (any job)

#87 Learn to keep secrets

#100 Save Nanna

As we read Xander’s list we get a very clear insight into his quirky personality and a poignant understanding of why his Nanna has encouraged him to both create and fulfil the remarkable feats. For someone who knows her time is short ,and who has been this beautiful boy’s stalwart support, the greatest gift she can give him is the confidence and skills to step out on his own.

When Xander’s 100 remarkable feats list unintentionally becomes a matter of public record, he is surprised to find that he has help from unexpected quarters and many of his feats are accomplished almost before he realises. Xander’s journey into friendships, new situations and stepping well outside his very narrow comfort zone is both hilarious and moving, with one of the most genuinely likeable cast of characters I have encountered in a long time.

I will certainly be giving it my best and biggest promotion at our final ChocLit meeting for this term during the coming week and I highly recommend it for your readers from around Year 7 upwards. The themes of grief/loss, resilience, identity, belonging, mental health in particular will resonate with many teens, and for your classroom program you will find the teaching guide a great resource.

Funny Kid Belly Flop: Funny Kid #8- Matt Stanton


Harper Collins Australia

September 2020

  • ISBN: 9780733340604
  • ISBN 10: 0733340601
  • Imprint: ABC Books – AU
  • List Price: 14.99 AUD

Ok so it took a while to get to this one but I laughed my way through it today while waiting patiently at my doctor. Pretty sure that others in the waiting room were slightly bemused by my stifled giggles.

The Kid had her swimming carnival at the new school yesterday and enjoyed it very much, not so much for the swimming, of which she did only a little, but the socialising. Clearly something she inherited from both her mum and myself!

Max doesn’t want to swim, he doesn’t want to get wet in fact and he will go to extraordinary lengths (just not in the pool) to get out of the swimming carnival altogether. So a cunning plan is conceived. Max will scupper the carnival so the event can’t go ahead. As one might imagine this can only end badly. With the help of his friends the attempts to sabotage the whole soggy mess are both hilarious and spectacularly unsuccessful. To make matters worse, Max’ nemesis, Abby, wants the carnival replaced with the Maths Olympiad competition and does her very best to undermine his efforts (not that they need much help in that respect).

There are guffaws aplenty as twins Pip and Tyrone decide to reverse their usual good twin/bad twin personas, faithful sidekick Hugo has a mysterious rash and, horror of horrors, their teacher Miss Sweet has a boyfriend and it’s super muscled up swim coach Chaz, of the dazzling smile. It all ends up as the usual Max mayhem and your kiddos will eat it up.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Before the Beginning – Anna Morgan



SEP 29, 2020 | 9780734419651 | RRP $19.99

In a tweet when I mentioned I was reading this – and reading WAY past my bedtime because I was so engrossed – Anna Morgan replied “This book will disturb your sleep schedule” is an excellent review!

Well all I can say is that it definitely will!!! Right from the get-go this one will have your YA readers hooked and tuned out to all that’s going on around them as they become drawn into a schoolies week like no other.

Grace has been a very committed Christian since an early age but when it comes down to schoolies week she realises that the prejudices and intolerance of her church friends are not what she wants for a whole week away. Instead she decides to tag along (and be the chauffeur, organiser and carer) for her brother Casper and his two great friends, Noah and Elsie. Casper is procrastinating on getting his portfolio for art school put together, Noah’s anxiety over ATAR and his future, fueled by pressure from his parents, is consuming him and Elsie, who knows she’s no stellar academic, is just trying to hold their friendship group together.

On the first night of their trip at a fairly typical schoolies beach party the group encounters a beautiful but mysterious girl who seems to have some kind of persuasive power that is irresistible. Sienna convinces the friends to go camping with her on the uninhabited island not far offshore. But the camping sojourn soon unravels into increased uncertainties, negative emotions and friendship fractures for them all – worse, it becomes increasingly apparent that Sienna’s motives are far from friendly and the mystery that surrounds her past is sinister in the extreme. Soon it is not just their friendships that are in danger but their very existence. These characters are very believable and the action flows so beautifully as the plot, and the mystery, unfolds.

Drawing on legends of the sirens and the powers they held over travelers, this is a coming-of-age story that combines suspense and thrilling action with the qualms that all school-leavers have and provides a very satisfying reading experience for those students who are facing the future with their own questions.

Highly recommended for your senior readers, this is a must have for your collection. Check out Five Minutes with Anna Morgan and the teaching notes.

The Jane Austen Society – Natalie Jenner


Hachette Australia

MAY 26, 2020 | 9781409194118 | RRP $32.99

Wow! This is certainly one impressive debut novel and well worth putting on your TBR list, particularly if you love books like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and others of its ilk.

Beautifully articulated characters who drive this narrative, which has some basis in historical fact but is purely fictional, will absolutely enthrall you from the first chapter.

In the small village of Chawton, where Jane Austen made her home for some years, a collection of village residents are all dealing with the post-war years and their troubles in their various ways.

Local GP Dr Bray is still struggling with his grief after the accidental death of his wife ten years previously and dangerously self-medicating, even though he is arguably the most well-respected member of the community.

Young and vivacious Adeline has become the newest teacher at the village school but is constantly falling foul of the trustees for her innovative methods.

Miss Knight, last direct descendant of Jane Austen’s brother, still lives in the Knight family home and is dominated by her mean-spirited and cruel ailing father, while at the time anxious about the dwindling finances of the estate.

Adam Berwick, trusted local farmer by day, romantic reader and Jane Austen devotee by night, feels lost and despondent over the death of his father and both his brothers during the war.

Young Evie Stone, bright star pupil, has been forced by her father’s incapacitating accident to leave school and enter service at the big house, where she secretly revels in the vast library which she is assiduously cataloguing.

Solicitor Andrew Forrester who has proven his astute knowledge of the law time and time again, is conflicted over his legal duty to old Mr Knight whilst still holding his youthful flame for Miss Knight.

Together this core group decide to form The Jane Austen Society and establish a museum and trust in honour of their famous local author, before all evidence and tokens of her existence are obliterated. They are, in due course, joined by Hollywood star Mimi Harrison (or Mary Anne really) and Sotheby’s agent Yardley Sinclair, both passionate Austen fans as well.

There are twists and turns a-plenty as the interactions and relationships of all involved come into play, while all the time none deviate from their shared purpose. Emotions run high at times as old histories and long-held secrets are brought to light, their fledgling trust and society is threatened from more than one quarter and relationships become as complicated as anything the celebrated author might have written.

This is just a beautiful read and the reader becomes completely involved with these characters, their foibles and their strengths. The gathering up of all the disparate threads and their subsequent weaving into one delicious narrative cloth has been achieved skillfully and it would be a hard-to-please reader who will not enjoy this gentle but thoughtful excursion into another time and place.

Highly recommended for readers from YA to adult – I have already been talking it up in my bookish circles.

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency – L. D. Lapinski




APR 28, 2020 | 9781510105942 | RRP $16.99

Twelve year old Flick Hudson is really not sure about her family’s move to a village, leaving their rather cramped flat for a much bigger home. Of course their old home wouldn’t have been so squashy if her dribbling, annoying baby brother Freddy hadn’t arrived some time before. With her parents always busy working so hard it seems that Flick’s life has become more and more a case of looking after Freddy, picking up after everyone, house chores and even cooking. Truthfully she’s a bit fed up with it all and spends a lot of time daydreaming of exotic destinations she’d love to visit.

When she wanders down to explore her new surrounds and check out the village she comes across the strangest shop. The Strangeworlds Travel Agency is like no other travel agent she has ever seen. There are no glossy brochures or computers or schedules of any kind, just shelf after shelf of rather battered suitcases and a young man – boy, almost- who says he is the owner.

Jonathan Mercator has, he says, recently inherited the shop from his father and at first, is very reluctant to even talk to Flick but that all changes when she unwittingly demonstrates her innate magical ability.

Flick is astonished when Jonathan reveals the true nature of the travel agency. Each suitcase is a portal to a different world in what Jonathan calls the ‘multiverse’. More than that, as he begins to initiate Flick as a member of the Strangeworlds secret society he also hopes she can help discover how his father disappeared and where he might be.

The pair begin their exploration and Flick is fascinated by the variety and beauty of different worlds at first but when they end up in the City of Five Lights things begin to be not so fun. It seems that this could be where Mercator Senior disappeared and more than that, there are people in the city who are determined to steal their way out of that world and take over another. Flick and Jonathan must find their way out of a grim adventure which threatens not only their own safety but that of the multiverse itself.  Their burgeoning friendship is severely tested as events unfold and reveal secrets which compromise their mutual trust.

Any of your readers who enjoy narratives such as the Rondo trilogy, Inkspell or Pages & Co with rich imaginative adventures amid magical surroundings will love this. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read with just enough danger to make it exciting and certainly much to offer about family and friendships.

As it’s a debut novel I’m even more impressed and clearly though there is a satisfactory ending there will, no doubt, be more to come as the intrepid pair continue their mission to find Jonathan’s father and to uphold their sworn Strangelands duty of protecting the many worlds of the multiverse.

Highly recommended for tweens of both genders.

Click to access 9781510105942-teachers-resources.pdf

Don’t Follow Vee – Oliver Phommavanh





May 2019


RRP: $16.99


So many of us are what could be referred to as social media junkies……of course I’m not talking about moi! But if you were a 12 year old kid who is not into any of platforms that your peers are, yet you are totally famous and have been since you were a baby, how would you feel about it?


Vee and her mum are a tight pair/team. Vee’s dad departed just after she was born and she’s never known him but her mum, who quite naturally considers Vee the sunshine of her life, has ‘Insta-grammed’ Vee’s entire life for all to see and appreciate. Now getting close to 150k followers, Vee is beginning to feel rather hemmed in and as if she has no ‘real’ life – just the one on Insta.


With her 13th birthday coming up, Vee is really not too sure about continuing with the whole deal, particularly as school/mates/self esteem kicks in so Vee comes up with a plan to dissuade her followers and encourage her mum to abandon the Chronicles and focus on her own life.


This is Oliver at his best. The characters are authentic with voices that will resonate with readers. It is funny, poignant, insightful and downright fabulous! For the more astute reader, there is a lot upon which to reflect regarding the bombardment of social media and virtual life re reality.


I loved this and I truly believe that your readers, either boys or girls, will also really engage with it.

Highly recommended for your readers from around ten years upwards.

Malory Towers: New Class at Malory Towers: Four brand-new Malory Towers 



Enid Blyton, Narinder Dhami, Patrice Lawrence, Lucy Mangan, Rebecca Westcott Smith


Hachette JUN 25, 2019 | 9781444951004 | RRP $14.99

If there’s anything Enid Blyton readers love more than EB stories – it’s more of them! The prolific writer who created so many memorable characters and series has left a legacy that continues to resonate with new generations of young readers.

Now it’s time to welcome some new girls to Malory Towers with four new stories each written by a notable author. Each continues to tell the adventures and mishaps, friendships and quarrels of the well-known pupils but introduces a new character into the mix. Marietta, Evelyn, Sunita and Maggie bring new perspectives into the crowd of Malory girls and despite some hiccups at the start are of course welcomed into the fold. Naturally there are those who continue to make things trickier for all – spoiled Gwendoline, for example – but in the true spirit of Malory all is resolved without enduring hard feelings. Honesty, justice, loyalty and acceptance are all evident in the stories as they always were. This is what has made this one of Enid’s most enduring and popular series 73 years after the original First Term at Malory Towers was published.

These new writers have brought a freshness to the originals while still retaining the ‘flavour’ of Enid’s unique style which will ensure an enthusiastic reception from the intended audience.

The Blyton books on our library shelves are among the most heavily borrowed – and recommended to peers. This will be no exception and undoubtedly will cause much excitement when it appears.

Highly recommended for young readers from around mid-primary.


Shadow of the Centaurs- Saviour Pirotta



January 2019


ISBN: 9781472940254
Imprint: Bloomsbury Education

RRP: $14.99


This is the fourth in this series but my first foray into the ancient world of scribe Nico and his slave friend Thrax who have become somewhat adept in solving most peculiar mysteries but it certainly won’t be the last. I loved the unravelling of the problem/s, the humour throughout, the characters and the revelations of everyday life in Ancient Greece.

Nico and Thrax along with all the other citizens of Athens are eagerly anticipating the imminent festival of Anthesteria (similar to All  Hallows’ Eve) with its accompanying spookiness and possibility of spirits roaming – oh, and lavish decadent feasting.

But before the boys can even begin to relax and enjoy the festivities they are confronted with the spectre of the Society of the Centaurs, a group dedicated to the destruction of Athens and all it represents.

Readers will find this very engaging with loads of humour and intrigue and despite themselves will learn much about life in ancient times.

A hugely enjoyable read well worth promoting to your readers aged from around eight years upwards.