Megan is not like her other sisters. They are loud and love sport, whereas Megan is quieter and loves to draw. It’s not that she doesn’t love them, or her mum and dad, it’s just that the broom cupboard offers a quieter place to get away and draw her fantastical creatures. So does her friend Li’s place. Ever since Li moved in across the road two years ago, the girls have been inseparable. Li is an only child with a single mum, and things are a lot calmer at their house. Plus, Li is a creative too. She loves to write, especially about aliens, and brings Megan’s creatures to life by giving them their own names and backstories. Then one Friday, everything changes. A blue glow takes over the town and everyone in it, except for Megan, Li and Megan’s dog Callie. People stop and quietly stare in a zombie like state. And when Megan tries to draw, it seems the pencil takes on a life of its own and she can’t control her hand. The same happens when Li writes her stories. On their way to get help, Callie leads them to the Talora Caves where they see an eerie blue glow emanating from the cavern. It tries to capture their minds and pull them in. The girls will have to use all their courage and awaken their fantasy beasts to defeat the creature that is The Glow.
This is a fast-paced, supernatural tale of adventure, friendship and heroism, set against a background of creativity and fantasy. Two ordinary girls are caught in an extraordinary situation and must use all of their creative skills to save their town. The story is extremely well written with short chapters, engaging language and plenty of mystery and excitement to keep the reader wanting more. The illustrations, especially those of the creatures, are very intricate with a hint of danger and menace, and will have huge appeal to those who loved the Deltora Quest series and the dragons, orcs, and other beasts from Middle Earth, Harry Potter and Hayao Miyazaki. As a lover of fantasy, I couldn’t put this one down and highly recommend it for upper primary and middle grade readers.
Supporting teaching themes could include mythical creatures, dragons, fantasy, friendship, apocalypses, monsters, dogs, bravery, creativity, illustrating, writing.
Find out more about Sofie Laguna
Find out more about Marc McBride
Published by Allen & Unwin
Released March 2023
Highly recommended for ages 9 +
Ben has lived with his aunt Samantha ever since he suffered a brain injury six years ago. His injury caused memory problems which means he can't remember anything about his past or his parents, or why his aunt seems to resent him so much. There are no photographs or keepsakes in the house to give him clues about his parents, except for a postcard, sent from Barcelona, that he salvaged from the bin when Samantha wasn’t looking. And lately, he seems to be forgetting things a lot more. He's so worried he could lose his memory forever, that he's taken to drawing his ideas on paper and keeping them hidden.
But today when he woke up, things felt different. The dream he frequently had about a dark cave with no way out had changed. He had seen a shaft of light ahead in the blackness and hurried towards it but, when he was almost there, his bedside alarm went off. As he rushed downstairs to help his aunt get ready for school, the sound of the clocks in the house intensified and then suddenly, stopped. His aunt didn’t seem to notice. Ben hadn't realised it was his twelfth birthday until he had began organising Samantha's notebooks and saw the date on the first page. September 15th. That’s when it started again. All the clocks in the house began ticking and clanging at once, the radio screeched, and the drips from the kitchen taps sounded like hail. The hands on the clocks started winding backwards, a storm began to brew outside, and he felt an intense tingling sensation run through his body as he fell to the floor. Then there was silence. When he opened his eyes, he was not in the kitchen anymore.
And so Jayben’s journey begins into the Elf world. He discovers that he is the Ninth Dreamer, the one prophesised to reignite the torch and bring peace to the land, and help the elves regain their memories instead of having to hang them in jars on trees so they don’t forget. With the help of his new-found friends Phee, Peggro, Maggie, Raynor and Yespa, they must get to the last rock, find Jayben’s memory chord, avoid getting caught by the agents, defeat the evil Snaggis, and destroy Null – the false Ninth Dreamer. But things are not as easy as they seem, and treachery hides in places where they least expect.
This is a fast paced, exciting, thrill a minute adventure into a new fantasy realm created by Thomas Leeds. A whole world of creatures and magic opens up from the very beginning. Evil witches, fantastic beasts, strange lands and powerful magic entice the reader deeper into the story with every page turn. A powerful new series from an author who has experienced the trauma of brain injury and memory loss himself, this has the potential to become the next sought-after fantasy classic for upper primary/middle grade readers. The cover art is both gorgeous and intriguing, and captures the essence of the story beautifully. There is so much more of this adventure waiting to be told!
Supporting teaching themes could include friendship, courage, fantasy, magic, magical realms, memory loss, neurological disorders, witches, families.
Find out more about Thomas Leeds
Cover Illustration Teo Skaffa
Published by Hodder & Stoughton (an imprint of Hachette UK)
Release date 2 February 2023.
ISBN: 9781444968637 (HB)
Highly recommended ages 9 - 13
From the dust cover to the end pages, this book will captivate and enchant you. Step into the first page and be transported to faraway lands and worlds where anything can (and does!) happen. This story will take you on a magical journey where you’ll meet bears, dragons, pirates and unicorns. You’ll sleep on top of the tallest palm tree, dine with merfolk and be serenaded by clams, glide across rainbows and be granted the very special gift of a giant’s friendship. You’ll be trapped in a tower, saved by a bee and challenge the cosmos. You might also have the chance to meet the moon mouse and help polish the stars. For when you hold a book, you hold the key to so many wonderful adventures. Then, when you are ready, you only have to close the cover of the book to return home. Can you go back to experience more adventures? Why yes you can! Wonders await when you open a book.
This book has quickly become one of my favourites. The story is beguiling, charming and expertly rhymed. Caroline Derlatka has a true gift for storytelling. Readers will find themselves drawn into a story that encapsulates all the wonder of childhood fairy tales with the imagination of stories yet to be told. The gorgeous illustrations are a visual treat. Sara Ugolotti uses a palette that is at once soft, but also bold when it needs to be. The gentle lines of the creatures and the joyous expressions of the two children upon each magical encounter are an absolute delight. See if you can find the golden hummingbird that appears on each page!
This book is everything you want a young child to feel and experience as they embark upon, or continue, their reading journey. What will you find there? What will there be? When you’re in a book, just read, and you’ll see.
This book proudly supports The White Feather Foundation, a charity that support projects across the globe that foster education and good health for young girls in developing nations; protect and preserve indigenous cultures; conserve and sustain the environment; and give access to clean water.
Supporting teaching themes could include fairy tales, magical creatures, dragons, pirates, sea creatures, giants, bears, space, the moon, imagination, storytelling, diversity, rhyming books, poetry.
Find out more about Caroline Derlatka.
Find out more about Sara Ugolotti.
Published by Bushel & Peck Books.
Distributed in Australia by New South Books.
Release date October 2022.
ISBN: 9781638190943 (HB)
Highly recommended ages 3 to 6.
This new rhyming tale from award winning author Graeme Base has something for everyone - vampires, robots, computers, bravery, adventure and a fearless heroine. The story opens with the death of a robot whose battery has been drained in the dead of the night by the evil vampire laptop Voltoid. The robotic townsfolk are consumed with fear and panic as all have heard of the dreaded Curse of Voltoid! PC Web calls for a volunteer to confront Voltoid and erase all files from his hard drive. The only one courageous enough to take on the challenge is Gertie Gif, a lowly cleaning droid. Gertie sets off with determination and resolve up the Hill of Dread towards Voltoid's Gothic style castle. Along the way she manages to delete the terrifying ware-wolf's system and befriends a baby software-wolf. Once in the castle, Gertie finds Voltoid in sleep mode and can see he's in dire need of a system clean and software update. She's almost finished when she realises she has forgotten her software bag! The young software-wolf leaps forward declaring 'I've got the latest updates!' He sinks his teeth into Voltoid's core, and loads him up with V-DOS 10.4. As the vampire's screen changes from sickly green to desktop blue, he reverts back to his normal friendly self. Over time, Gertie and the young software-wolf's success is written into the history of the town, eventually becoming a meme with a total data stream!
I absolutely love Graeme's play on tech terminology and there are lots of humorous character names (PC Web, MacSpam, Gertie Gif) and lines like 'I'm told the thing to do is drive a sharpened vector through his undead CPU', 'A cleaning out is what you need - now open up those ports.' And teachers will totally relate to the line 'No wonder I feel better - you've deleted Comic Sans!' This has to be one of the most overused fonts in education! Graeme's black and white illustrations are a delight and there is something new to discover every time the reader revisits a page. The aerial image of Gertie as she and the young software-wolf enter Voltoids' lair would be a wonderful study in perspective for young artists. A masterful interweaving of old and new that is a must have for school library and home collections.
Use this story in classrooms for poetry studies, storytelling, myths and legends, art studies (perspective, use of black and white for impact, how to bring character to inanimate objects) and of course as a comparison study to the story of Dracula! Themes to be explored could include bravery, adventure and friendship.
Find out more about Graeme Base
Published 2021 by HarperCollinsPublishers Australia
ISBN 9781460754696 (HB)
Recommended by the publisher for ages 5 + but I would suggest 8 + due to style and complexity of language.
I can't tell you how excited I was to find this in my local bookstore the other day! After being totally enthralled and captivated by the first two books - Aurora Rising and Aurora Burning - I couldn't wait to read the final instalment in this thrilling Sci Fi series.
Squad 312 are working together to fight against the destruction of the universe by the Ra'haam - an evil and insidious hive mind organism that not only consumes the bodies but also the minds of those it encounters. This instalment opens with Zila, Finian and Scarlett trying to come to grips with being alive after the Eshvaren Weapon blew itself apart and obliterated anything and everyone in its wake - including them. As the subtitle says 'It's About Time', and they eventually figure out they have been transported back in time but are stuck in a time loop that will soon end, and they have to work out a way to convince their new nemisis, Nari Kim, that they are on the same side.
Meanwhile, Tyler is fighting two of his own battles in two different times - one with Saedii the Syldrathian Templar to take him back to the Aurora Academy and stop its destruction, and the other with Auri (the Eshvaren Trigger) and Kal (Saedii's brother) who have joined forces with Kal's heartless father Caesarn (who also happens to be a Trigger) to keep the last vestiges of life in the universe alive and out of reach of the Ra'haam.
Aurora's End is an intricately woven, fast paced story of space, time, end of the universe, and ultimately love, friendship and family. These two fantastic Aussie authors have delivered yet again with another mind bending, galactic adventure.
Find out more about Amie Kaufmann
Find out more about Jay Kristoff
Published in 2021 by Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781760295752 (PB)
Recommended for ages YA
This book was in my school library but not in my own, and I am thrilled to finally have a copy for my home library. There are so many layers to this beautiful story, and much that can be taught and expanded upon for use in the classroom. A young child becomes separated from family in the aftermath of a huge storm. She calls out for them, but no answer comes back. She runs to the beach hoping they might be there, but instead finds a baby seal who is also alone and frightened. She sees an abandoned boat and pushes the two of them out to sea, desperate to get away in case the storm comes back. They journey together for many days and nights, through cruel and kind weather, providing warmth and comfort for each other. One day, another seal appears, and mother and baby are reunited, and guide the young girl towards land. At first, she is lonely without the baby seal, until she is reunited with her family and feels safe again at last. Robert's heartwarming, poignant text is brought to life by Anna's stunning illustrations. The power and destruction of the storm, the changing moods and vastness of the sea, and the joy of both reunions are captured perfectly in the palette of ocean colours and facial expressions evident on each page. Friendship and hope, refugees, immigrants, marine animals, global warming, geography (islands nations) and extreme weather could all be linked as teaching ideas from this gorgeous book. A must have for any school or home library.
Find out more about Robert Vescio here.
Find out more about Anna Pignataro here.
Published 2021 by New Frontier Publishing Pty Ltd
ISBN 9781922326294 (HB)
Recommended for ages 3 - 6.
Monkey's Great Adventures: Afloat in Venice by Tina Wilson. Music by Matt Ottley.
Monkey was going on a holiday. He was given a very special present to take with him. He’d never been on a holiday before or owned a camera. Monkey begins packing immediately for an adventure like no other, as he travels by plane and boat to reach the famous floating city of Venice. When he arrives, he meets Clarabella the cat, who offers to take him on a tour of the city she knows so well. They walk across small bridges over the canals that connect the city, take a ride on a gondola and stop for some yummy pizza! At the end of a fun filled day, Monkey cannot resist taking just one more photo but – uh oh! Something happens to his camera and then Clarabella disappears and he’s left all alone. Will Clarabella come back? And what exactly happened to his camera? Monkey’s Great Adventures: Afloat in Venice is a charming story of adventure and friendship by Australian artist and author Tina Wilson. Tina uses her own beautiful photographic images of this iconic city to accompany the playful text. The hand knitted toy characters, made by Tina’s mum Joan Wilson, are immediately loveable and most certainly add to the appeal of this heart warming story.
Not only is Matt Ottley an amazing author and illustrator, but he is also an accomplished and talented composer. His music is the perfect companion to Monkey’s adventures in Venice. There is a childlike quality to the opening, and the interaction between clarinet, horn and strings when Clarabella and Monkey first meet is reminiscent of early singsong nursery rhymes. Different time signatures, tempos, dynamics and instruments are employed to reflect the varying moods and movement of the characters as they explore the city. Most children recognise the sound of a piano, and using this instrument as the connecting and supporting thread for the other instruments, makes for a clever and well-constructed musical accompaniment that creates a wonderful aural and visual experience for the reader and listener.
This is a must have story for preschool and early primary school library collections, and one for your own collection too if you have young ones at home. It is the first in a series of adventures for Monkey, and I can’t wait to see what he gets up to next!
The knitting patterns for the characters and a CD of the music and narration are included at the end of the book. Tina has included some fantastic teaching notes which are available for download on her website. You can also download and listen to the story and music on Matt’s website
Find out more about Tina Wilson
Find out more about Matt Ottley
Due for release September 1, 2021. Published by One Tentacle Publishing
ISBN 9780648511960 (HB)
Recommended for ages 3 - 7
Lali finds a feather while she's playing in the field. She thinks the feather might be lost so she sets out to find it's home. Along the way she meets la ot of different birds and asks them all the same question, 'Is this feather yours?' Each bird replies 'Na, Lali, Na!', saying the feather is either too little, or not perky or fancy or warm enough, So Lali decides to keep the feather and show the cheeky birds all the wonderful things the feather can do. All of a sudden big old wind comes along and lifts the feather high in the air and it floats away. This makes Lali very sad and, although all of the other birds offer her their fancy feathers, Lali just wants her plain, pokey little feather. When it eventually floats back to the ground, everyone wants to play with this most wonderful feather! The book ends with Lali finding another, equally intriguing object that promises even more adventures.
This is a wonderful story about a young Indian girl with a big imagination, who sees the value and potential in the small things around her. The vibrant illustrations are a perfect match for the text which is interspersed with Indian slang, and helps showcase the diversity inherent in the story. Lali's colourful clothes, her long brown braid and her bindi, are a beautiful depiction of a carefree young Indian girl. This is a must have book to help diversify your library collection for younger readers.
You can find out more about Farhana Zia's books here and about Stephanie Fizer Coleman's beautiful illustrations here.
Published in 2020 by Peachtree Publishing Company Inc.
Recommended for ages 4 - 8
Normally I'd be reviewing my favourite picture book but I also love Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels and Aurora Rising is one Sci-Fi Young Adult novel that I simply could not put down. In this first of the Aurora Cycle trilogy, we meet the members of Squad 312 who've just graduated from the Aurora Academy, the elite training school for peacekeeping forces in the galaxy. Grouped together by accident rather than choice after graduation, they are sent on a routine assignment as their first mission. This assignment turns out to be anything but routine and becomes focused around the story of a stowaway, Auri. Rescued by the squad captain, Tyler, on a clandestine one-last-time-test-flight before graduation, Auri proves that she is integral to the group, and to solving a mystery that sees the squad break every rule in the Academy's Code of Conduct in order to prevent the past from destroying the future. This is a fast paced, unputdownable Sci-Fi adventure from award winning duo Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff that leaves you wanting more with every page turn.
Published May 2019 by Allen and Unwin Australia
Recommended for ages YA
Click here for the official book trailer.