Shona is a princess who lives in the Castle-by-the-Woods with her parents Mum-Queen and Dad-King. She also loves to invent and fix things. Dad-King had even built her a small bench in the shed that was supposed to read 'The Fix-It Princess', but actually read 'The Fox-It Princess', because they'd run out of ink. Lately things hadn't been going so well for the fix-it princess. Shona's parents had taken off a few days ago in the Wing-Thing she had made for their joint birthday presents, and hadn't been seen since. Plus there was no money in the royal chest and no servants to make the yummy food that had always been specially prepared for the Castle Feasts that were held each year. Shona did have chickens for eggs and Wildfire, her father's horse, and an abundance of turnips, but not much else. She managed to keep herself fed and upbeat about her parents homecoming (although she thought it was highly irresponsible of them to be away this long), and chatted to the picture of her Nana that she'd drawn to keep her company. On the third day of her parents being missing, Shona had an idea. She was the fix-it princess after all, and she knew she could solve this problem. She would take Wildfire and embark on a Royal Quest! But before that could happen she needed to get the drawbridge to work, fix the chicken pen that was falling apart after the fox had gotten in, and draw some posters with pictures of her mum and dad on them to hand out in the Village. That was a LOT of fixing, but once it was all done, she still had one more problem to solve. Who was that singing in the woods? She knew for sure it wasn't Mum-Queen so she went to investigate, and found herself face to face with an enormous dragon with the most beautiful voice, and one very large and very sore tooth! Think it through carefully, sweetheart. Slow down, darling, and take things steadily. Things will turn out better if you don't rush them, she could hear her parents saying. Could the dragon be the solution to helping Princess Shona find her parents?
This is a delightful tale by well known Australian author Janeen Brian, of a princess with a can-do attitude, a dragon who needs help learning to fly again, a horse whose name is definitely not a reflection of his character, and two missing parents who are stuck on an island with no way of getting home - unless their fix-it daughter can solve the problem. Readers will love the humour and mishaps in this fairytale like story, and the wild and wonderful ways Shona goes about solving her problems. Told with warmth, compassion, and a message of persistence and caring for all, both animal and human, this story will captivate readers from the very first page. Supported by wonderfully detailed and comical illustrations from Cherie Dignam, this is a highly entertaining story for ages 7+.
Teaching themes could include princesses, queens, kings, inventions, persistence, problem solving, flying, castles, fairytales, families.
Find out more about Janeen Brian
Find out more about Cherie Dignam
Published by Walker Books
Release date 8 March, 2023
Highly recommended for ages 7+
Thanks to Books On Tour Aus and Romi Sharp for the review copy
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
The Last Kids On Earth and the Forbidden Fortress by Max Brallier, Ill. by Douglas Holgate
An impenetrable fortress and a cosmic hand that is beginning to take on a mind of its own, are just the beginning of Jack’s problems in Book 8 of this graphic novel series. He and June have been staking out the fortress for weeks trying to find a way in so they can stop the evil warlord Thrull, from getting the schematics to The Tower. Thrull captured Ghazt and took him to the fortress so Wracksaw could extract the plans from Ghazt’s brain. Once finished, The Tower will allow Rezzoch the Ancient, Destructor of Worlds, access to their world where he’ll do exactly what his name suggests – destruct their world!
While Jack and June were being attacked by a not-so-tiny Splotcher, Quint, Dirk and Skaelka reappeared and saved the day! With the friends reunited, Skaelka reveals that the fortress fell through from her dimension, and that she was held prisoner there. She also knows there is only one way in because when she escaped, there was only one way out – the Cliff of Infinite Fatalities. As they try and come up with a plan to scale the cliff and infiltrate the fortress, Jack feels the cosmic hand, a new and not so welcome physical addition, start to pulse and tighten, and realises he has to be the one to somehow scale the cliff.
And so begins The Best Buddies Mission Force to break into the Fortress and save the world. Zombies, explosions, swamp monsters, fierce winds, Razorkaws and monster guards abound, but the most surprising discovery is that Skaelka wasn’t just speaking poetically about the heart of the fortress. The Fortress is actually alive! The group manage to scale the cliff and get inside where fights ensue with monster guards and, after almost being outnumbered, Jack’s much-loved monster dog, Rover, reappears with some new friends, The Goon Platoon, who add much needed monster fire power. They win the battle and penetrate the inner sanctum. Here they watch, stunned, as Wracksaw attaches armacles to the ceiling, his body glowing as he begins extracting the information from the brain of a motionless Ghazt. Suddenly Thrull appears, sucks the schematics into his own brain, and leaves triumphant.
Jack feels the cosmic hand pulsing, drawing him towards Ghazt who, with his dying breath, reveals the purpose and power of the cosmic hand. The story finishes with three important cliff hanger questions which will only be answered in the next exciting episode: Will Thrull build The Tower? Will Rezzoch be released? and Will Jack master the power of the cosmic hand?
Max Brallier and Douglas Holgate have delivered yet another epic, fast paced, thrill-a-minute ride in The Last Kids on Earth and the Forbidden Fortress. This will be a winner with fans of the series, and although it’s probably best to have read at least some of the other books, there are enough hints in the first few chapters to enable those who haven’t done so to catch up on previous dangerous, heart-stopping encounters. This story is packed with sci-fi fantasy adventure, humour, and fantastic illustrations, but also delivers on the important themes of friendship, bravery, loss, acceptance and relationships.
The graphic novels have made a very successful crossover from page to screen as a Netflix original TV series.
Supporting teaching themes include friendship, bravery, loss, zombies, monsters, relationships, science fiction, comics, graphic novels and cartoon illustrations.
Watch the trailer for The Last Kids On Earth and the Forbidden Fortress below.
Find out more about The Last Kids On Earth Series
Find out more about Max Brallier
Find out more about Douglas Holgate
Published by HarperCollins and released through HarperCollins Australia & New Zealand
Release date October 5th, 2022.
ISBN: 9780008582340 (BPB)
Highly recommended for ages 8 +