Squidge Dibley Destroys the School by Mick Elliott

Squidge DibleyTitle: Squidge Dibley Destroys the School

Author: Mick Elliott

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books

Published: 25th June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 175

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Squidge Dibley is the new kid at Craglands South Primary … and the school might not survive him. The start of a hilarious new series about a very strange class, perfect for fans of Weirdo, Funny Kid and Tom Gates.

Things are going downhill fast for class 6PU at Craglands South Primary School. They’ve changed teachers more times than most kids change their socks, and their latest one is so strict they aren’t even allowed to sneeze. But just when it seems like the school term has been turned into a prison term, a new kid arrives.
A kid unlike any other kid at Craglands South.
A kid named Squidge Dibley.
He’s small, quiet and strangely … squidgy.
And he’s about to change everything.

SQUIDGE DIBLEY DESTROYS THE SCHOOL is book one in a hilarious new series by Mick Elliott, author of THE TURNERS, and features his unforgettable cartoon-style illustrations on every page.


Padman O’Donnell is in year six at Craglands South Primary School – and is in a class that churns through teachers faster than anyone could ever imagine. One day, the only teacher who has managed to survive the longest it taken away sick, and the class has to be taught by Vice Principal Hoovesly – who has so many rules, he starts to make them up as he goes just to have a reason to punish the class – for breathing, for gasping, for trying to learn. Until the day Squidge Dibley arrives. Unlike any other student, Squidge has a variety of unusual diseases that make him burp, stretch, and explode when exposed to certain elements and noises – something that kids will find very amusing if they enjoy this kind of humour.

Each time a teacher tries to make Squidge do something, he produces a note – informing the teacher of what not to do and why, resulting in various incidents where the teacher, in many cases, Vice Principal Hoovesly, is thwarted in what he is trying to do. As the narrator, Padman provides his thoughts and impressions on each student and the teachers, so everything that happens is seen through his eyes. However, Hoovesly is quite an awful person, so even Principal Shouthmouth (called that because nobody in the story can pronounce her real name) is keen to see him get what he deserves. When a teacher forbids sneezing – something you can’t control, drastic measures must be taken.

The first in a new series, this is sure to capture the imaginations of younger readers with the cartoon-like illustrations that complement the text, and the fun characters who cause mischief, but when it counts, really come together and utilise their unusual talents and tricks to help their new friend, Squidge. Every character in this novel is different and has a quirk that makes them unique. It is these differences that are celebrated throughout the book, as they should be in real life as well.

This is a great book for primary school readers looking for a bit of fun and difference in their reading, and is a good, quick read as well.

Fled by Meg Keneally

FledTitle: Fled

Author: Meg Keneally

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Echo Publishing

Published: 15th April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 394

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Jenny Trelawney is no ordinary thief. Forced by poverty to live in the forest, she becomes a successful highwaywoman – until her luck runs out.

Transported to Britain’s furthest colony, Jenny must tackle new challenges and growing responsibilities. And when famine hits the new colony, Jenny becomes convinced that those she most cares about will not survive. She becomes the leader in a grand plot of escape, but is survival any more certain in a small open boat on an unknown ocean?

Meg Keneally’s debut solo novel is an epic historical adventure based on the extraordinary life of convict Mary Bryant.


Meg Keneally’s debut novel, Fled, is a fictionalised account of Mary Bryant’s daring escape from the colony of Sydney Cove in 1791, after her 1788 transportation. In Fled, Meg has created the character Jenny Trelawney as her Mary Bryant stand in, and has used facts and instances from Mary’s life – such as the names and birthdates of her children  – Charlotte and Emanuel, some of her family life and their names back in Cornwall (or Penmor for Jenny), and the main event, her daring escape to Coepang from Sydney Cove.

Following her father’s death. Jenny Trelawney, facing poverty, becomes a highwaywoman. She succeeds for months, until a brutal attack lands her in jail, on trial and soon sees her being transported with the First Fleet to Sydney Cove, where she marries Dan Gwyn to protect her daughter, Charlotte. They are eventually joined by son, Emanuel.

When famine hits shortly after, Jenny helps to hatch a daring escape plan with a few other convicts and her family, and they begin their journey towards Coepang (Kupang now) in what was then a Dutch colony in Timor, where they manage to hide out for months. Their journey is fraught with dangers, and Jenny worries about their survival, but as a mother, she feels she is saving her children from a worse fate in what to them, was a desolate colonial existence.

2019 Badge

Using Jenny Trelawney to tell Mary Bryant’s story is a clever way to explore a time in Australia’s history where the voices of those invaded the Indigenous people and those forced to go to the colony – the convicts – are often ignored. We get one woman’s story here, but it is a glimpse into what life was like for these people, both living an unwanted existence following the arrival of the First Fleet. It was an era of colonialism, where only the free and powerful had any voice and ability to write history. So for many years, this was the history that was taught. In recent years, a surge in stories about the people whose voices were often left out, relegated into a single group experience – which differed from group to group – are getting a chance to shine.

And this is where books like Fled come in. Not only are we getting to read about the convict experience but are seeing depictions of how some of the convicts might have interacted with the local Indigenous people, and how the convicts didn’t want to be there at all. It is also giving women of the time a voice. Whilst there may be stories about male convicts, like much of history, the voices of the women who suffered and struggled alongside them are absent. Women like Jenny Trelawney and Mary Bryant are often silent, unless they did something of significance or something significant happened to them. In this instance, we may end up knowing their name and their general story, but their voice is still not always present. Here, Jenny at least is given a voice, and I hope to see more stories like this – from convict and Indigenous perspectives – coming out to give balance to the historical record.

Reading this book, I could smell the seas, feel the rocking of the boats, and see, smell and hear all the unease of the new colony, and its makeshift huts and how they had to start navigating a world they never thought they would have to encounter.

Whilst this falls under historical fiction, it also suits one of my book bingo categories, a fictional biography of a woman from history, which I am stretching a bit, yet I feel like it fits well here. I will post that book bingo post later in the year, as the next several posts are already written and scheduled.

Another great book by an Australian woman, that is written very evocatively, and has power and emotion behind it.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 20th Anniversary House Editions by JK Rowling

Azkaban 20 RavenclawTitle: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 20th Anniversary House Editions

Author: J.K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 13th June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 468

Price: Hardback – $27.99 Paperback – $16.99

Synopsis:Let the magic of J.K. Rowling’s classic Harry Potter series take you back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Issued to mark the 20th anniversary of first publication of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, this irresistible Ravenclaw House Edition celebrates the noble character of the Hogwarts house famed for its wit, learning and wisdom. Harry’s third year at Hogwarts is packed with thrilling Ravenclaw moments, including the appearance of the inimitable Professor Trelawney!

With vibrant sprayed edges in Ravenclaw house livery, the book features beautiful house-themed cover artwork with intricate bronze foiling. With an exciting, bespoke introduction exploring the history of Ravenclaw House, and exclusive insights into the use of the Patronus Charm by favourite Ravenclaw characters, the book also boasts a spectacular image by Kate Greenaway winner Levi Pinfold of Cho Chang conjuring her Patronus. All seven books in the series will be issued in these highly collectable, beautifully crafted House Editions, designed to be treasured and read for years to come.

A must-have for anyone who has ever imagined sitting under the Sorting Hat in the Great Hall at Hogwarts waiting to hear the words, ‘Better be RAVENCLAW!’

Gryffindor: Harry’s third year at Hogwarts sees more great Gryffindor moments and characters – including Harry’s mastery of that most advanced of charms, the Patronus – not to mention four of the most memorable alumni, Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs.

Hufflepuff: Harry’s third year at Hogwarts sees more great Hufflepuff moments and characters, not least their Quidditch team’s triumph over under their captain – and Hufflepuff heart-throb – Cedric Diggory.

Ravenclaw: Harry’s third year sees more great Ravenclaw moments and characters -not least Harry’s first highly perfumed lesson with the inimitable Professor Trelawney, who – true to her house – proves to have exceptional mental powers.

Slytherin: Harry’s third year sees more great Slytherin moments and characters – including Professor Snape’s masterful potion-making, and Draco Malfoy’s typically sneaky attempt to sabotage the Gryffindor Seeker.


Each year for the past three years, Bloomsbury had released house editions for each of the first three novels in the much-loved Harry Potter series. This year, 2019, marks twenty years since the third, and my favourite novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabanwas published in 1999. In his third year, Harry returns to Hogwarts after notorious mass murderer, Sirius Black has escaped from the wizard prison, Azkaban. The entire wizarding world has believed that Sirius murdered twelve Muggles and fellow wizard, Peter Pettigrew not long after Voldemort killed James and Lily Potter and failed to kill Harry. But there is more to Sirius’ story than everyone thinks they know.

Azkaban 20 Gryffindor

Throughout the year, Hogwarts hosts the Dementors from Azkaban – guards you drain the happiness out of everything and can only be expelled with the use of the very advanced Patronus charm. Finally, in this novel, Harry has a decent Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher in Professor Remus Lupin – who knows to distribute chocolate after a Dementor attack and teaches his students more than they have learned with their previous teachers, especially Gilderoy Lockhart. Lupin’s presence and the arrival of Sirius are perhaps why this is my favourite – they provide a link to Harry’s parents and early life in the wizarding world he never thought he had or would ever have.

It is also where the story begins to get darker, and has a sinister feel creeping in, that starts to lead into what is to come in books four to seven to conclude the series. As Harry gets older, each book gets longer and darker – and the rest of the house editions will be released on dates to be announced.Azkaban 20 Hufflepuff

In the house editions for the third book, the house content for the four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, revolves around key moments and characters linked to the story, as per the above descriptions, and look at the Patronus’s for four key characters: an otter for Hermione Granger, the wolf for Nymphadora Tonks, a swan for Cho Chang and the doe for Snape. These are attached to an overview of the Patronus Charm. The House Specific content in each book adds to the story and gives more insight into the Wizarding World and the characters who populate it. It makes for a rich reading experience for new and old readers of the series.

Azkaban 290 Slytherin

I am enjoying collecting these house editions, particularly the Ravenclaw ones, and am looking forward to seeing how Ravenclaw house is explored in future books.

Stasi 77 by David Young

Stasi 77Title: Stasi 77

Author: David Young

Genre: Historical Fiction/Crime

Publisher: Zaffre

Published: 3rd June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $19.99

Synopsis:A gripping and evocative crime thriller set in East Germany.

A secret State. A dark conspiracy. A terrible crime.

Karin Müller of the German Democratic Republic’s People’s Police is called to a factory in the east of the country. A man has been murdered – bound and trapped as a fire burned nearby, slowly suffocating him. But who is he? Why was he targeted? Could his murderer simply be someone with a grudge against the factory’s nationalisation, as Müller’s Stasi colleagues insist? Why too is her deputy Werner Tilsner behaving so strangely?

As more victims’ surface, it becomes clear that there is a cold-blooded killer out there taking their revenge. Soon Muller begins to realise that in order to solve these terrible crimes, she will need to delve into the region’s dark past. But are the Stasi really working with her on this case? Or against her?

For those who really run this Republic have secrets they would rather remain uncovered. And they will stop at nothing to keep them that way…

A gripping and evocative crime thriller, moving between the devastating closing weeks of the Second World War and the Stasi-controlled 1970s, Stasi 77 is David Young’s most compelling and powerful novel yet.


The fourth book in the Karin Müller series sees Karin investigating deaths at a factory that was once the site of a terrible massacre at the end of World War Two during a Nazi death march from one of the concentration camps. At the same time, she is raising her young twins – Johannes and Jannika, born in Stasi Wolf the second book. Karin begins the investigation, but senses there is more to what is happening than her Stasi colleagues insist.

Soon, she works out that the victims are all linked somehow, and that the killer is taking revenge for past wrongs during the years of Nazi rule in Germany, and Karin must look into the past of Germany and the region, and uncovers secrets that many people had hoped would stay hidden – secrets that the Stasi is willing to end careers over and cover up for certain people.

It is clear from the start that there is a link to Nazi Germany, as the novel moves back and forth between 1945 and 1977, culminating in the final discoveries in the last chapters.

It is a world that has been touched by the extremes of fascism, and Nazism between 1933 and 1945, after a decade and a bit of the Weimar Republic, and the extremes of Communism, and finding ways to sneak access to items from the West, or threatening to tell the West German media about the secrets the Stasi is content to hide, even if it means harming people to do so. It is a world that Karin has grown up in, yet on some levels, is starting to question, or at least question the morality of ignoring a horrific past that has scarred many and continues to do so.

The issues explored in this series are deeply political, reminding us of where extremes, especially right-wing extremes of fascism, and the need to control everything, can end up. Communism was probably not the answer to end the Nazi regime. Both regimes penalised people for certain things, and created a society of distrust, much like is happening today – and the small things Karin says and does to some characters are examples of her attempt to undermine the system that hides the dark secrets of Nazis and the Stasi.

It deftly explores these conflicts, whilst reflecting the harsh realities of how citizens were treated and how the slightest infraction that these days would seem ridiculous to report to police, can almost ruin a life. Karin must work within the system to achieve the outcomes she seeks, yet at the same time, find a way to outsmart it without endangering her life, career and the lives of her family. It is a satisfying, yet dark read, as well as a very compelling story and page turner. It is a great addition to the series.

When We Were Warriors by Emma Carroll

when we were warriors.jpgTitle: When We Were Warriors

Author: Emma Carroll

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Faber

Published: 3rd June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: An irresistible return to World War Two for the Queen of Historical Fiction.

A body washed up on the beach…
Evacuation to an old house with forbidden rooms and dark secrets…
An animal rescue service…

Set in World War Two, Emma Carroll explores the resilience, resourcefulness and inventiveness of children when their lives fall to pieces. Introducing some compelling new characters, as well as revisiting some familiar settings, these adventures are sure to win over new readers, as well as fans of old favourites such as Letters from the Lighthouse and Frost Hollow Hall.

Air raids, rationing, the threat of invasion: everyday life in wartime Britain is pretty grim, and often pretty dull.

That’s what Stanley thinks, anyway – until his home is bombed and he’s evacuated to a remote old house with the mysterious name Frost Hollow Hall…

It’s what Olive thinks too – until she finds a body washed up at Budmouth Point…

Velvet just wishes she could be useful – and when the air-raid warden brings in a ban that puts all the pets in peril. she grabs her chance.

Three thrilling stories about three different children, who find adventure, courage, untrainable dogs and an impossibly tall American GI where they least expect it.


Literature and stories set in World War Two for children don’t shy away from the fear and horrors of the war years. Instead, they tell the stories through the eyes of the children, and in a way that younger readers can grasp and relate to without going too far into the darkness of the war or making it too happy. They have a really good balance, and Emma Carroll’s latest, When We Were Warriors does not disappoint.

Here are three separate novellas, about three different children during the war, connected by displacement, air raids and places of isolation, and the presence of Americans in Britain during the days of the war following America’s entry in 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbour.

In The Night Visitors, Stanley and his sisters are evacuated to Frost Hollow Hall, and are told not to go near the lake. And not to disturb the mistress of the house. There seems to be a mystery surrounding everything there, and when an American GI turns up, secrets start to come out with revelations that change them all. Here, Emma shows what the reality of evacuees was, and how they adapted to their surroundings in days when fear drove so many things.

In the second story, Olive’s Army, the children and young people of Budmouth Point discover a body on the beach – the body of a German soldier, whose identity becomes confused with Ephraim, the lighthouse keeper. Ephraim is arrested, and the children must prove he is innocent and stop a German invasion. Also present in this novel, is the shadow of the Nazi concentration camps, and the Kindertransport that one character, Esther, was on. Carroll relays this part of the war simply, within a few sentences but still conveys the reality of what Jewish people went through during the war. Again, the American GI shows up to help solve the mystery.

Finally, in Operation Velvet, Velvet sets out to save the animals of her friends and family, after an air raid warden puts forward rules that put them in danger. when she discovers a dog with puppies, together with her friends and the help of an American GI, she saves all the pets and finds homes for the puppies.

With several things connecting these stories, this is a great book, and I really enjoyed the way the connections were at first, surface: the war, seen through the eyes of children, invasion, evacuation and threats. Astute readers will notice the less obvious, or at least more subtle link as they read, and get to the end where things become clearer. It is cleverly put together and shows how war affected people differently through three very unique experiences.

Chanel’s Riviera by Anne De Courcy

chanels riviera.jpgTitle: Chanel’s Riviera

Author: Anne de Courcy

Genre: History, Non-Fiction

Publisher: Hachette/Weidenfeld and Nicholson

Published: 11th June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 291

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Bestselling social historian Anne de Courcy reveals the glamour and grit of the Second World War on the French Riviera

Far from worrying about the onset of war, in the spring of 1938 the burning question on the French Riviera was whether one should curtsey to the Duchess of Windsor. Few of those who had settled there thought much about what was going on in the rest of Europe. It was a golden, glamorous life, far removed from politics or conflict.

Featuring a sparkling cast of artists, writers and historical figures including Winston Churchill, Daisy Fellowes, Salvador Dali, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Eileen Gray and Edith Wharton, with the enigmatic Coco Chanel at its heart, CHANEL’S RIVIERA is a captivating account of a period that saw some of the deepest extremes of luxury and terror in the whole of the twentieth century.

From Chanel’s first summer at her Roquebrune villa La Pausa (in the later years with her German lover) amid the glamour of the pre-war parties and casinos in Antibes, Nice and Cannes to the horrors of evacuation and the displacement of thousands of families during the Second World War, CHANEL’S RIVIERA explores the fascinating world of the Cote d’Azur elite in the 1930s and 1940s. Enriched with much original research, it is social history that brings the experiences of both rich and poor, protected and persecuted, to vivid life.


1938 Europe was awash with the rise of Nazism, the threat of war, and the unsettled nature of the European continent. Yet at the same time, there was a section of society living along the Riviera in France – for a time, untouched by Nazism, where the biggest concern was whether to curtsey for the wife of the Duke of Windsor, who had abdicated two years earlier to marry her. This latter world was that of Coco Chanel, and a wide, and varied cast of artists, people involved in fashion, an d many others for whom, until the German occupation of France, and Vichy’s increasing anti-Semitic laws in the 1940s, war was not a reality. Until the worlds of luxury and terror clashed, nobody thought much of the threat facing people in other parts of France or Europe. Chanel was focussed on her fashion designing, and fashion house. She did not appear to care that rights were being cut down for Jews, despite employing them and claiming to have Jewish friends, there was evidence to suggest she was anti-Semitic and later in the war, she was spied on under suspicion of collusion with the German side. Yet evidence for this is inconclusive and could never been proven by French and English spies and investigators.

For Chanel, the interruption of war was an economic inconvenience for her fashion house and empire, rather than the completely traumatic upheaval it was for the rest of society. She was put out by the fact that she had to shut her business down and move out of her apartments at the Ritz, which, when she returned later, she found overrun by Germans and this led to the suspicions that she was working with them. One possibility – based on her view that she was merely economically inconvenienced in my reading – was that her meeting with Churchill towards the end of the war was motivated by her desire to simply get back into business. That does not exclude any other motivations or her collaboration with the Nazis as a spy. Economy is one possibility for why she did what she did – but it should not be a reason to excuse her views either. However, as De Courcy mentions, it may never be known what her true motivations were, even if there is proof of her anti-Semitism and Nazi connections, which aren’t really touched on in this book too much, as it is more of a history of the Riviera during the 1930s and 1940s  than a biography of Chanel herself. Still, it is important to remember that she was an anti-Semite and she was a Nazi supporter and spy. Looking further into Chanel herself will reveal more about this for those interested.

This is not just about Coco Chanel though, nut she appears throughout and not in the most flattering light, given she was a Nazi supporter and spy.  It is more about the social fabric that made the Riviera the place it was before and during World War Two, the people who lived on the Cotê d’Azur, and the elite world they lived in – far removed from the realities of what most people were dealing with. But as the threat of war and war itself progressed, these people found themselves at threat, running and hiding until the war was over, keeping their art and literature away from the Nazis. In some cases, those with Jewish heritage did what they could to hide that heritage, often at great cost or pain to themselves and their families. But the fear and knowledge of what could happen made people desperate.

It was a dark time in European history, and a time filled with contradictions, where the French under the German rule found subtle, subversive ways to rebel against the rules imposed upon them. If they could not wear the French standard as it was, they found ways to wear all three colours together, so that each looked innocuous but really, they were making a point – and nothing could be done. Overall, it is quite a complex book, with many individuals and events creating the environment that went dead for the duration of the war but was lively again following liberation and the end of the war. It shows a society that was at first so far removed from war, they didn’t think about what might happen until it affected them. In a lavishly rich society, these people were cushioned and protected to some extent by their belief that France wouldn’t fall, that war would not touch them. History certainly tells a different story, and the idyllic Riviera would be changed for a time, and those who lived there altered as well.

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

Mary Poppins novel .jpgTitle: Mary Poppins

Author: P.L. Travers

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 2016 (First published 1934)

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:Discover the joy and wonder of Mary Poppins in the classic adventures!

The original best-loved classic about the world’s most famous nanny – Mary Poppins.

When the Banks family advertise for a nanny, Mary Poppins and her talking umbrella appear out of the sky, ready to take the children on extraordinary adventures.

Mary Poppins is strict but fair, and soon Michael and Jane are whisked off to a funfair inside a pavement picture and on many more outings with their wonderful new nanny!

Needless to say, when at last ‘the wind changes’ and she flies away, the children are devastated. But the magic of Mary Poppins will stay with the Banks family forever.

The original story of the world’s most famous nanny, Mary Poppins, is a timeless classic that has enchanted generations.


For many people, their first introduction to Mary Poppins was probably the 1964 Disney movie starring Julie Andrew and Dick van Dyke, and for kids these days, possibly 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns with Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda. However, the story and the characters we love (some of which were fleshed out in the movie adaptation) were created long before Disney brought them to life. Created in 1934 by P.L. Travers, the pen name of Helen Goff, Mary sprang from the imagination of an Australian writer, who was born in Maryborough, Queensland. The story of her life and fight with Walt Disney over the movie adaptation are part of another book I hope to read this year.

When Katie Nanna leaves the Banks household, an advert is put out for a new nanny. Soon after, Mary Poppins arrives – quite suddenly and with the East Wind. She enters Cherry Tree Lane, and is soon taking Jane and Michael, and the Twins – John and Barbara (omitted from the movie) on adventures to buy gingerbread, to meet her uncle who has tea parties on the ceiling and communicates with dogs in the neighbourhood, convincing other residents of Cherry Tree Lane to do the proper thing.

Jane and Michael watch this in awe and are quite taken with their new nanny. Strict but fair, Mary Poppins encourages her charges to behave – with perhaps a little less whimsy and magic than her film counterpart, but to Jane and Michael, anything she does is wondrous.  As we all know, Mary Poppins does not stay longer than she is needed – and must leave on the West Wind. As this was originally written as a series, there are hints that she will be back – and hopefully, the rest of the series will be read and reviewed here soon.

2019 Badge

The magic of the book Mary Poppins is in the way she appears, disappears and takes the children to areas of London they never knew existed. It is in the way Mary Poppins comes filled with wonder, a flying umbrella and medicine that changes flavour for the person having it. Of course, all these things made it into the movie, plus more. A much-loved classic, the book, much like the movie, has its own charm and magic that will enchant readers of all ages for generations to come.

Though set in England during the 1930s, in contrast to the 1910 setting of the film and 1935 setting of the recent follow-up, Mary Poppins will always be a classic of Australian literature. It may not be as Australian as Seven Little Australians, or the Magic Pudding, but it still falls under Australian writers and literature. Mary Poppins might be properly English, but as we know, she is also practically perfect in every way, and her creator is very much Australian.

A good read for all ages.