Mermaid Holidays: The Reef Rescue by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

mermaid holidays 4.jpgTitle: Mermaid Holidays: The Reef Rescue

Author: Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd December 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 128

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Sign up for Sea Star Reef Summer Camp and join Olivia Ocean, Chloe Coral, Sophia Seashell and Willow Wave for another splashing adventure in MERMAID HOLIDAYS . . .

The mermaids are off on a summer camp adventure. Olivia can’t wait! She loves camping under the waves, eating sea cucumber sizzles and EXPLORING. But when the besties find themselves on the wrong side of the reef things start to go very, very wrong.

Buckle up for a rip-roaring reef rescue!

~*~

In the fourth Mermaid Holidays book, focused on Olivia Ocean, the four friends – Willow, Chloe, Sophia and Olivia are back for the summer holidays, and this time they’re off on a summer camp adventure under the sea, next to a reef. They are determined to have fun and adventures, and to look for a creature called the Dumbo octopus!

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But with an angry camp director leading the explorer activities, Olivia and her friends decide to head off on their own, to explore the reef. When they find themselves in the out of bounds area of the reef, lost, and not sure how to get back to camp, they must work together to get back to camp before anyone can notice they are gone!

This was the fourth, and I believe, final book in this series, and it is just as charming as its predecessors. Each mermaid is unique and the activities they choose at camp reflect what they all enjoy and have enjoyed individually and as a group in the previous three books.

This series celebrates friendship and girls doing what they like and enjoy without relying heavily on gender stereotypes, and can be enjoyed by all ages. It allows each character to be herself but also shows that not everything will always work out  – and working together is sometimes the best outcome for everyone.

A great series for younger readers who are starting to gain confidence reading alone, or to read with children learning to read, and enjoy the stories together.

 

Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming by Belinda Murrell

Pippas Island 3.jpgTitle: Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming

Author: Belinda Murrell

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 2nd January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: The third book in the gorgeously happy and fun Pippa’s Island series sees Pippa and her friends competing in the school talent quest!

Kira Cove Public School is hosting a talent quest. Cici, Meg and Charlie couldn’t be more excited to perform, but Pippa gets butterflies at the thought of singing on stage. After a disastrous audition the girls get a second chance, but can Pippa find a way to smash her stage fright before the VIP concert?

Meanwhile, at the Beach Shack Cafe a mysterious visitor is causing havoc when backs are turned. When Pippa finds a clue, she is determined to track down the mischievous cafe thief.

Will Pippa sing with the Sassy Sisters?

~*~

Pippa is still waiting for her new home to be built above The Beach Shack Café. Whilst waiting, the school announces a talent contest. CiCi and Charlie are keen to enter, whilst Pippa and Meg are reluctant, yet join their friends despite their stage fright. To keep the peace, Pippa and Meg agree to go along with the audition – nut keep their costumes tame and leave the snazzier ones for the performance. When Tash is injured during the performance before the Sassy Sisters, it appears to throw off their performance, and they’re runners-up.

When they’re offered another chance to perform at the VIP Concert, Pippa must find a way to cure her stage fright and mend bridges with Olivia, who seems to think it is all Pippa’s fault. At the same time, Pippa must deal with her feelings about her father leaving the family, and find out who, or what, the mysterious food thief in the café is.

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In this story, I could totally understand Pippa’s stage fright. The way Pippa reacted would have been just how I would have, so its very relatable for readers to see. The way Pippa’s friends come together to help her get ready for the VIP concert and get over her stage fright was lovely, and this was a great addition to the Pippa’s Island series. I’m looking forward to reading the next two to see where Pippa and her friends go and what they do. Another great installment for all ages to enjoy.

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters by Belinda Murrell

Pippas Island 2.jpgTitle: Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters
Author: Belinda Murrell
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: 3rd July 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: Four best friends are about to discover that writing news isn’t as easy as it looks – especially when puppies, pop stars and photo shoots are involved!
Pippa is settling in to her island home – she’s even learning to surf. School is abuzz when Mrs Neill announces the launch of a new student newspaper. But how will Pippa, Meg, Charlie and Cici decide what to write about when the four friends have such different interests? A fashion photo shoot could be fun – if it weren’t for bad weather, a naughty puppy and other disasters.
Just when things couldn’t get any worse, the cub reporters get a news scoop that could bring the whole town together at the Beach Shack Cafe. Cupcakes for everyone!
Whose story will make the front page?

~*~
Pippa is slowly settling into her new life on Kira Island, at school, and with her new friends, Meg, CiCi and Charlie. When her primary school announces they will be starting a school paper, Pippa and her friends sign up – but when it comes to choosing a story to write for the paper, they can’t decide – each girl has a different idea, and ever the peacemakers, Pippa and Meg try to help the group come to a compromise.
The arrival of a local star causes waves, and when Olivia tries to use it to her advantage – things look as though they will backfire, and it is up to the Sassy Sisters to bring the newspaper together with the few students left from year six – and pull together a series of stories that will appeal to all their interests.

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The second Pippa’s Island book is just as fun as the first book – with the addition of a naughty puppy and takes place within weeks of the first book. This is a good pace, and keeps the links and feelings of the characters working well as the series progresses. I love all the characters – they are well-written and loads of fun. I am loving reading this series, and now have all five, with books four and five ready to read on my shelf when time allows. These are fabulous books that appeal to middle grade readers and older, celebrating family, friends and being yourself whilst showcasing a variety of interests and a spectacular Australian landscape.

Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

mermaid holidays 3.jpgTitle: Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off

Author: Delphine Davis

Genre: Children’s Fiction/Fantasy

Publisher: Penguin/Puffin

Published: 2nd September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 128

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Grab your favourite booth at the Turtleville Tearooms and join Chloe Coral, Sophia Seashell, Willow Wave and Olivia Ocean for another splashing adventure in MERMAID HOLIDAYS . . .

Chloe’s holidays have started with a BANG – and not a good one! With the Tearooms closed for the holidays and an unexpected rival back in town, the besties need a MERMAZING PLAN to save the day.

Prepare for a underwater bake-off like no other!

~*~

The third book in the Mermaid Holidays series sees Chloe, Sophia, Willow and Olivia back at Turtleville for the school holidays. While they are making plans for their time together before they go off to their separate schools again, they meet Chloe at her grandmother’s cafe, the Turtleville Tearooms. However, their plans are set aside when the kitchen of the Tearooms is destroyed when the oven explodes.

With her grandmother faced with closing it or paying lots of money to fix it, Chloe and her friends plan to raise money to save the tearooms – all while trying to outwit an old rival of Grandmer Carol who is determined to get her hands on the tearooms, and turn it into one of her own cafés.

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So the friends set to work, raising the money through a bake-off, so they can save their favourite hang-out from the clutches of Barbara Barnacle.  Can the girls save the day?

In their third outing, told from Chloe’s perspective this time, it is about friends uniting for a good cause, and displaying teamwork. This is an engaging, and fun to read series for early readers, and I am enjoying seeing what is on offer for kids these days, who have a myriad of Australian authors to choose from, which is exciting, and I love exploring these stories – not only because I love reading, and Australian fiction, but because it is so refreshing to see so many Australian authors around these days competing with international authors. Australian authors are getting much more attention these days, so Australians get to read their stories in a variety of ways.

I am looking forward to see how this series ends later in the year with the final book in the series.

While You Were Reading by Ali Klaus and Michelle Berg

while-you-were-reading-9781925750560_lg.jpgTitle: While You Were Reading

Author: Ali Klaus and Michelle Berg

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Published: July 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: Words are messy. Love is messier.
A hilarious, insightful new novel from the creators of Books on the Rail

Meet Beatrix Babbage – 29-year-old dog-earer of books and accidental destroyer of weddings.

After ruining her best friend’s nuptials, Bea relocates to the other side of the country in search of a fresh start, including meeting new people, living life to the fullest and finally pulling off balayage.

But after a few months, life is more stagnant than ever. Bea’s job is dead-end. Her romantic life? Non-existent. And her only friends are her books, her barista and her cleaning lady.

​Then Bea stumbles across a second-hand novel, inscribed with notes. Besotted with the poetic inscriptions, Bea is determined to find the author … and along the way, she finds herself entangled in one hell of a love quadrangle.

Funny, poignant and insightful, While You Were Reading reveals that there’s no such thing as perfection, the value of true friendship and, most importantly, the power of not living in fiction, but still reading it … Often.

A love story for book lovers that celebrates much more than romance.

~*~

Another offering from Book Ninjas, Ali and Michelle, While You Were Reading is another love letter to readers, books and the friendships forged through a love of reading. Beatrix Babbage is at her best friend’s wedding when everything in her life falls apart. She inadvertently ruins the wedding and is cut off from her friends. So, she moves to Melbourne to start over, and gets a job with a marketing agency, and befriends a poet-barista called Dino, his business partner, Sunday, and Mystery Writer, whose inscriptions in a book called Meeting Oliver Bennett guide her through her time in Melbourne. Yet her life stagnates, and her only regular contact is with Dino, her books, and her cleaner, Ramona, and the girls at the bookstore at the centre of Ali and Michelle’s previous book, The Book Ninja (there’s no need to read them in order, as they are both stand alones – more on this later.)

As the book moves on, Bea takes herself on a journey to discover who the Mystery Writer is, charting this online as Frankie did in The Book Ninja, and some of our favourite commenters pop up in her mentions, providing another delightful link back to The Book Ninja. Yet a chance meeting with Zach, another with Ruth and her unfolding friendship with Sunday, see her embroiled in a love quadrangle – with various people and books, as well as her constant attempts to reach out to her friend from Perth, Cassandra with disastrous results at one of her Next Chapter nights.

With Next Chapter – speed dating for books – Bea hopes to find Mystery Writer and connect with other readers – but her sister, Lizzie, an ex-Bachelor contestant, has other ideas that involve dating, romance and things Bea would rather not conflate her idea with.

The journey Bea takes has its ups and downs with people, work and books – leading to a fantastic result towards the end that gives her an amazing drive, and gives her much more to search for than romance. Instead, she makes friends with a group of people she least expected – of these, I think Mia was my favourite. followed closely by Sunday, because she followed her passions.

While You Were Reading is a cleverly written rom- com – the kind that is as much an ode to romantic love as it is an ode to friendship, knowing and loving yourself, and most importantly, for me, a love of books and the written word. It is driven by the marginalia of Meeting Oliver Bennett, leading to an author and connection that came as a complete surprise to me – and even though this is a well-used trope, the way it is executed is original and ensures the mystery is kept up to the final pages.

2019 BadgeIt is filled with bookish and popular culture references that I appreciated, and I love that the title refers to a certain movie starring Sandra Bullock from the nineties. Having a book where I can relate to the character, and where many of the references are at my fingertips, is wonderful, and I loved that the list of books mentioned is given at the back – many of which I have read and have on my shelves.

I adored that it referred back to The Book Ninja, and in a way, follows on several months after the end of that book. However, as it is a passing mention, it is not necessary to read that one first, but it is fun to be able to pick up on the references and nods to that book, and the way both books use narrative (mainly) interspersed with blog or Instagram posts and messages, and notes. Because these are interspersed with the prose, they enrich the story and are given context and cues to help the reader navigate the story.

Books about books are something I love – most books with a hobby or something people enjoy tend to be about sport – so for book lovers like me, this is refreshing because it allows us to see what we enjoy celebrated, and I look forward to more from these authors.

The Secret Dragon by Ed Clarke

the secret dragon.jpgTitle: The Secret Dragon

Author: Ed Clarke

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 6th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: ‘So if you’re not an animal that’s alive today, and you’re not an animal that’s extinct either, what on earth are you?’

Mari Jones is desperate to be a real scientist, even though she’s only eleven. So when she discovers a tiny dragon while fossil hunting on the beach, she’s sure she can find a good scientific explanation – as long as she can keep it hidden enough to study it.

Unfortunately for Mari, this is one secret that doesn’t want to be kept. And as she starts to form a deeper bond with the mischievous dragon, she might have to admit that, when it comes to friendship, science might not have all the answers.

~*~

Since her father died when she was five, Mari has kept mostly to herself, in a world of fossils and dead things, rather than the world of living animals and the farm she lives on with her mother, Rhian. Mari longs to become a scientist, like her father, and leave the farm life behind. While looking for fossils one day, as she dreams of becoming like Mary Anning, she discovers a baby dragon. After meeting the new boy at school, Dylan, she agrees to let him help her study the dragon and keep it a secret.

Bu the little dragon has other ideas, constantly trying to escape to get back to the beach where Mari found it, not caring who sees it or finds out about it. Mari is determined to keep things strictly scientific, yet as she gets to know the dragon and Dylan she discovers that sometimes, friendship is more important than science, and friendship can’t be measured by science either.

The first in a new series set in Wales, The Secret Dragon by Ed Clarke brings together the real world and fantasy, in a small Welsh town where dragons exist. It explores themes of friendship through Dylan and Mari, and families as the two kids fight to save Gweeb, the dragon and keep her safe from those who want to harm her, like Ffion and Dr Griff. At its heart is the mystery of Mari’s father as well, and her desire to find something – fossils, science, naming the dragon species and sharing an interest with Dylan. Though at first, they come at it from separate perspectives, they begin to build a friendship that is charming and delightful.

Reading the first book in a new series is interesting, and delightful, because you get to meet the characters as they are, and watch them grow through the book and series, heading off on their adventures with Gweeb. I loved this story, set in the wilds of Wales with a dragon, and new discoveries that start out as science, but become much more.

I also loved it because it’s about friends, with a female lead who wants to follow her passions and makes friends along the way. This is important to show because it shows all kids that their abilities and passions are important, whoever they are, and that they can be friends with whomever they want to be friends with. Also, the presence of dragons makes everything fun and chaotic, a chaos which is balanced nicely with the rest of the novel and the calmer moments, exploring the strained relationship between Mari and her mother at the start of the book.

I am looking forward to seeing where Ed takes Mari, Gweeb and Dylan in the rest of the series.

Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

the magic pearlTitle: Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl

Author: Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

Genre: Children’s fantasy

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 2nd July 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 128

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Willow decides to celebrate the first day of the holidays by throwing a MERMAZING slumber party! The besties are so excited. But when Willow discovers a beautiful shimmering pearl, some very strange things start to happen that none of the mermaids are prepared for.

Could this pearl have magical powers?

~*~

Mermaid Holidays continues in the latest addition to the new series by Delphine Davis This time, the story is told from Willow Wave’s perspective as she hosts a sleepover for her friends, where they make necklaces. Willow makes a pearl necklace, and afterwards, her octopus companion, Frida, tells them the story of a magical pearl and the creation of their home, Turtleton by Tobias Turtleton. When Sophia works out that her pearl is the magical pearl of the story, she makes a wish that could see the end of their home forever.

Willow meets the merhag of the old story of the pearl appears and tells her she needs to find a way to fix things, Willow sets about setting things right for the whole of Turtleton.

2019 BadgeThis is the second in this series that started this year, with the third due in September. Aimed at the same audience as the first book, for both new and returning readers, we get to see Turtleton and the adventures the four friends have through Willow’s perspective. Willow’s book is blue, and her tail is shown as blue in the illustrations to show she is the primary mermaid in this book, with her octopus companion, Frida. It is yet another story of friendship and working together. Yet at the same time, learning and growing as an individual to find a solution to a problem that Willow inadvertently causes.

This was another fun kids’ book, and a great addition to the series. It’s fun to see how the author has created the characters and stories to be fun yet at the same time, teach young kids about responsibility in a fun and subtle way.