Dim’s Christmas Crackers List # 3 – Junior Novels

Do you have an emerging confident reader keen to fill their newly acquired ravenous literary appetite? Youngsters between 5 – 9 years are discovering at this age that stories can occur in the most wildly absurd wonderful places and that junior novels, like these, are their invitations to new words and new adventures. By feeding them regular healthy doses of junior fiction, you will nourish their love for reading and keep them satisfied well into the holidays. Here are some suggestions:

Younger Junior Novels 5 – 7 years

D-Bot Squad Series by Mac Park and James Hunt

Bold, bright and busting with high-action adventure, this series is brilliant for early readers. Controlled use of vocabulary, illustrations and diagrams all contribute to wicked reads with Books 1 – 6 released this year and more to follow in 2018. Kids will love following Hunter Marks on his dino hunting missions after he wins a computer game and becomes a member of D-Bot Squad. High-energy fun.

Allen & Unwin July 2107

Sally Rippin presents…Super Moopers Series by Fiona Harris and Scott Edgar

This whacky series is decidedly visual with full colour illustrations dominating each page. Text is minimal but enhanced with varying font sizes for emphasis and wow factor. Each book examines a particular Mooper character of Moopertown, the first being Dramatic Dom. The stories encourage kids to get to know each individual better and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. The notion that everyone is special in his or her own special way is the theme that meanders throughout this collection.

Five Mile Bonnier Publishing 2017

Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog by Peter Meisel and Paul Meisel

This jolly attractive little hardcover book is part of the Read & Bloom Books series, which invite youngsters on wondrous adventures with lovable wily characters, like Stinky Spike, using mindfully sparse narrative and beguiling illustrations. Colourful and merry, these are the type of stories that really do plant the love of reading!

Bloomsbury Children’s Books March 2017

Junior Novels 6 – 9 years

Little Paws Series by Jess Black and Gabriel Evans

Who could resist a golden puffball of fluff with a tail? This heart-warming series is about puppies that train to become Guide Dogs. Each story is about a puppy, like Harley in the first book, and the families that train them. Lightly illustrated with Evan’s charming drawings and full of puppy pranks and incidents, this series is sure to sate your cuteness quota.  Buying these books also helps puppies like Harley become fully fledged Guide Dogs. Win win!

Penguin Random House 2017

Sage Cookson’s Series by Sally Murphy and Celeste Hulme

I love this quirky cooking orientated series about 10-year-old Sage, daughter of celebrity chef parents with an insatiable passion for…wait for it…food! Together they travel the globe encountering more than their fair share of not so nice-tasting situations and characters. Murphy cleverly combines every day normal with generous dollops of extraordinary. The latest titles include a sojourn to Singapore and a Literary Launch for this delectable character.  Delicious fun for girls and culinary creators alike. And the best bit? A recipe in each book. Winner winner, chicken dinner!

New Frontier Publishing 2016 – 2017

Squishy Taylor Series by Ailsa Wild and Ben Wood

Squishy is the instantly likeable, utterly loveable heroine of this spirited series about dysfunctional blended families and all the glorious ‘normal’ zany events that occur within their orbits. Fast paced, age-clinching narrative is interspersed with illustrations that induce drama and humour.  The first book, Bonus Sisters, introduces us to Squishy’s family members and her unquenchable need to question – everything! Creative, curious, charmingly optimistic and just a touch naive, Squishy is just the type of hero little girls will love to emulate.

HGE February 2016

Saurus Street Series by Nick Falk and Tony Flowers

I’m not sure what the scientific explanation is for the fascination kids of this age possess for all things dinosaurs but my little miss did, too. Palaeophiliacs (lovers of dinosaurs and pre-historic thingies) will revel in this series, a few years old now but young in comparison to a Diplodocus, when you think about it. Stomping-mad fun made all the more believable by Flowers’ hilarious illustrations. Pletosaurauses in the bathtub, Diplodocuses in the tepees – Jack and Toby have all these and heaps more dino dilemmas to cope with on Saurus Street. It’s like the age of the dinosaurs never ended.

Random House September 2013

Ella Diaries Series by Meredith Costain and Danielle McDonald

Definitely one for the girls, this series is Tom Gates meets Dork Diaries for young girls. Interwoven with themes of friendship, teamwork, ponies, dancing, fashion, bullies and a whole year of diaries’ worth more, these stories will appeal to girls and their BFFs. Ella is utterly addictive thanks McDonald’s fantastic illustrations, just the sort of wiggles and pics and notations young girls are wont to scribble alongside their deepest most inner thoughts.  Fun, airy and tots on the money. Highly recommended.

Scholastic Australia 2015

Jake in Space Series by Candice Lemon-Scott and Celeste Hulme

Stunning spacey foil covers give way to equally scintillating storylines centring on space probing, Jake and his whacky team of mates and robots.

This series features galaxies of intergalactic fun sporting space-aged adventures mid-primary school kids can really get carried away with – providing they have their space suits on. There are six in the series, which gives young readers plenty of time and incentive to explore the entire universe! Did I mention the covers are truly out of this world!

New Frontier Publishing September 2014

Junior Novels Advanced Readers 8 years +

Countdown to Danger You Choose the Path To Survive! Series by Jack Heath

I LOVE an exciting pick-a-path-you-choose-the-path story! Having written one myself, I know how tricky it can be producing a convincing multi-ending story. It can also be colossal fun! Heath’s series adds a new dimension to 30 possible adventure storylines – a countdown. YOU the reader only have 30 minutes to choose the right path to survive. These stories are humming with danger, ethical decisions, survival dilemmas and plenty of problem solving, ideal for the inquisitive, questing mind.  Written in second person, as most choose your own adventure stories are, this series plants you smack bang in the middle of the action and you only have yourself to blame if things go horribly wrong. What’s not to love! Highly recommended for grip-the-edge-of-your-seat reading.

Scholastic Australia February 2016

You Choose… Series by George Ivanoff and James Hart

This expansive series is another choose your own adventure styled collection, which I just can’t get enough of. Ivanoff has created an amazing array of stories, each pulsing with high levels of interactivity. Again, YOU the reader must decide which options to take when faced with a dizzying selection of alternatives. Despite the choice, each chapter is concise enough to follow and complete within a relatively short timeframe, or even, to read aloud without confusion. Coupled with Hart’s explosive illustrations, it’s all very brilliant and, at times, just a little on the dark scary side. Pack some in your Christmas stockings this season – there’s a new release nearly every month!

Random House May 2014 – 2017








Under the Christmas Tree – Part 2

It’s important to keep the little ones pleased and preoccupied at Christmas time. Getting this mix right, ultimately frees up more ‘adult time’. In keeping with our non-fiction gift ideas theme, here are a few more picture books to soothe those savage beasts…ironically, all about savage beasts!

gigantosaurusGigantosaurus by Jonny Duddle

Gigantosaurus is more of a fun romp through the Late Cretaceous Period than a dry non-fictional expose about dinosaurs. Duddle’s full page colour extravaganzas and infectious story line introduces readers (and four tiny baby dinosaurs) to a clutch of stomping, crunching, munching giants in way that’ll have them perched at the end of their seats. An engaging and light-hearted cautionary tale well suited to pre-schoolers and amateur palaeontologists.

Koala Books Scholastic February 2014

big-book-of-aussie-dinosaursBig Book of Aussie Dinosaurs by Kel Richards and Glen Singleton

Slightly older lovers of those terrible lizards will appreciate this alphabeticalised collection of dinosaurs specifically focusing on those unique to prehistoric Australia. Most of them are represented from biggest to smallest, slowest to fastest and oldest and to youngest; some well know like Allosaurus and Muttaburrasaurus, others less so (meet Minmi – Minmi paravertebral for example!) You’ll find them all in the excellent Aussie Dinosaur Gallery at the end of the book, after becoming better acquainted with Richard’s interesting fun facts and Singleton’s vibrant, comical stylisations of Winston, Matilda, and Kakuru. This big robust book of Aussie Dinosaurs is engaging, informative and a welcome addition to any palaeontologist’s bookshelf because of its antipodean appeal. Highly recommended for 5-year-olds and above.

Scholastic Australia June 2014

discovering-dinosaursDiscovering Dinosaurs by Simon Chapman, illustrated by Rudolf Farkus and Mike Love

For prehistoric enthusiasts who fancy themselves as a bit of an Indiana Jones, you can’t go past Simon Chapman’s Discovering Dinosaurs. Impeccably presented with thick glossy pages that mimic an adventurer’s journal and feature dozens of statistics, diagrams, fold out maps and pop up surprises, this is the penultimate compendium for any dino addict. Chapman journeys with us from where it all began at the start of the Triassic Period across the supercontinent, through polar forests and swampy valleys, then into the lives of ‘real life’ explorers and even the internal workings of a dinosaur itself. Utterly captivating and in equal parts entertaining and thrilling, Discovering Dinosaurs delivers everything it promises on the front cover and would be a wicked gift for 8-olds and above.

Bloomsbury Children’s November 2016

animasaurusAnimasaurus by Tracey Turner and Harriet Russell

Animasaurus Incredible Animals that Roamed the Earth is a big beast of a book that reveals a host of prehistoric creatures that once roamed, swam and hunted across this planet. It unearths facts and figures about the plant eaters, sea creatures, predators and the smaller creep-crawlies who were precursors to their modern day relatives. Past and present species are depicted through illustration (the prehistoric versions) and real photographs (their modern day equivalents) across colourful full-page spreads. Each animal’s description allows for their backstory, specifications, and pinpoints where they lived on the planet millions of years ago. Once you accustom yourself to the layout of the information, it is a breeze to assimilate and provides a strong reference source for upper primary and secondary students to draw from. Happily, every corner of the earth is covered including Australia, which makes Animasaurus comprehensive and well-conceived.  Incredibly useful, informative, and highly recommended for 10-year-olds, plus.

Bloomsbury Children’s December 2016

a-miscellany-of-magical-beastsA Miscellany of Magical Beasts by Simon Holland

If creatures long extinct don’t tickle your archaeological interests, what about fantastically beautiful birds, fearsome giants, vengeful spirits, or mystical unicorns? These are just a few of the magical beasts and beauties featured in Holland’s astounding collection of mythological creatures from around the world. Resplendent in detail and richly presented, Magical Beasts invites readers to discover the legends and facts behind a menagerie of strange and wonderful creatures ranging from trolls, harpies, mermaids and winged wonders. Discover how to outwit a werewolf, what makes the claws of a Griffin so magical, and learn the differences between unicorns. This is a fantasy lover’s dream guide to all that is spectral and spirited. Magical Beasts would make a glorious keepsake to treasure and refer to whenever evil elves come knocking at your door. Superb for 12-year-olds and anyone who has ever believed in the power of the Phoenix.

Bloomsbury Children’s November 2016

Learn morekids-reading-guide-2016-2017 each title or purchase any of them by clicking on the title link.

Find more reads that are fascinating for kids this Christmas here.


DINO-MITE! Dinosaur picture books with bite

If dinosaurs had any inkling as to how popular they’d end up, I’m sure they would have stuck around longer to enjoy their fame and fortune. Here are a few more new titles to add to your prehistoric, dino-inspired picture book collection, some serious, some silly. All fun.

dino-daddy Dino-Daddy by Mark Sperring and Sam Lloyd is a gentle, non-taxing dino analogy highlighting the worth and value of dads. Dino-dad is sometimes over-worked, not ultra-vigilant, but always super caring and fun! Pre-schoolers will think it fun too. One to save for Father’s Day.

Bloomsbury May 2015

 I wanna by a Great Big Dinosaur (who doesn’t) by author illustrator, Heath McKenzie takes up where I wanna be a Pretty Princess left off. This time, there’s not a scrap of pink in sight, which is great news for McKenzie’s boy fan base and all those little girls who prefer scales, teeth, and claws to tiaras and tea parties.

I wanna be a great big dinosaur McKenzie follows a familiar formula however the perfect pouting princess tutor is replaced with with a meat-loving, liberal minded T-Rex who eventually succumbs to the selfless friendship of his little boy. Be sure to study the end pages, which reveal more of McKenzie’s easy to digest humour.

Scholastic Press May 2015

Ten Tricky DinosaursCounting picture books never lose their flavour. However, keeping them bright and engaging requires imagination, a good dash of silliness, and a sharp eye for detail. Amanda Tarlau and Karen Mounsey-Smith display all these in Ten Tricky Dinosaurs. Simple, kid friendly statements set up each numerical situation providing pre-schoolers with pages of visual exploration and rapture. It’s the illustrative details and visual challenges that I enjoy most about these books; ‘spot the ladybugs’ for instance. Makes you wonder if this really was how the countdown of the dinos’ great demise occurred.

Koala Books May 2015

Jurassic FartsPerhaps my favourite of the pickings today is Jurassic Farts A spotter’s guide. (Please, no judgement) For the dinosaur enthusiast, this is the penultimate, non-fiction (and I use that term loosely) guide book to complete their paleontological board book collection.

P. U. Rippley, the ‘author’ of this unique and oddly informative text, invites young palentologists on a tour of the Ordovician, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, stopping along the way to spend time with ten intriguing prehistoric reptiles and sea creatures. Some are instantly familiar, others require a second look. However, one thing is for sure, not one of us would be able to recognise these creatures from their farts…until now.

Jurassic Farts illo spreadThanks to Rippley’s short and sassy explanations and Evan Palmer’s wind assisted illustrations PLUS an easy to use, number referenced audio recording of each dinosaur discussed, now everyone can appreciate the deadly long-range stink of the Mamenchisaurus.

Sublime, silly slapstick humour with enough fact and fart sounds to hold the interest of 3 – 6 year-olds and perhaps their fathers for hours.

And the best part? You can change the batteries in the sound device. Unlike the common bottom burp, this promises to be a gift that lingers on and on and on…

Scholastic Australia May 2015

DIGGING UP DINOSAURS with Sheryl Gwyther

As part of our Dinosaur Week, we’re talking today to author Sheryl Gwyther about how she became a writer, and how she went to an actual dinosaur dig to research her book, Secrets of Eromanga.

Let’s start with your author’s journey, Sheryl.

I’d been crazy about reading books and writing bits and pieces since I was little, but other things got in the way – school, jobs, travel, university, art school. Then one day I knew what I should be doing with my life … writing books for young people.

You’re obviously dedicated to getting the research part right. Where was the dinosaur dig you went on?

It was on a sheep station near Winton, in western Queensland.

Sheryl on the fossil dig

Not only did I have fun digging up pieces of a huge sauropod dinosaur named Elliot, I uncovered the story lurking in my head. That story, with its two inter-weaving narratives, went on to become my first novel, Secrets of Eromanga, an adventure story for 9-12 year olds.

What’s Secrets of Eromanga about?

Twelve-year-old Ellie knows more about Australian dinosaur fossils than how to get friends. But she discovers more than friendship on an outback fossil dig site when she becomes entangled in a web of illegal fossil smuggling. She must find the courage and determination needed to save her friends.

fossilised dinosaur footprints

95 million years separate Ellie and a small ornithopod dinosaur that once lived beside the ancient inland waters of the Eromanga Sea. Both Ellie and the dinosaur face fears and uncertainty of their separate worlds. Time and fate binds them together. Neither can escape that fate.

Can you tell us something you learned about Australian dinosaurs when you were researching this book?

Everyone knows about T-Rex, Brontosaurus and Velociraptor.

Millions of years ago in the Cretaceous period, we had the Aussie versions of Rex, Bronto and Raptor here in Australia.  But they were species unique to this land. They appear in my book.

Teachers’ Notes are available:

View an extract from Secrets of Eromanga at:

What did you enjoy most about writing Secrets of Eromanga?

I enjoy writing stories that are set in modern times but also linking back in the past somehow – like in Secrets of Eromanga. It’s exciting finding out things that weave the past and the present together.

What have you been working on since you finished digging up dinosaurs?

Even though I’m still thrilled at the thought of finding more dinosaur bones, I haven’t written any more about those magnificent creatures.

This year I have more books and a short story coming out. The short story, Corn dolly Dead is in black dog books, Short and Scary anthology.

My chapter book, Princess Clown is out in early May, with Blake Publishing. It’s a funny chapter book about a very determined princess who would much rather make people laugh.

The second book is out in August with Pearson Australia. I had lots of fun writing Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper. Check out this link for more on these stories:

Sheryl also has a new blog just for kids at


Thanks for dropping in for a chat later, Sheryl. Perhaps you might like to come back one day to talk more about how you did your research for Secrets of Eromanga.