Books for Christmas

Since I started my book blog I have done a Top Ten for Christmas. I am running a little later this year so I have gone with books you should be able to buy at any bookshop, I am choosing one book I have reviewed and loved along with another I choose off the shelf of a bookshop as if I were buying as gift (as with all good book gifts I have had a read before passing it on).

Since I started my book blog I have done a Top Ten for Christmas. I am running a little later this year so I have gone with books you should be able to buy at any bookshop. For each category I am choosing one book I have reviewed and loved along with another I chose off the shelf of a bookshop as if I were buying a gift (as with all good book gifts I have had a read before passing it on).

I am concentrating three categories – Picture Books, Tweens and Young Adults, with a bonus choice from reviewer Sam to give us an insight into that hard-to-buy-for-group.

Picture Books

The Dinkey Donkey by Craig Smith and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

A couple of weeks ago I asked reviewer Sam what books he remembered from his childhood, and his immediate response was Where the Wild Things Are. This tale of the naughty child running wild who in the end returns home to his family is loved by all children, and is a great, timeless gift for Christmas.

When searching the bookstore for a new Christmas gift I could not go past The Dinkey Donkey. I loved the Wonkey Donkey and its silly sounding rhymes, and we still quote bits from it every now and then. Now we can update our stale sayings with the extremely loveable Dinkey Donkey, who is a more than just a pretty face. Not only does this book have the same rhyming build up as the original, but it teaches children to look past the cute donkey to see all that she is. This is a must for children of all ages.

Books for Tweens

The Girl The Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad and The Golden Unicorn by Anh Do

When I first reviewed Katrina Nannestad’s book about a young girl solving a mystery in the streets of Rome I was captivated. If I were buying a book for a tween this would still be my recommendation because it is funny, has a great plot and lovely characters. It is children’s writing at its best. Since Rome, Freja has travelled to Provence and Lucerne and continued her adventures. Plenty of gift giving options with this series.

I picked up Ahn Do’s Unicorn because it looked like such a departure from his previous books, and it is. Right from the first chapter you are taken into a new world created by the villainous Soul Collector, and once you are in there it is hard to get out. The language and writing is great for tweens, and Chris Wahl’s illustrations make this book accessible for your older reluctant readers, and also for advanced early readers. However, it is the story that carries this book, and once your reader is finished you will be pleased to find book two in the series is already out.

Young Adults

Passenger by Alexander Bracken and The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzie Lee

There are many great titles I could have chosen for this section, but because we are so close to Christmas I have gone with books you can buy off the self. When you have your readers have their Christmas dollars I hope you will look at some of the reviews I have done of independently published books and give some of them a chance. I also have a link to some free reads below.

However, as the time to Christmas draws closer I have gone with two off the shelf books with an historic twist for young adult readers. And yes, perhaps they lend towards the female readers, but I think Sam may have taken care of the boys in the next section.

Passenger is a great book that takes the reader through time with the lead character Victoria as she finds she suddenly finds she is enmeshed in a war between factions of time travellers. This is a great, fast paced story, which continues in Wayfarer, the second book in the series (fortunately for avid readers). The characters are strong, likeable and flawed. The jumps through history give this book a twist I love, and it is a great read for all those romantics out there.

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy was a surprise for me. I loved the title, and so picked it up to read the first chapter. I know reason says you should not choose books this way, but sometimes it works. I couldn’t put it down once I started, in fact I would have finished it there and then in the shop if I had not bee pulled away. Our main character Felicity is not your common eighteenth century female. She is focussed on becoming a doctor in a work who sees other roles for her. As she follows her dreams she is thrown into adventure and learns the true meaning of friendship. This book is a great great for lovers of; history, strong female leads; adventure and a good story.

Teenage and Young Adult Boys

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Boys are notoriously difficult to buy for, so I have a special section for them, written by reviewer Sam, who has shared two books I have seen him read more than once this year.

Hello fellow readers today I would like to tell you about two books I believe you should buy for the holidays.

Ready Player One is a book about a future where humanity lives in a virtual world called the oasis. This world is full of 80s pop-culture and different places to explore but when the death of it’s creator arrives a secret is revealed, that hidden in the oasis is an easter egg that will give whoever finds it complete control of the oasis and 3 trillion US dollars. You follow the story of Wade Watts as he hunts for the egg. I would recommend this book for ages 13 to 18. 

Scythe is a book about a futuristic world in which death is no longer a problem, overpopulation however has become an extremely apparent side effect of a world without death so the scythes were formed they kill people based off charts from when humans would die. This story follows scythe apprentices Rowan and citra through their journey of becoming a scythe. I would recommend this book for ages 12 to 16.

 Happy Christmas shopping, and happy holiday reading form all of us at The Bookbubble. Hope to see you in January when I will share my Christmas Holiday reads.

Looking for Some Free Reads for Christmas – look no further

What Makes a Good Early Reader Book

What Makes a Good Early Reader Book?

This blog was initially going to be about a Julia Donaldson written early reader, and moving your children on from picture books to independent reading. As I sat down to write it last weekend I kept coming back to one of the most frequently asked questions I get asked when I do a book stall – “what makes a good early reader book?” I always answer any book you can get your child to read is a good book, but last week I decided to look into what experts say makes a good early reader, and to look through some of my more popular books and see if they made the grade.

Assessment Criteria:

The most readable of the article I found was one from scholastic – 5 Early Reader Books That Rock. Another interesting read was The Independent’s 11 Best Early Reader Books. From these and other articles I came up with my 3 criteria to assess my six books against.

  1. Word Repetition – repeating words in early reader books basically does what you would expect, it drills the word into a child’s mind, and the more repetition the more that learning will be reinforced. That is why not only reading the words in the book again and again is good, but why children are also encouraged to read the book itself again and again. Of course the more repetition, the more boring the story is. So that brings us criteria 2 and 3.
  2. Interest Factor –  Children have to be interested in the book and its subject, and the story itself has to be interesting. Otherwise they will only read the book once and the repetition factor will not kick in.
  3. Great characters – In a short early reader book it is difficult to develop much of a plot line, so having a character or character’s children can engage with is an important part of keeping them loving in the book so they can get that repetition going.

Choosing the Books to Review:

  1. Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson – simply because I was going to review this book anyway.
  2. Goosebumps – Night of the Living Monsters – Goosebumps are some of my best sellers, and younger children have bought this book because their older siblings have been buying from the Goosebump series, and they want to be be like them.
  3. Marvel Avengers – The New Team (Scholastic Level Reader) – because they are popular, and were mentioned in one of the articled I read.
  4. Maxx Rumble Footy – Crunched by Micheal Wagner – I sell a lot of these books over the internet and via the bookstall, mainly to boys. They all love a book about sport.
  5. Dottie and the Dog Show by Teddy Slater – (Scholastic Level Reader) – girls Love Books about animals and any reader with a dog is popular.
  6. Lego Legends of China – The Legend Begins – this is more in the form of a graphic novel, which interested me, and also Lego TV series books are always great sellers.


How did they rate?:




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Interest Level





Excellent – uses a repeating rhyme that not only reuses words, but similar sounds Initially I thought on dinosaur loving boys would  like this, but the ugly duckling story reworked will appeal to many There are scary characters and loveable characters, someone for everyone to connect with Julia Donaldson shows why she is a world leader in children’s literature.
Not really, or not obvious to me. I believe even early readers who loved the movie would find it difficult to read, therefore their interest would drop. Same characters as the movie. Tells the movie story in a very goosebump book way. I would purchase for a reluctant reader rather than for someone learning to read.
New and Avengers are repeated often. Very low level readers, one sentence per page. Children who love superheroes will love this. It tells you all about the Avenger’s individual powers Well known characters, and lots of describing words. Lots to talk about with your children when you re reading – who do they like the best, what ability would they like? With the Avengers a popular group of superheroes at the moment I can see why these books sell, and they are not bad in terms of an early learning book.
There is repetition of words and concepts in this book Sporty boys would be engaged, in fact I was engaged. Maxx builds everything up into an inflated truth, and children will enjoy that alone. Funny and with action sporting kids will be able to identify with. Love Maxx as the cheeky boy, and he has some real villains on the other team I did not expect to enjoy this book so much, I can see why children really enjoy this series.
As you would expect from a scholastic reader, there is very good word and concept repetition. Started slow, a girl and her dog, but the story has a twist, which I did not expect. Lots to talk about when you re reading it. Sam’s dog Dottie is the real hero of the book, but she has some really interesting friends friends with some cool skills. A fun book. I wish reviewer Sam had been sent home with books like this – it would have made reading time much more interesting.
Once again the repetition is not obvious, but some of the key words are highlighted. I am pretty sure you would need to enjoy the China series to really get into the story line, but I was not a bad read anyway. I did like the characters – the bad guy was not really so bad and the hero also had flaws. Not sure children would pick up on that, but makes it more interesting for parents if they have to hear it read a few times. This would not be my first choice as a reader, and some children are put off by the graphic novel format, but would be good to trick children into reading as it does not look and feel like n early reader.


What did I learn?:

Not all early readers are the same, so when you are buying it pays to think about what you are really looking for. If it is just something so children will read then yes, anything they are interested in will do. However, if you are purchasing a book to develop their reading skills then you need something they will read again and again, that you will not mind reading again and again, and that you can talk to them about to reinforce their learning.

I have not included any links to specific books with this blog because the idea is to give you some skills to look around for books yourself. I have a selection of early readers on The Bookbubble, and there are good selections on the the scholastic websites, as well as on Booktopia and The Bookdepository. Happy hunting.

Molly – A Heart Warming Read

The Puppy Place – Molly

by Ellen Miles

I am not sure if you have noticed, but there are a number of young children, especially girls, who love animal. Our poor dog Trouble was cuddled within and inch of his life when I took him to a recent school sports event. And when I run the book stall girls browsing always ohh and ahh over the books with animals on the covers. They are some of my best sellers. Wondering what this was all about, I set out on a mission to find out why animal books are such big sellers.

The Puppy Place is a series of books by Ellen Miles about Charlie and Lizzie who are part of a family who foster rescue puppies. Molly is one of those puppies. She has been left in the care of a nursery owner who is worried a pre-school environment may not be suitable for a dog. Charlie’s family say they will foster her for a while, and Charlie sets out to prove that the gentle and loving Molly is just the dog for the pre-school. The only problem is Molly is a rottweiller puppy, and one of Charlie’s school mates points out these dogs are know to attack people. A now worried Charlie sets out to find he truth about Molly.

Molly is a heart warming book, with lots of ahhhh moments, but it also has some serious messages about not judging until you know all the fact, and it teaches readers about how puppies and dogs should be treated. And it is a good read for those early chapter book readers, boys and girls alike.

I always say to get children reading reading books you need to find out what interests them, and a lot of children are interested in animals. So have a look at this series of books and I am sure you will find one to suit your animal loving child.



Buy Puppy Place Books from Booktopia

Buy Puppy Place Books from The Book Depository

Jorie and the Magic Stones

Jorie and the Magic Stones

by A.H. Richardson

If your young readers love Enid Blyton, Eva Ibbotson and C.S.Lewis books they will enjoy this week’s review book, Jorie and the Magic Stones. A.H. Richardson’s book set in a magical land of dragons and unusual creatures is from the pile of books I get sent a free copy of to review, and I think many of your children will enjoy this read.

Eight year old Marjorie, Jorie, leaves boarding school to go live with her maiden aunt at the family home, and finds herself caught in the middle of an adventure to look for magic stones. It all begins when she finds a book about dragons under her bed, which she shares with her new friend Rufus. Together they find a world underneath the pond in the back yard. This world needs Jorie to find three magic stones so it can be protected from the human world, which has long since lost its magic. Working against them is a rather nasty professor and a shapeshifter who has been banished and needs the stones so he can rule the land. They have to achieve this in between extra history lessons and meal times.

The world under the pond the fantastical and full of people who are very different to those in the human world. The descriptions are engaging, and I love the language used to create the characters. The story is fast paced and the chapters short, which will appeal to children. I also like the themes of tolerance of others, and how the human world has lost some its magic because of the way we treat each other and the earth.

The world that A.H. Richardson sets her story in is very similar to those you find in Enid Blyton books like the famous five, vey old school England. Some children will see this as part of a book told in a different place, some children will find this hard to visualise. Another thing some children may find difficult with this book is that the language and ideas give it a feeling of having been written in the Enid Blyton age where children had more freedom and few things to distract them from reading; not and age where many children need to be coaxed away from televisions and computer games to read. This means that there are words and concepts that many younger readers will not easily understand. In a way it made me feel sad while reading it that somewhere along the line we have lost the richness of our language when catering to the bulk of young readers. However, if your child had read other books written in this style, this series is definitely worth a try. And if you are able to coax other readers into trying new things they might find this book a pleasant surprise.

I loved this story and the way it was written and I know there are many good eight and nine year old readers that will enjoy the story and relish the challenge of some of the larger words. For the bulk of 8+ readers this would be a great bedtime book. They can get lost in the world A.H. Richardson has created and you can help extend their vocabulary at the same time.


Buy Jorie and the Magic Stones from Amazon

Middle Grade Readers – a Mouse and a Gossip

I Heard a Rumour by Nancy Krulik and Attack of the Dragons by Geronimo Stilton

With school in Australia now back in full swing I am sure many parents are now back on the home reader treadmill. It is hard getting children to read their homework when the books do not really capture their imagination. This is especially hard when they feel they are too old for readers and they want to read chapter books. One of the ways I used to get around this was to offer four days of readers and one of a book they they wanted to read.

There are a great range of home reader style books, and also some for the next level up, the 8-12 reading age. Today I have picked two books to give you some ideas for your children. They are both from series, which is a great bonus because there are always more should your children enjoy the first one.

Author Nancy Krulik has developed a great series for girls who love to read all about other girls. How I Survived Middle School is aimed at 8 plus girls. Jenny has started middle school, and she basically survives by asking a website to help her with any problems she and her friends have. In I Heard. Rumour they try to track down where the mean gossip columnist Madame X is getting her information form. While searching for the culprit, Jenny and her friends also try to find ways to help another of their group get to the school dance.

This is the type of series I would have enjoyed as a girl. Nancy Krulik takes you into Jenny’s world and you experience her joys and embarrassments. Many girls will enjoy her stories and will identify with the characters, and maybe learn something about other people in the meantime.

The books by Edizione Piemme writing as Geronimo Stilton have been around for years. There are different series, and there are even some books by his sister Thea Stilton. The book I read was from the Miceking Series called The Attack of the Dragons. I have to say this book is not really my type of read at all, but I can see why many children enjoy them. The language is simple, key words are in different fonts and colours, and the illustrations help keep the story moving.

The story itself was engaging. Geronimo is part of a burly tribe of Mousekings, but unlike the others in his tribe he does not like outdoor pursuits or anything that is remotely dangerous. So of course he finds himself on a quest to get something guarded by dragons.

The plot moves quickly, is funny and has great twists and turns. I can see why children love these books, and why so many reluctant readers will pick up Geronimo Stilton when they would walk past other more traditional book.

There are many more options for you to check out in our early reader review section, but if you are looking for something else outside of home readers for your budding reader these two are definitely worth a look.


Buy The Stilton Books from Booktopia

Buy The Stilton Books from the Book Depository

Buy Stilton Books from the Bookbubble

Buy The Middle School Books from The Book Depository

Buy Middle School Books from The Bookbubble

Nevermoor – Wow!

Nevermoor – by Jessica Townsend


I normally avoid reading books that are arrive with a lot of hype and fanfare. But once in a while that hype is more than justified, and that is truely the case with Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend.

I was nearly put off reading this book with the cover saying it was Harry Potter crossed with Alice in Wonderland. Surely no book could live up to that hype! But fortunately I read the blurb on the back and thought I would give it a go. Morrigan Crow is a cursed child who is set to die on Eventide night, but she is swept away by Jupiter North to the magical city of Nvermoor. In Nevermoor she finds that to be allowed to stay she must pass four tests in order to join the Wonderous Society and avoid deportation.

Where to start with what I loved about this book? The characters manage to be fantastical and identifiable both at the same time. The plot lines move quickly, it is just scary enough and has enough twists and turns that it will keep you wanting to read more. However what is truely astounding about this book is the sheer scale of the imaginative nature of the world and the people that Jessica Townsend has conjured. There is dragon riding, witches, magic, an amazing hotel I want to stay in, and my personal favourite – a Magnificat called Fen.

Advanced 8+ readers should be able to give this a try, and everyone over that age has the capacity to fall under Jessica’s spell. This is a great book to be put in Christmas stockings, but why wait until then?


Buy Nevermoor from Amazon

Funny Kid for President – Very Funny

Funny Kid for President by Matt Stanton

Reviewer Sam loved Did you take the B from my _ook?, so when I had an opportunity to read funny kid for president also by Matt Stanton I jumped at it, even though the jokey kid/reluctant reader is not really my thing.

I approached my book review this week with hope and more than a little trepidation, and after the first chapter I was going a

little more with trepidation than hope. The first chapter was all about poop. I get that kids find poop really funny, but me…. well I just cringed my way through the first chapter wondering if I could even finish the book! But finish the book I did. There are more ‘poop like’ moments that I as an adult did not appreciate but kids will find hilarious, but this book is so much more than that.

Matt does not get on with his teacher, and so finds himself in the race for class president which he is determined to win just to get back at Mr Armstrong. But things don’t go to plan, and Matt finds himself working with his campaign manager Hugo, his arch enemy Abby Purcell and a duck towards a surprising election conclusion. The story is fast paced and the illustrations are integral to the story line, which is great for reluctant readers and younger children who want to stretch themselves alike (the book is aged for 8+). And it is funny! Even I found myself laughing and smiling. But most importantly for me it is a great story about rivalry and friendship packaged in a great way that kids will want to read.

With Christmas coming up this is a great gift idea, and I even know a couple of children who may find this in their Christmas present.


Buy Funny Kid for President from Booktopia

Buy Funny Kid for President from The Bookdepository

A Different Dog – A Different Book!

A Different Dog by Paul Jennings

A boy and a dog – what a great idea for a story! But in this book Paul Jennings has written a very different story!

I love going into libraries and bookshops to find books to review. I loved the cover of this book, and when I read the back I was sold! “The forest is dense and dark. And the trail full of unexpected perils. The dog can’t move. The boy can’t talk. And you won’t know why. Or where you are going. You will put this story down not wanting the journey to end.” Wow – how true!

Many of us will know Paul Jennings from his Rascal books, or from his funniest, spookiest weirdest books. But in A Different Dog he shows his skill as a weaver of stories. In a Different Dog he takes the reader on a roller-coster journey with they boy in the book that lasts a day and a year. I had tears in my eyes – tears of sadness and tears of happiness. I could not put the book down. And when I was forced at the end of the story I was not quite sure whether I was happy or sad, but I knew I had enjoyed the journey.

To tell you any more of the story line would give the whole book away. What I can tell you is that for adults this is a beautiful, emotional, well written short story. For children this is a look at how the odd child out deals with life, and the beautiful relationship that can develop between a child and their pet and how this can be life changing – for both! As a bedtime read to share with your children, this is a must (and I say that about very few books).

I would love to hear if you know of any other books like A Different Dog – you know, the ones that you must have in your collection!

Buy A Different Dog from Amazon

Enchanting Emily Feather

Emily Feather and the Enchanted Door


By Holly Webb

An Enchanted door, fairies and a child who feels she does not belong. What a great mixture for a children’s book!

When I was book buying I was taken by the beautiful covers of the Emily Feather books, and I loved the idea of an enchanted house. It has taken me a while, but I have finally gotten around to reading the first book in this series, and the book completely negates the old adage ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ as this book was well worth the read.

Emily is ten years old and she lives with her rather bohemian family in a cool old house. The only problem is that Emily feels like she does not quite belong with her family, a feeling most children have, but in Emily’s case the reason why she feels this way turns out to be a great surprise.

Holly Webb has managed to mix fantasy with reality in this beautiful tale of a girl finding out where she belongs. She has also invented a house that I am sure every reader would love to visit, complete with Emily’s attic room with a window seat looking out to the world, a garden with mysterious paths and a dog who guards it all.

I loved this book, as you can tell, and what is even better is that there are currently three other books in the series for me to indulge my inner girl. This series confirms Holly Webb as a master children’s story teller.


 Buy The Emily Feather Books from The Book Depository

Buy Emily Feather Books from Booktopia

Three for the Holidays

Three for the Holidays

Today we have three reviews for the holidays. Two new reviewers, Ruby and Finn, join our regular reviewer Sam for so ideas for holiday reads. Hope you enjoy!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Reviewed by Finn Aged 6

What is the book about?

Its about these people called Greg (also known as the wimpy kid) Rodrik, Frank, Manny and Susan.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Rodrik because he’s so cool and he plays in a band.

What is your favourite part of the book?

When Rowly ate the cheese because he ate it off the ground.

Why is this book better than other books?

Because It’s weird.

 Spirit Animals Immortal Guardians by Eliot Schrefer

Reviewed by Ruby Age 8

What is the book about?

Kids who have Spirit Animals and they join the Greencloaks who are a group of men and women, and they are fighting the conquerors and a man called Zerif. He is putting a parasite in great beasts to make them evil.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Meilin Because she is good at fighting.

What is your favourite part of the book?

When Meilin pushed Conor off a net in Phos Astos. Because she was pretending to be scared of heights and it was un expected.

Why is this book better than other books?

Because I like animals And it is a series and it has lots of books to read.

What not to do if you turn Invisible by Ross Welford

Reviewed by Sam Aged 10

Ethel has acne and wants to get rid of it so she tries a sun bed and it all goes wrong. She turns invisible and tries to return to her normal self in this funny heart warming adventure.

I like Ethel because she is funny and is only serious when it comes to acne.  Her friend Elliot Boyd, the creepy Scottish boy around the corner, helps her on her quest. They are friends because because of their nicknames – Smelliot and Pizza-face.

I like this book because Ethel learns that it is not what you look like but what is on the inside that matters. It is also very funny.

What will happen? Will Ethel return to normal or will she stay invisible forever?

Buy Diary of a Whimpy Kid from


The Book Depository


Buy Spirit Animals Immortal Guardians from


The Book Depository

Buy What not to do if you turn Invisible from


The Book Depository