Girl from the Sea – Margaret Wild

Illustrations – Jane Tanner

Who lives in that cottage by the sea?

I wish. I wish. I wish it was me.

This picture book has haunted me for two weeks. Each time I look at it the narrative I tell myself about the story changes, which is fitting as the author has deliberately left it open to interpretation.

A child watches a family who live in a seaside cottage. She yearns to live there too and to share in their life. She wants to belong and hopes they will ask her in.

The illustrations are where this story truly comes alive. They’re also where the ambiguity lies.

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The child is actually a ghost who has come from the sea.

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The family consist of a mother, father, son and daughter. The members of the family never get a voice in the words of this story so it’s up to the reader to interpret their story from clues given in the illustrations.

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My interpretation is that the ghost girl drowned at sea, possibly a long time ago, and that it may even be her weathered gravestone that sits off kilter outside the family’s property. I think the family has also experienced a loss, one that the mother still grieves. They may have buried a child of their own.

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The mother is often pictured at a distance from her husband and two children. I believe this is a way of showing how her grief has separated her physically and emotionally, causing her to feel alone despite being surrounded by loved ones.

But you know what? Because the author has not joined all of the dots, someone else might see something I haven’t or disagree with my interpretation. And for this specific book, I love that. Usually I would need to know and know for sure, but not here. What I do want to know is what other people see in this story that I don’t.

The illustrations really are the star of this book. They are absolutely gorgeous but also sad, full of yearning and quite haunting. The blue the girl brings with her from the sea is the only colour amongst charcoal. I found this contrast beautiful.

The cover illustration was inspired by Caspar David Friedrich’s The Monk by the Sea.

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The Monk by the Sea

This is definitely one of those picture books that adult me adores, knowing that child me wouldn’t have liked it. If I’d seen this book as a child I would have appreciated the pictures but I would have wanted more words. I know I wouldn’t have liked not absolutely knowing the truth of the story at the end of the read.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A poetic, visual mystery that will leave the reader asking questions about the mysterious girl from the sea.

Wolf Girl #1: Into the Wild – Anh Do

Illustrations – Jeremy Ley

Spoilers Ahead!

Before I tell you anything else, you need to know that I am beyond excited to finally have a signed copy of one of Anh’s books.

He’s one of my favourite authors!

Happy dance time!!!

Gwen is awoken in the middle of the night. Her school backpack is crammed with food and the rest of her family are rushing to pack what they can in their car before they leave. Gwen doesn’t know where they’re headed or what’s going on, only that something big and scary is happening. It isn’t long before she is separated from her mother, father and her big sister, Kate, who just turned eleven. She winds up alone in a forest in the middle of the night.

While Gwen can’t find any other people she does wind up meeting some animals that are just as alone as she is:
Puppy, a courageous wolf with a black patch on her forehead in the shape of a diamond. She has golden-yellow fur and turquoise eyes.
Nosey, a labrador, who is patient and smart.
Zip, a greyhound, who’s fast, but clumsy as a result of his diminished vision.
Tiny, a bossy and fearless chihuahua.

Along the way we also meet Brutus, a strong black mastiff,

and Eagle.

Over time this unlikely group become family, protecting one another and hunting together.

The dogs had become my brothers. Eagle was my little sister, and Puppy was my best friend.

Gwen still doesn’t know what happened to her human family but she’s determined to find out.

I fell in love with Anh’s writing when I discovered his WeirDo eries on the shelf of my local library a couple of years ago. I was intrigued by the fun lenticular covers and soon wanted to be a Do so I could hang out all the time with Weir and his family. I even laugh along with the terrible dad jokes! Then Hot Dog! appeared on the shelf and I met friends Hotdog the dog, Kev the cat and Lizzie the lizard. I enjoy the humour and the focus on friendship, and the importance of teamwork and being a good sport.

More recently I met Nelson Kane, Ninja Kid, and his family. I fell in love with them all, but hold a special place in my heart for Grandma Pat, who is one of the coolest grannies I’ve ever met. It was through Ninja Kid that I was introduced to one of my favourite kid’s book illustrators, Jeremy Ley.

Today I met Gwen. I was expecting more of the same when I learned Anh and Jeremy had teamed up again for a brand new series, Wolf Girl. I couldn’t have been more right! Or wrong!

The book vortex that sucks me in each time I pick up one of Anh’s books was working perfectly. There was adventure, a loving family and so much heart. Jeremy’s illustrations are just as brilliant as I’ve come to expect and still capture not only what’s happening in the story but also the way I feel as I’m reading. There’s even the familiar feeling of dangling over a cliff as I impatiently wait for the next book in the series.

It’s all so familiar … until it wasn’t. While all of Anh’s previous stories have a fun lightness underpinning them, this series begins with fear and uncertainty. What follows is the adventure I was expecting but a darker one with a distinct lack of dad jokes. Different doesn’t mean bad though. I loved it! And I may have noticed a sneaky tear trying to escape at one point. I urgently need the next book in the series.

Content warnings include war, kidnapping and remembered death of a beloved childhood pet.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When disaster separates Gwen from her family, she must fend for herself, all alone in the wilderness. 

Luckily, she’s not alone for long … When a wolf puppy, a Labrador, a Chihuahua, and a greyhound want to make friends, Gwen discovers talents she didn’t know she possessed. 

It will take all her new skills and strength just to survive. Does Gwen have what it takes to be leader of the pack? 

Our Little Inventor – Sher Rill Ng

Nell is a young girl who believes her invention can help the Big City. Nell and her family live in the countryside, but even from such a distance the pollution is clouding the skyline. After a long journey Nell discovers that the problem is much bigger than she realised.

A group of powerful men in the city are quick to dismiss Nell and her invention. Undeterred, Nell continues to work on her invention, making it bigger and better.

I absolutely adore this book! Nell sees a problem and uses her intelligence and creativity to solve it. Her inspirational journey is not success only but her persistence and belief in herself are a shining example to young world changers in the making. I loved that the one adult in the city who sees the potential of Nell’s invention is a woman, whose encouragement made me want to simultaneously jump up and down, hug her and buy her a coffee.

Sher Rill Ng’s story is wonderful and her illustrations are amazing, with a steampunk vibe that’s perfect for this story. The smallness of the girl with the answer to the Big City’s problem is contrasted with the looming size of the city officials who have the power to make a change but don’t.

I’m not entirely sure what I would have made of this book as a kid with little understanding of environmental issues back in the dark ages but if I was a few decades younger I’m certain I would’ve wanted to read it over and over until I came up with my own brilliant idea to fix the world. I’ll definitely be following this author/illustrator’s career.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A gorgeous and inspiring picture book about a young girl, Nell, who invents a machine to fix the pollution that is choking the city.

‘My invention is ready!’ exclaimed Nell. ‘I must show it to the people in the Big City. Uncle says he can take me most of the way.’

‘It won’t work,’ scoffed Little Brother.

Little Nell has worked hard to make an invention that will help clean up the pollution in the Big City. But she soon discovers that it can be hard for a girl to get the attention of the people in charge. 

A wonderful picture book about a girl with a big idea and a determined spirit, and who just needs a little help to make the world a better place for everyone.

Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery – Renée Treml

When the royal blue diamond, the world’s largest gemstone, goes missing from the State Natural History Museum it’s up to Sherlock Bones and Watts to solve the mystery, even if the main suspect is a ghost. If they don’t, then the museum may close and Bones certainly doesn’t want to be put into storage.

Sherlock Bones is a tawny frogmouth and Watts is a blue Indian ringneck parrot. Both are exhibits in the state Natural History Museum. Bones is, well, bones and Watts is stuffed, so while Bones knows what she says, the reader doesn’t. They’re joined by Grace the raccoon, who is very much alive and in need of chocolate. You’ll also meet Mickey who, you guessed it, is a mouse.

This is a really fun read. I loved the humour, which was appropriate for both adults and children. There’s some enjoyable slapstick humour but there are also some more subtle smiles that adults will appreciate. I loved the jar containing a herring that’s beside one containing a red herring. You’ll also stumble upon some accidental learning, with interesting facts included that don’t detract from the story.

This is a highly illustrated chapter book. I would encourage you to look closely at all of the pictures because there are clues scattered throughout the illustrations that will help you solve the mystery. I also liked discovering other elements that, while not part of the mystery, were interesting, including a hermit crab checking out suitable replacements for its shell.

I particularly loved that this book was written and illustrated by a fellow Australian. Okay, so she was born in America but she moved to Australia in 2007 so I’m claiming her, especially since the focus in the book was on Australian animals. There’s also the requisite “Blimey!”

I can’t tell you how much I loved that the main character was a tawny frogmouth. We have a tawny frogmouth couple who either hang out on our clothes line or hunt in our front yard most nights and I adore them!

I really hope this book is the first in a series because I need to know what mystery Sherlock Bones and Watts will investigate next.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the wonderful surprise in the mail today. I love book competitions! I read an advanced proof copy and I hope nothing changes prior to publication.

Oh, and while I’m just a tad outside of the age range for this book’s target audience, that doesn’t stop me from feeling pretty darn proud of myself for finding the clues and solving the mystery before Sherlock Bones and Watts did. 😜

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Hi there, I’m Sherlock Bones.

Who is Sherlock Bones, you ask? Well, I don’t like to brag, but my trusty side-kick Watts says I’m the greatest detective in our whole museum. 

Don’t you, Watts? 

Watts … ?

You might not be able to hear Watts, because he’s technically a stuffed parrot, but I always know what he’s thinking.

And right now he’s thinking: Can we solve the mystery of the missing Blue Diamond and save the Museum of Natural History, before it’s too late?

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture – Roxane Gay (editor)

I went on a bit of a journey through Opposite Land while reading this book. I love that this book exists. I hate that it has to.

The title was what initially grabbed my attention: Not That Bad. How many times have I and countless others said that?! Was it because it wasn’t that bad? No. It was that bad but we still live in a world that, on the whole, doesn’t want to know about sexual assault.

It doesn’t quite feel right to say I have a favourite anything where rape culture is concerned so instead I’ll say that the best definition of rape culture I’ve read to date is by Clem Ford:

“A state of existence in which the impact and reality of sexual violence is minimised while the perpetrators of it are supported by a complex system built on flawed human beliefs, mythologies about gender, and good old fashioned misogyny.”

Usually I’d give each contributor in a book of essays an individual star rating and comment on their writing style or whether I connected with their story or not, but I won’t be doing that here. I’m so proud of everyone that contributed to this book and while some essays impacted me more than others, I’m not comfortable critiquing anyone’s experience of rape culture.

Instead I’ll be sharing a quote from each contributor. I highlighted so much of this book and found it difficult in most cases to choose just one for this review. In the end I decided to share the one that stood out the most when I reread my highlighted passages. As such, both the book and my review need to come with a trigger warning. Stop reading now if you need to. 💜

Introduction – Roxane Gay

It was comforting, perhaps, to tell myself that what I went through “wasn’t that bad.” Allowing myself to believe that being gang-raped wasn’t “that bad” allowed me to break down my trauma into something more manageable, into something I could carry with me instead of allowing the magnitude of it to destroy me.

But, in the long run, diminishing my experience hurt me far more than it helped.

Fragments – Aubrey Hirsch

If rape culture had a national sport, it would be … well … something with balls, for sure.

Slaughterhouse Island – Jill Christman

If nothing changes – and in thirty years, not nearly enough has changed – next year, there will be one hundred thousand more assaults on our campuses.

One is too many. One hundred thousand.

& the Truth Is, I Have No Story – Claire Schwartz

This is not about that. This is about everything after.

This is about how, all of a sudden, there was only one after.

The Luckiest MILF in Brooklyn – Lynn Melnick

I know that saying please stop made it no more likely that these things would stop.

Spectator: My Family, My Rapist, and Mourning Online – Brandon Taylor

The only way through all of it was to promise that I would remember it and that at some point, I would make it known what happened there.

I am a hard person because hardness is what comes from a life lived underground.

The Sun – Emma Smith-Stevens

So many times my mind left my body only to return to find it soiled

Sixty-Three Days – AJ McKenna

I resent having to face up to it. I resent having to be a survivor.

“Survivor” is the “special needs” of victimhood. If I say I have survived, I’m fooling nobody. I didn’t.

Only the Lonely – Lisa Mecham

And my hands, my hands. I wrapped them around my shins and pulled in tight and cried and thought about how when you’re hurt, way before you say it, you have to feel it.

What I Told Myself – Vanessa Mártir

I looked over at my daughter, who had moved on to the swings, and that’s when it hit me: I’d been blaming myself for thirty years for what happened to me when I was six.

Stasis – Ally Sheedy

I didn’t go on auditions for films that I felt glorified sex work, that depicted women being sexually abused in a gratuitous way, or that required me to leave my sense of self on the doorstep. (All of these films became huge hits.)

The Ways We Are Taught to Be a Girl – xTx

We learn not to tell everything. We know telling everything will make them see the bad in us. How it is our fault. How we contributed. We fear repercussions, albeit lighter than the ones we will administer to ourselves; slut, bad, ugly, weak, whore, trash, shame, hate. We tell just enough, if we tell at all.

Floccinaucinihilipilification – So Mayer

It’s a conundrum: if you survive, then it – that, the trauma – can’t have been that bad. Being dead is the only way to prove it was. It really was bad. It was terrible. It was so awful there was no way I could survive.

What did this child die of? Shame, mainly. And narrative necessity.

If you survive, you have to prove it was that bad; or else, they think you are.

Surviving is some kind of sin, like floating up off the dunking stool like a witch. You have to be permanently écorchée, heart-on-sleeve, offering up organs and body parts like a medieval saint.

The Life Ruiner – Nora Salem

Perhaps the most horrifying thing about nonconsensual sex is that, in an instant, it erases you. Your own desires, your safety and well-being, your ownership of the body that may very well have been the only thing you ever felt sure you owned – all of it becomes irrelevant, even nonexistent.

All the Angry Women – Lyz Lenz

Anger is the privilege of the truly broken, and yet, I’ve never met a woman who was broken enough that she allowed herself to be angry.

Good Girls – Amy Jo Burns

Much of the furor spread not because a crime occurred, but because these girls had the nerve to say that it had.

A good girl is a quick study, and this is what you, always a good girl, learned: It doesn’t matter how good you are, because a man will always be better.

Utmost Resistance: Law and the Queer Woman or How I Sat in a Classroom and Listened to My Male Classmates Debate How to Define Force and Consent – V.L. Seek

When your truth is so inherently questioned, it is easier to say nothing than anything at all.

Bodies Against Borders – Michelle Chen

The flip side of treating “victims” or “survivors” as subjects of a narrative is that the process of intellectualizing the issue also requires neatly transmuting the subject into the object. And objectifying people who have lived through sexual violence is not a good place to begin, or end, any story – not our own, and not theirs.

Wiping the Stain Clean – Gabrielle Union

Rape is a wound that throbs long after it heals. And for some of us the throbbing gets too loud. Post-traumatic stress syndrome is very real and chips away at the soul and sanity of so many of us who have survived sexual violence.

What We Didn’t Say – Liz Rosema

I don’t even remember his name but I remember what he said – the corner of that page is folded in my memory. I turn right to it.

I Said Yes – Anthony Frame

“It’s your eyes. They’re so … Was that the year it happened?”

Knowing Better – Samhita Mukhopadhyay

She had learned, somewhere in the interim, to do more than simply reveal what had happened to her; she had learned to tell the story of it so that it didn’t become her only story.

Not That Loud: Quiet Encounters with Rape Culture – Miriam Zoila Pérez

Sexual assault is no longer an undercurrent in political life: it shouts at us from news headlines, colors the electoral debates, shapes rally slogans and protest chants. But something doesn’t have to be loud to be deafening, to suck up all the oxygen in the room, to shroud the windows and dim the lights.

Why I Stopped – Zoë Medeiros

Sometimes I see ghosts. The worst ghosts for me are not usually the flashbacks, although those can be pretty bad, but the ones who show me what I might have been if it never happened. It’s like suddenly feeling what it would be like to run on a leg that had never been broken, just for a second, and then it’s gone and the old bone-deep pain is with me again.

Picture Perfect – Sharisse Tracey

For once, I was glad I didn’t have a little sister.

To Get Out from Under It – Stacey May Fowles

What I need is what most women need when they talk about the sexual violence they have endured. I need someone to listen. I need someone to believe me.

Reaping What Rape Culture Sows: Live from the Killing Fields of Growing Up Female in America – Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes

the world, I had learned, was a place that didn’t condemn sexual violence; it accepted and excused it.

Invisible Light Waves – Meredith Talusan

I stayed to prove that he could not affect me

Getting Home – Nicole Boyce

There’s something so naive about insisting that daylight makes a difference. Why do I imagine that violence wears a wristwatch?

Why I Didn’t Say No – Elissa Bassist

Because when a woman challenges a man, then the facts are automatically in dispute, as is the speaker, and the speaker’s license to speak.

Early this week I had my latest experience with rape culture. At a time when I had already read about half of this book I found myself in a room with a man in a position of authority who, while telling me that it wasn’t a matter of whether he believed me or not, also told me numerous times that my story was “unbelievable”, along with an incredulous “How is that even possible?!”

Feeling disempowered by his lack of belief and judgement, and vulnerable after being given no choice over the location of our meeting, I found myself minimising my experience by telling him that the sexual assault I’d experienced in that building (a few offices to my right) wasn’t as bad as the sexual assault I’d experienced across the street from where we were meeting.

“Not as bad.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth the title of this book flashed in my mind and I internally chastised myself. While I couldn’t take back those words I made sure I wasn’t silent when this man went on to talk about the “gains” people achieve by making up false allegations against “poor” men. I (we) have a long way to go but I believe that by refusing to be silent about the “unbelievable” we (I) can be catalysts for change.

If you have read this review and have experienced any form of sexual assault please know that you are not alone and it was not your fault. I believe you. Your story matters. You matter!

If you need support or information you can contact:

You can also search for resources in over a hundred countries at:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay has edited a collection of essays that explore what it means to live in a world where women are frequently belittled and harassed due to their gender, and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

Small Things – Mel Tregonning

How to break my heart yet still give me hope 101

Step 1: Put this book in front of me.

Mel Tregonning’s artwork takes you inside the lonely world of anxiety and depression in such a beautiful but haunting way. The monsters that lurk and chip away at the main character piece by piece are perfect. Each monster is unique but clearly from the same monster gene pool. Once you’ve seen them you can identify them but would have trouble explaining them to someone who hasn’t seen them. Anxiety and depression feel like that. How can you truly explain to someone who hasn’t seen those monsters what they look like and how living with them impacts every part of you.

Step 2: Show me the book’s dedication.

This book is dedicated to Mel, the illustrator. How can that be?!

Step 3: Investigate further.

Upon investigating I came across this article and Mel’s website.

Step 4: Cry.

Step 5: Be grateful for the hope provided in this book, but maybe cry a bit more first.

At the heart of this book is a powerful message about early intervention. Support from people who care about you truly can make all the difference. There are ways to make the monsters retreat. You are not alone. Please know there is hope.

My heart breaks for Mel’s family. If she can have this much of an impact on me just because I ‘read’ her book I can’t even begin to imagine what her loss must be like for those who loved her in life. 💕

Content warnings include mental illness and suicide.

I ordered this from the library mostly because of the haunting cover illustration. I needed to know more. Now I do and while I don’t have as many tissues as I did before I started I’m so glad I found this book.

It’s part of the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge (Challenge Level 5-6) and I’m so glad it’s there. Children (and adults) need the message of this book. It’s not one that I’d just hand a child and go on with my day though. This is a book that deserves to be discussed.

P.S. There are a list of the reading challenge books here if you’re interested. My library has heaps of them. I love my library!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

On the cusp of having everything slip from his grasp, a young boy has to find a way to rebuild his sense of self. An ordinary boy in an ordinary world. With no words, only illustrations, Small Things tells the story of a boy who feels alone with worries but who learns that help is always close by. An extraordinary story, told simply and with breathtaking beauty.

The Invincibles #2: The Hamster Rescue – Caryl Hart

Illustrations – Sarah Warburton

Nell is looking forward to attending her best friend’s first ever birthday party on Friday and while Freddie Spoon is trying to downplay his excitement he can’t wait, especially as his father (who’s been away for work for months) will be coming home in time to celebrate with him.

Meanwhile, Nell’s older brother Lucas is practising for his band’s first gig (if you can call that noise music!). When Nell is invited to Lucy Perkins’ birthday party on the same day, Nell agrees to go, forgetting all about her best friend. (Hint: we don’t like Lucy Perkins.) Upon realising her mistake Nell has a choice to make. Freddie Spoon is also disappointed because it turns out his father is unable to leave work after all.

And what about the school hamster, Hamish? In a way, he saves the day.

In this book Nell learns a valuable lesson about friendship and loyalty, and that bigger and shinier isn’t always better than simplicity.

Freddie Spoon is still only ever called Freddie Spoon in this second book in the series and again, Nell’s baby sibling, Baby, still has no name. We find out about Freddie Spoon’s family in this book and we learn some more about Nell’s, along with finding out why Freddie Spoon and Nell are The Invincibles.

The illustrations are fun and I really like the colour scheme used in this series, grayscale and one other colour per book. In the first book it was green and in this book it was yellow. It’s surprisingly effective and eye catching.

I accidentally came into this series via the third book but didn’t think to review it at the time. It’s now back on order from the library and I look forward to reading it again, this time in the context of now having read and loved the first two.

I stand by thinking this is a lovely series for younger children. I’d happily reread them all. Now, to wait for the long weekend to be over so I can collect the third book from the library! 😃

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In Nell and Freddie’s second adventure, it’s Hamish the hamster to the rescue! Freddie Spoon is having a birthday party for the FIRST TIME EVER. Nell can’t wait to go, until she realises that she’s also supposed to be going to super-popular Lucy Perkins’ party on the very same afternoon! Disaster! But luckily Nell is looking after Hamish the school hamster, and Hamish is a very smart hamster. He makes a surprise appearance at Lucy’s snooty party and saves the day, then they all have LOADS OF CAKE! Hooray!

The Invincibles #1: The Piglet Pickle – Caryl Hart

Illustrations – Sarah Warburton

The Piglet Pickle is the first in an adorable series for younger readers called The Invincibles, which follows the friendship of Antonella Henry and Freddie Spoon, otherwise known as Nell and Freddie Spoon. For some (probably cute) reason, Freddie Spoon is always called by his full name.

We don’t learn about Freddie Spoon’s family in this book but we learn that Nell lives with her parents, an older brother, Lucas, a younger sibling only called Baby (babies not having names seems to be a newish pattern in children’s fiction), and her granny.

During a school field trip to a farm, Nell takes a liking to the smallest piglet and becomes afraid it will be turned into sausage, thanks to Freddie Spoon. At the end of the field trip Freddie Spoon surprises Nell with something in his backpack that is going to cause “Really BIG Trouble”.

There’s a lot of action to keep young readers entertained and the illustrations are a lot of fun. There’s a sweet quirkiness about them and I particularly loved all of the insects with big googly eyes, all of whom seemed very interested in what these best friends were getting up to.

There’s a realistic dynamic between Nell and Lucas, yelling at each other for invading the privacy of their respective rooms and generally being irritating and embarrassing to each other, but able to come together for the common good when the situation calls for it. I’m interested to see how their relationship changes in future books.

I loved when Nell recounts what her brother said to her, replacing the swear word with beep, because she’s not allowed to tell or she’d be swearing as well.

This is the kind of book I would have loved as a kid and am interested in continuing to follow the story. If I had children I’d definitely be buying the series for them. It’s cute and fun and I’d be happy to go straight back to the beginning and read it again.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A single story in two colour printing this is a lovely beginner-reader series for 5 to 6 year olds which is hilarious and, just about, true to life. In this first story, troublesome twosome Nell and Freddie go on a school trip to a farm, where they pet the animals and learn about how they live, and Freddie smuggles a piglet out in his backpack. He thinks he’s saving it from becoming sausages. So Nell keeps it in her bedroom, gives it a bath and gets it involved in bringing a local crime wave to an end …

The Invincibles #3: The Beast of Bramble Woods – Caryl Hart

Illustrations – Sarah Warburton

In The Beast of Bramble Woods our Invincibles, Freddie Spoon and Nell, are working their Pester Power to try to join Nell’s brother and his two nerdy friends, William and Joe, on an overnight camping adventure.

Nell’s brother Lucas is your typical teenage boy, with some sort of fungus growing out of a coffee cup on his bedroom floor. Lucas spends a fair potion of his time asleep with headphones attached to his head during the day and has a game controller attached to his hands at 3am. In his most likely smelly room he has a doona cover I need because it has sharks all over it!

Nell’s best friend, Freddie Spoon, shows her a newspaper clipping with a photograph of a Mysterious Beast in their neighbourhood. Because they’re going to be wildlife experts when they grow up Freddie Spoon and Nell try to work out what type of animal the Mysterious Beast could be.

Naturally the five kids wind up allowed to join the boys camping – but only until 8:30pm! Once the five start hanging out they tell ghost 👻 stories around the campfire 🔥 which leads to Freddie Spoon showing the older boys the newspaper article about the Mysterious Beast. The night turns into one of dares and scares before we finally uncover the mystery of the Mysterious Beast.

I really enjoy this sweet series. I accidentally read this book first and then followed it up with books 1 and 2, so this is a reread for me now that I know how the story starts. I love the friendship between Nell and Freddie Spoon and also the relationship between Nell and Lucas. As the older brother Lucas is naturally annoyed by his little sister at times but he looks out for her as well. These books have a bit of mystery, a bit of adventure, some humour and a whole pile of feel good loveliness. I smile through these books and feel better about the world when I finish reading each story.

Once again I loved the illustrations by Sarah Warburton. Each book in the series has its own colour and this book is various shades of orange. Keep an eye out for sneak peeks of the beast throughout the book! My favourite illustration is the goofy looking snake in the sewer pipe on its way to bite some unsuspecting toilet user on the bum.

I really hope there’s going to be a book 4!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Nell’s big brother Lucas and his nerdy friends are camping out in the garden. They’ve got a fire and marshmallows and everything! Nell and Freddie Spoon are desperate to join in but they have to go to bed at eight-thirty. Eight-thirty! So they come up with a plan to sneak back out and play some tricks … They steal the marshmallows, and put a frog in a sleeping bag, but their best prank is to pretend to be The Beast of Bramble Woods! But Lucas catches them and they run off into the woods so they don’t get told off. And then they get lost. And then they hear the noises. But it’s just Lucas, isn’t it? 

Storm Whale – Sarah Brennan

Illustrations – Jane Tanner


A beautiful poetic story with absolutely stunning illustrations.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Sarah Brennan’s words are captivating; with their rhyme, rhythm and descriptive detail. For such a simple story of three sisters who come across a whale stranded on the beach, Brennan manages to capture the impact we are able to have on the environment and nature, including the perseverance and commitment required to care for and protect our planet.

The story begins with a dreary feel, a cold day on the beach and a hard day ahead. After working together and dedicating their day to the stranded whale, the sisters are left deflated as they return home to bed; only to wake to a day of success and sunshine. An important message for children to not give up in their determination for a peaceful and friendly world for all living things.