There’s a Superhero in Your Book – Tom Fletcher

Illustrations – Greg Abbott

Superhero is trying to save this book from their nemesis, The Scribbler, who is “scribbling all over your book with her crayons!”

But Superhero can’t do it alone.

Readers can help Superhero by completing various activities, including tapping and lifting the book.

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Fans of this series will find some familiar faces along the way, all of whom need help from the reader. Kids will love the interaction and parents will love the message, because the strongest superpower isn’t strength or speed; it’s something we can all do.

I love Greg Abbott’s illustrations. They’re colourful, the expressions are easy to read and there’s something so cute about a superhero sticking out their tongue to help them concentrate.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Whoosh! A superhero has landed in your book! A new interactive adventure from the team that brought you There’s a Monster in Your Book and its companions.

Use the power of your imagination to unlock Superhero’s superpowers. But you’d better act fast before The Scribbler ruins your book completely! Readers will enjoy interactively tapping, stretching, and whizzing this book around as they help Superhero defeat the villain and save the day! As he did in all of the companion books, Tom Fletcher invites interactive fun while delivering a satisfying twist that celebrates the power of kindness and the true meaning of being a hero and a friend.

Atticus Van Tasticus – Andrew Daddo

Illustrations – Stephen Michael King

“Together we’re goin’ piratin’.”

Ahoy, me hearties! It be Talk Like a Pirate Day and I be watchin’ o’er Atticus and his crew from the crows nest of The Grandnan.

Ye see, when Van Tasticus lads and lassies reach their tenth birthday they get to plunder one piece o’ treasure from Grandnan Van Tasticus’ giant shed. They be needin’ to choose their bounty wisely as that be the only loot they get.

When it be Atticus’ birthday his landlubbing days be o’er as he be choosin’ a ship. Blimey!

Atticus and his crew set sail, seekin’ treasure and adventure. There be walkin’ the plank, a stowaway and some surprises.

This be the first in a new series. There be smiles for ye scallywags and details in the pictures that ye ol’ seadogs will appreciate, from well known paintings in Grandnan’s shed to Muscles and Mullet channelin’ their inner Rose and Jack on the bow of The Grandnan.

If ye be worryin’ about what yet scallywag be readin’, thar be a crew member that be sayin’ “crap”.

I plundered me a signed copy of this book. If ye be putting yer mark on a pirate book, this be how ye do it right! Aaarrr!

I be givin’ this treasure four Jolly Rogers. 🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A ten-year-old pirate captain? Absurd? Not in the world of Atticus Van Tasticus, a fabulously funny new illustrated junior fiction series from the brilliant and whacky creative minds of Andrew Daddo and Stephen Michael King.

1750, when times were tough and teeth were rotten …

As part of an ancient family tradition, young Atticus Van Tasticus narrowly escapes a life down the coal mines – or worse, going to school – when he gets to choose the gift of a pirate ship from his Grandnan’s treasure pile. 

It’s a choice that will change the course of history – well, OK, his story, at least. Atticus pulls together a rag-tag bunch misfits – AHEM – a tough, brilliant crew, and sets out to wreak havoc – I mean – live a piratin’ life. 

With little else to his name, Atticus has a taste for adventure, beauty and danger – where any minute might be your last, and your next minute could be your best ( … if only they could get off the dock).

The Truth About Keeping Secrets – Savannah Brown

When you live in a fishbowl, everything seems bigger, magnified, and no one was safe. People said that, in Pleasant Hills, everyone got their scandal. Fifteen minutes of infamy. I was to get more.

Sydney’s father, the only therapist in Pleasant Hills, has died. Sydney isn’t convinced her dad’s car accident was accidental. After all, he knew all of his clients’ secrets and maybe one of those secrets got him killed. And why was June Copeland, golden girl of Pleasant Hills, at his funeral?

The November of my junior year became permanently etched into my mind as the first month of June.

Told in a strangely beautiful way, this is a story about a grief that’s so pervasive it feels like it could eat you alive, fear so tangible it may choke you if you don’t find a way to escape or confront it, and obsession disguised as love.

Abstract is scarier than physical. Unknown is scarier than known – not because of what it is, but because of all the things it could be.

With the heightened drama of adolescence and undercurrents of potential danger and ongoing mystery, I found myself hooked from the first page and wished on more than one occasion that it was socially acceptable to highlight my library book.

June convinced me that we were all open books if only we found the right person to read us.

I was caught up in Sydney’s grief and loneliness from the beginning and liked her, even when she was being a crappy friend, because she was so relatable. I could easily imagine someone thinking and feeling the way she did, and I respected that her grief wasn’t pretty and contained. Her strengths and quirks felt authentic.

I adored Leo and wish I could have gotten to know him better. For a while it seemed like he would get the page time he deserved but gradually he began to feel like he was only there to provide Sydney with a specific skill set.

I enjoyed the mystery surrounding June and liked her complexity but one thing she did that annoyed the hell out of me was, like, how often she, like, said, “like”, like that. I found her character fascinating but, honestly, each time she said “like” I wanted to claw her eyes out. I did have some nostalgic “dude” moments with her though, offset by ‘wow, is “dude” back?’

I did pick up on a few clues early on that gave away some of the spoilery bits but that may be my life experience showing rather than an indication that this book was predictable.

I can’t believe a 22 year old wrote this! I didn’t even know who I was at 22 and here this woman is, writing a book that made me want to keep digging deeper into the lives of book friends I only met a few days ago. I’m definitely going to be looking out for this author’s next novel.

Content warnings include death of a parent, forced outing, bullying, self harm, homophobia, gaslighting, sexual assault, physical abuse, emotional abuse, suicide and mental health. I absolutely love it when an author has the sensitivity to provide content warnings for their novels. Savannah’s warnings can be found here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Sydney’s dad is the only psychiatrist for miles around their small Ohio town.

He is also unexpectedly dead.

Is Sydney crazy, or is it kind of weird that her dad-a guy whose entire job revolved around other peoples’ secrets-crashed alone, with no explanation?

And why is June Copeland, homecoming queen and the town’s golden child, at his funeral?

As the two girls grow closer in the wake of the accident, it’s clear that not everyone is happy about their new friendship.

But what is picture perfect June still hiding? And does Sydney even want to know? 

Super Sidekicks #1: No Adults Allowed – Gavin Aung Than

Junior Justice (JJ) is sick of being the sidekick of the most famous superhero in the world so he decides to form his own team. Together with Flygirl, Dinomite and Goo, these heroes are ready to prove to the adults that they’re capable of doing more than laundry.

JJ is the world’s greatest martial artist, a master in multiple disciplines including Mongolian tickle fighting. Flygirl is the world’s most acrobatic flyer. Dinomite has a degree in quantum mechanics and can speak 47 languages but all anyone wants him to do is transform into different dinosaurs. Goo is, well, pink goo. When Goo is kidnapped by evil Dr Enok it’s up to his new friends to rescue him.

This graphic novel had some great messages for young readers, including looking out for your friends and working together as a team. I found Goo adorable and couldn’t wait for his friends to save him from his creator, Dr Enok, who delighted in abusing and torturing my pink gooey friend.

The illustrations are a lot of fun. I love that this new superhero team is based on Sydney; the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are featured in several images. I particularly enjoyed the expressions shown on the chapter pages; each chapter number is covered in Goo and they show how he’s feeling in that chapter.

I would have devoured this graphic novel as a kid and am looking forward to the Super Sidekicks’ next adventure, Ocean’s Revenge.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Superheroes have it easy. They don’t have to clean their secret headquarters, wash the alien bloodstains out of their costumes or be responsible for taking Super Mutt out for a walk. No, they leave all that for their sidekicks like me, while they get all the credit! 

I’m Junior Justice, but you can call me JJ, and I think it’s time we made our own team. 

The Super Sidekicks!

Are you with me? 

Being a superhero sidekick isn’t as fun as you think. You do all the work, beat the bad guys and save the planet, only for your grown-up partner to get all the credit. Junior Justice is sick of it, so he and his sidekick pals, Flygirl, Dinomite and Goo, have decided to form their own super team. 

But before they can start saving the world they’ll have to prove to the adult heroes that they’re more than just sidekicks. And once the evil Dr Enok discovers his favourite pet Goo has left him to join a super team, the world might need saving sooner rather than later!

Matilda – Roald Dahl

Illustrations – Quentin Blake

Matilda is 30! How is that even possible?! Matilda and I became friends 29 years ago and her story remains one of my all time favourites. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read it over the years but I can say that it gave me hope that circumstances can always improve, taught me that girls can be powerful and resilient, and that it is perfectly okay to be a book nerd, and proven if you’re really lucky you’ll find your very own Mrs Phelps and Miss Honey. I spent my childhood on the lookout for my Miss Honey.

I never had friends that enjoyed reading when I was growing up so Matilda became that for me. We even had a shared favourite book, The Secret Garden. I loved this story so much that the year after I first read it I wrote a multi page poem about the infamous chocolate cake incident for school. Not many things survived my childhood but I still have my treasured 1989 paperback copy of Matilda and that poem.

I found an amazing article by Mara Wilson about Matilda at 30. I love that there are multiple 30th anniversary editions of Matilda, each showing her thriving in a different way. Naturally this means that I have to buy one of each because, you know, marketing and obsessive book love and I have to have them all!!!

I need to press pause for a bit and tell you how much I adore all of Quentin Blake’s illustrations in Matilda and the rest of Roald Dahl’s books. As a kid I read about a bazillion books and while I always remembered the names of the titles and authors, the only illustrator whose name I knew was Quentin’s. Roald and Quentin made a perfect team, with Quentin highlighting all the phizz-whizzing quirkiness of Roald’s imagination. Even now I compare every illustrator I come across to Quentin; I can’t help it.

I don’t think you can truly put into words the impact a book has had on you like Matilda had on me but I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. While reading it this time I wondered where its characters would be today. I expect I’ll change my mind each time I reread this book from now on but here’s what I came up with this time:

The Wormwoods

Michael Wormwood eventually reconnected with his brilliant sister and they stay in regular contact. After some turbulent times as a teenager where he made some choices he’d prefer to forget including stealing cars, Michael turned his life around and now mentors troubled teens.

Mrs Wormwood is now a frumpet in an aged care facility where she cheats at Bingo and watches her programmes. She did try to sell Avon for a while but potential customers took one look at her caked on makeup and shut the door in her face. She never made a single sale. She bleached her hair one too many times so she’s now bald and her face has a look of perpetual surprise due to botched plastic surgery.

Mr Wormwood remains a grunion. The Wormwoods lived in Spain for a few years until his schemes were discovered and they were run out of the country. After trying and failing to implement new scams in numerous other countries Mr Wormwood eventually found work at a sawdust mill. His boss is a woman. He has a phobia of hats.

The Kids

Fred, Matilda’s friend who owned Chopper the parrot, became a veterinarian.

Lavender remains adventurous and now spends her days touring the world, conquering one extreme sport after another. She has lucrative sponsorship deals and whenever she’s photographed you can be sure her hair is a different colour, but never lavender. She has a pet newt and remains in contact with Matilda.

Hortensia now owns a pub and is known to regale her customers with wild, detailed yarns about her formative years under the watchful glare of the Trunchbull and her experiences in The Chokey. No one knows whether to believe her or not but she’s a born storyteller so they always come back for more.

Ollie Bogswhistle double crossed the wrong people and wound up serving time. He’s currently a prison snitch and after being on the receiving end of one too many punches he now sports a full set of dentures.

Julius Rottwinkle has a fear of heights and flying, among many other phobias. He attends therapy frequently. He hasn’t eaten liquorice since he was a child.

Nigel Hicks has extraordinary balance. He wrote a book espousing the health benefits of not showering very frequently but for some reason remains single.

Prudence, emboldened by being able to spell a ‘difficult’ word in Miss Trunchbull’s presence, went on to become a spelling bee champion.

Amanda Thripp never cut her hair again, an achievement that has made her the Guinness World Record holder for having the longest hair. She only ever wears her hair in pigtails.

Rupert Entwistle works at the Natural History Museum but his passion is cryptozoology. He had a secret crush on his next door neighbour Lavender for many years and follows her adventures on social media.

The other Rupert, Matilda’s classmate with the golden tresses, became an accountant and carries a calculator wherever he goes.

Eric Ink has a most unusual party trick; he can waggle his ears at will. He loves cosplay and due to his large pixie shaped ears he never needs to worry about adding prosthetic ears to his costumes.

Wilfred overcame his fear of being upside down when he went bungee jumping.

Bruce Bogtrotter became a competitive eater during high school and is now a well known food critic. His favourite food is chocolate cake and travels the world in search of a more delicious cake than the one Cook baked for him. He’s yet to find one.

The Crunchem Staff

Cook, may she rest in peace, quit her job shortly after selling her prized chocolate cake recipe to the highest bidder and then proceeded to lose every cent betting on the horses.

After Mr Trilby became the Head Teacher of Crunchem Hall Primary School the students and teachers breathed a collective sigh of relief. He became the most loved Head Teacher that ever ran the school. Sure, that’s not saying much, but he was wonderful. Honest!

Miss Plimsoll remained a teacher until she retired. She never had another student as brilliant as Matilda.

The Trunchbull was never heard from again. A school without children was established several years after she disappeared. While record numbers of applications were received for the school’s teaching positions, the school itself surprisingly went bankrupt within its first year and was forced to close. There is an old lady in Arkham Asylum that constantly mutters about chalk but no one knows who she is.

The Heroes

Mrs Phelps went on to inspire countless young minds to adore reading. A number of her patrons became well known authors and you’ll find her name in the dedications and acknowledgement sections of several bestsellers. Mrs Phelps has since retired and now travels the world, Kindle in hand. She spends each Christmas with Matilda and Miss Honey.

Miss Honey found her relatives in Australia and has visited them a few times during school holidays. She adopted Matilda but only because she needed offical paperwork to prove what they already knew; they were family. Miss Honey went on to become many students’ favourite teacher and won numerous awards for her pioneering method of using music in her classroom. Her home is full of books. She loves nothing more than pottering around in the garden at The Red House and lives a peaceful, quiet life.

Matilda has led a full life. She couldn’t decide which university course to study so she completed them all and was able to study for free because of the scholarships she was awarded. She has travelled extensively, following in the footsteps of the characters in the books of her childhood. She has worked as a librarian, lovingly sharing her passion for books with a new generation. She has also published a number of books, both fiction and nonfiction. She gets excited when she finds a book she hasn’t read. After consulting with Matilda behind the scenes many leaders have implemented her ideas to solve worldwide problems. Matilda is a wonderful mother and a loving partner, and Miss Honey remains one of her favourite people. Above all, Matilda is happy.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Random House UK, for the excuse to read this book yet again. As soon as I saw the 30th anniversary edition on NetGalley I got so excited about Quentin Blake’s amazing covers I had to see them immediately!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world.

For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Miss (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable.

Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

There’s a Monster in Your Book – Tom Fletcher

Illustrations – Greg Abbott

I enjoyed There’s a Dragon in Your Book more than this one, probably in part because I discovered it first and, well, she was a cute baby dragon! The monster in this book is cute too and I loved that this book was also interactive. I’m partial to monsters though so I wasn’t overly clear on why we didn’t want him in our book. I would prefer to help a baby dragon than scare a monster.

Nevertheless, I tried to shake him out, tickle his feet and blow him away. I admit I felt bad for the little guy when he became dizzy and scared, but it all works out in the end. Kids will enjoy the funny expressions on the monster’s face as he’s spun, wiggled and tilted all over the pages.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Bestselling author of The Christmasuarus, Tom Fletcher, has written a brand new picture book perfect for bedtime, where a mischievous monster has invaded the pages of your child’s book!

This read-aloud, interactive picture book treat invites children to make magic happen page by page, tilting, spinning and shaking the book, and then seeing the funny results when each page is turned. A fantastic celebration of all the fun that can be had with a book, with a wonderful wind-down bedtime ending!

There’s a Dragon in Your Book – Tom Fletcher

Illustrations – Greg Abbott

There really is a dragon in this book and she’s adorable! This interactive book is so cute that you your kids will love doing everything possible to help out this newly hatched dragon. The illustrations are so endearing and her expressions are so delightful that I couldn’t help myself. I tickled her nose and that made her sneeze, which started a fire that I had to help blow out. Whether you’re flapping the book to help her fly or imagining yummy treats to feed her, this little sweetie is going to make her way into your heart. I need to borrow someone’s kid so I can read this to someone who’ll appreciate it as much as I do.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

OH LOOK, there’s an EGG in your book!

But this isn’t any old egg – there’s a dragon in it … And pretty soon she has set your book ON FIRE. OH NO!

Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott have created a fantastically interactive sequel to their bestselling There’s a Monster in Your Book. Children will love stroking, poking and flapping the book to make magic happen as they turn the pages. Can they help Little Dragon find a way to stop the fire and fly off on her own adventure? 

Spot Goes to the Fire Station – Eric Hill

Confession time: All Spot books are automatically ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. I grew up reading about Spot. I still love Spot. My mother loves Spot. I made a Spot birthday cake for her 50th.

So, now that you know I’m completely biased, let me tell you something I didn’t know about Spot. His grandfather is a fireman! Grandpa is adorable in this board book and there’s also an adorable brown bear fireman. Outside the fire station a cat is having a lovely nap until Spot has some fun with the siren.

Fun fact: Cats don’t appreciate getting woken up by sirens.

Like all Spot books, there aren’t a lot of words but there’s still a nice little story, the illustrations are sweet and colourful, and the whole book is basically cute overload.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Spot’s visiting Grandpa at the fire station, where he decides he wants to be a fireman too! Grandpa gives him his very own fireman’s helmet and they set to work.

Cheeky Spot slides down the pole, climbs the ladder, soaks Grandpa with the hose and finally sounds the noisy siren. Spot thinks he’s a very good fireman, but Grandpa may not be so sure!