Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows by Denis Knight and Cristy Burne

Magic and science don’t often go together. Magic is mysterious and unexplainable whereas science is grounded in fact and can always be explained. Both magic and science are equally important in Denis Knight and Cristy Burne’s new series, Wednesday Weeks. The first book in the series, Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows, is out now and it’s absolutely brilliant!

Wednesday Weeks is always accidentally creating havoc, whether it’s setting things on fire or blowing things up. Her teacher knows what to expect and keeps a fire extinguisher handy at all times. If that wasn’t bad enough her sorcerer grandfather keeps materialising in her classroom, ready to take his apprentice away. Wednesday never asked to be a sorcerer’s apprentice, but her grandpa keeps showing up. One day, Wednesday will be the Protector of the Realms and her grandpa needs her to be ready. When Wednesday and her grandpa travel to the Realm of Slugs, they are attacked by the fire-flinging, psychotic goblin king, Gorgomoth. Grandpa refuses to give Gorgomoth the Ruby Ring, with which he would enslave the Nine Realms, so Gorgomoth takes grandpa and disappears through a void. Together with her best friend Alfie, a prime-number fan and robotics expert, and a wise-cracking talking skull called Bruce, Wednesday must learn to control her magic so that she can rescue her grandpa from the Tower of Darkness. Together they will have to solve puzzles, outwit fairies and survive a laundry maze to reach the Pit of Extreme Discomfort in the heart of the Tower of Darkness.

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows is an epically awesome adventure that had me laughing out loud the whole way. There is something for everyone in this story, whether you like coding and mathematical problems, magic spells and sorcerers, or power-crazy villains and sarcastic sidekicks. Wednesday and Alfie are two characters that I would follow anywhere. Between them they can solve any problem that comes their way.

The book is bursting with humour, from the characters, like Bruce the wise-cracking talking skull, to the witty dialogue, and Denis and Cristy’s spot-on comedic timing. There are so many parts of the story that made me laugh out loud, like the fact that there is a Realm of Unfriendly Cats, or that Wednesday’s grandpa has a Settee of Interdimensional Contemplation. I love that Bruce is totally sarcastic and you never know what will come out of his mouth. You can tell that Denis and Cristy had a lot of fun writing this story and really let their imaginations go wild. I mean, a maze in a laundry, filled with clothing that turns into a kraken?! Fantastic!

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows has me hooked on the series. I’m super excited for book two, Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny, which is out in September. I can’t wait for more adventures with Wednesday, Alfie and Bruce!

Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues by H.S. Valley

The Ampersand Prize has launched the writing careers of some of the best YA writers in Australia and New Zealand. The winning books are always amazing stories that are fresh and exciting. The latest winner of the Ampersand Prize is no exception. Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues by Auckland teacher and author, H.S. Valley, is one of the coolest YA books you’ll read this year.

Tim Te Maro and Elliott Parker are classmates at Fox Glacier High School for the Magically Adept. They’ve never gotten along, but when they’re both dumped the day before the big egg-baby assignment, they team up to get back at their exes. They can’t stand each other but now they’re thrown together 24/7 to raise an egg-baby together. They make a deal to stick it out until the end of the assignment. Tim isn’t certain of his sexuality, and his experimentation was partly to blame for his breakup with his ex-girlfriend. Elliot is comfortable in his sexuality and he’s only too happy to help Tim figure out what he likes. As Tim and Elliott hook up, with no strings attached, Tim tries to figure out how he feels about Elliott. The deadline for the assignment looms, but how can things just go back to how they were before when Tim has feelings for Elliott?

I love everything about this book! It’s a cute, queer love story, set in a magical boarding school hidden under Fox Glacier. There’s plenty of sexual tension, great dialogue, humour, a hint of magic, and authentic characters who you get to know intimately. It’s a book that makes you want to shout at the characters, especially when Tim clearly can’t see what is right in front of him.

I love these characters! H.S.Valley has created characters who feel very real and relatable. They have insecurities and struggle with their feelings, and Tim in particular overthinks everything. I immediately liked Tim’s voice. He’s bitter from his breakup and hasn’t forgiven his dad for leaving suddenly three years ago. He vehemently dislikes Elliott, because of how he acts and the people he hangs out with. He can’t possibly imagine spending every minute with Elliott for the assignment. The more that he gets to know Elliott though, the more he realises that Elliott isn’t the self-righteous dick that he thought he was. Elliott is willing to help Tim explore his sexuality, at a pace that Tim is comfortable with and without messy feelings getting in the way. Tim also sees how caring and gentle Elliott can be, with their egg-baby. I love the dialogue between Tim and Elliott and the sexual tension between them. Like any teenage couple, they get to the stage where they can’t keep their hands off each other. The only problem is trying to keep their relationship secret from their friends and family. Tim realises that he likes guys, especially Elliott, but he’s not ready for his friends to find out. It is cute watching their relationship develop, but you worry that things might fall apart.

I really enjoyed the magic school aspect of the story, but this often felt like just the setting for Tim and Elliott’s relationship. Their magic and magical education came in to parts of the story but I wanted to see more of this. Having said that, the fact that their magic school is underneath Fox Glacier makes this story feel fresh.

I don’t feel ready to say goodbye to Tim and Elliott. I’ll be thinking about them for ages.

Interview with Leonie Agnew

Leonie Agnew’s amazing new book, The Memory Thief, is a story infused with imagination, wonder and magic. It has just been released by Penguin Books NZ and it is a book that everyone should have on their TBR pile. You can read my review here on the blog.

The Memory Thief captivated me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. There were so many aspects of the story that I was curious about and I was lucky enough to get to ask Leonie my burning questions. Check out my interview to find out how Leonie adapted the idea of trolls for her story, how Dunedin inspired the story, and which of her memories Leonie wouldn’t want a troll to eat.

  • You wrote the first draft of The Memory Thief while as the Children’s Writer in Residence at the University of Otago College of Education. What was it about being in Dunedin that sparked this story?

I was alone in Dunedin and spent many hours wandering through the local botanical gardens, which was close to my writer’s cottage. I’ve never started a story based on a setting before, but the place felt so atmospheric, especially around twilight. I was also inspired by the name of a park in Howick called the Garden of Memories. Also, while staying in Dunedin, I would often drive to Christchurch and visit family. At my aunt’s house I saw a statue in their neighbour’s garden. At first glance I thought it was a person, which got me thinking about writing a story where statues comes to life.

  • Both Seth and Stella are intriguing characters who have a complex relationship. Did you know from the start how their relationship would develop?

I think so, yes. (Sorry, the first draft was years ago.) Some of the ideas come together in the first draft, but I knew before I started.

  • We’ve seen trolls in fairy tales and stories before but never quite like the trolls in your story. How did you develop the idea of trolls?

Great question! I was googling different books and came across the subject of Scandinavian trolls.  It was almost eerie. Straight away, I read trolls turned to stone, were allergic to iron, could appear human and only came out at night. Perfect! The Dunedin Botanical Gardens had a sign which said ‘Open from dawn until dusk’. (It’s been taken down since, I know because I tried to get a picture.) I loved that because there’s no time, which suggests the original gardeners knew there was something dangerous in the gardens and people’s safety depended on daylight, rather than specific times. Also, the gardens have many statues and a troll could pass for one. Finally, there were iron fences, so I knew my main character would be trapped inside.

There was one problem – trolls were also carnivorous. I felt this was a little boring but, luckily, I had been playing around with the idea of memories and gardens. So I changed the idea, making Seth feed on human memories, rather than actual bodies.

  • What is one of your memories that you wouldn’t want a troll to eat?

Any memory of my mother.

  • The Memory Thief has the best book cover for a New Zealand children’s book that I’ve seen for ages. Kieran Rynhart seems to have captured the characters and the tone of your story perfectly. How did you feel seeing Kieran’s illustrations for the first time?

The same way you did. Kieran hit the tone perfectly and captured a sense of the city, too. The atmosphere of the novel was definitely portrayed on the cover. I’ve had some great covers, but this one is my favourite.

  • How did you manage to score a cover quote from the one and only Chris Riddell?

A lot of people ask me that one! We were on stage together at the Auckland Writer’s Festival. Chris and I got talking and went out for a drink. He wanted to know what I was working on, then asked to read the manuscript. He sent me pictures of the characters, too, which was lovely! He is an extremely collaborative and generous man. I also have some pictures he drew of me on stage.

  • As a School Librarian, I see how hard teachers work and how busy they are. How do you juggle teaching and writing?

It’s very hard and I wish we had more children’s residencies like the one at Dunedin University. School holidays are my golden time, but this year I have a study grant to do a Masters in Creative Writing. I am getting lots of writing done!

  • Do you share your stories with your students before they are published?

No because they’re too young! My books (so far) have been nine and up.

Take the Lead: How to care for your dog by Elena Browne, illustrated by Jennifer Farley

Do you want to get a dog, but you’re not sure how to choose which one? Do you want a furry friend in your life, but you’re not sure what needs a dog has? Do you have a new dog, but you would really like to teach it some cool tricks? Take the Lead: How to Care For Your Dog, by Elena Browne and illustrated by Jennifer Farley, is the book you need.

In Take the Lead, Elena Browne takes young readers through everything you need to know about dog ownership. What do you need to know before you decide to get a dog? How do you decide what kind of breed to get? When you’ve bought or adopted a dog there are all sorts of other things to consider, like naming your dog, welcoming them home, and having somewhere for them to sleep and the right kind of foods to eat. Elena teaches kids how dogs communicate and how they can train their dog, teach them new tricks and play games with them. The health and well-being of your dog is also an important part of the book, especially when it comes to giving them what they need in different seasons.

Take the Lead is a wonderful, kid-friendly book that is essential reading for any young dog-lover. This is exactly the sort of book I would have loved as a kid with a dog of my own. Elena covers all aspects of dog ownership, presenting the information in a simple, but engaging text. Jennifer Farley’s illustrations capture the joy of having your own furry friend, as well as the body language that shows us how a dog is feeling.

The format is visually appealing, with small blocks of text on a colourful background, simple headings, and lots of adorable illustrations and photos. It is clear that Elena is passionate about dogs, as her enthusiasm and experience shines through in the text. There are some cool design features in the book too, like the doggy text-boxes and the use of paw prints and bones instead of bullet points. My favourite parts of the book are the step-by-step guides to teaching your dog tricks and commands, as they’re nicely illustrated and easy to understand.

I will be adding Take the Lead to the very popular section on pets in my school library. I know that kids are going to love it as much as I do.

Rainbow Grey by Laura Ellen Anderson

I am a HUGE fan of Laura Ellen Anderson! Her Amelia Fang series was the first series of books that my daughter and I had a shared obsession with. I had listened to a couple of the Amelia Fang audiobooks myself and loved them, and I suggested to my daughter that we listen to one on the way to school one day. She absolutely loved listening to them and we got to the stage where we were quoting lines from the books to each other. It felt a little like our own secret club, because no one else in our family knew what we were going on about. When we finally listened to the last book in the series, Amelia Fang and the Trouble with Toads, we were both sad that we wouldn’t have any more adventures with Amelia, Squashy, Florence, Grimaldi and Tangine. They are the BEST audiobooks because Zoe Thorne perfectly captures the characters with her voices. My daughter told me that I couldn’t read the books aloud, after we had listened to the audiobooks, because ‘your voices don’t sound the same dad.’ Like so many other fans of Laura’s books, I was incredibly excited when she announced she was writing a new series, called Rainbow Grey. It feels like I’ve been waiting a long time for Rainbow Grey (especially when I was seeing people in the UK getting the most beautiful early copies of the book, with rainbow sprayed edges!). Thankfully, Rainbow Grey has now arrived in NZ! Over the past week I’ve been reading Rainbow Grey aloud to my daughter and we have been enthralled.

Ray Grey lives in the Weatherlands in the City of Celestia. The Weatherlands are responsible for creating the weather for Earth. The Sun Weatherlings look after the great Sunflower in the sky that provides light and warmth for humans, and there are Snow, Rain and Wind Weatherlings who use their magic to give Earth its weather. Ray’s friends, Droplett and Snowden, both have weather magic but Ray has none. Ray wishes she had magic and longs for adventure, like her hero, Earth explorer La Blaze Delight. Ray gets more than she bargained for though when a map in an old book sends her off on a forbidden trip to Earth. Ray and her friends discover a crystal which unleashes a power that hasn’t been seen in the Weatherlands for centuries. Suddenly, Ray has more power than she ever imagined was possible. Where there is great power though, there is always someone wanting that power for nefarious means. Someone Ray thought was her friend becomes her enemy and they will stop at nothing to take Ray’s new-found power. With the help of her friends and family, Ray will have to defeat this new enemy in order to save Earth from destruction.

I absolutely LOVE Rainbow Grey! This is a book bursting with magic, imagination, humour and heart. It is twisty, nail-biting, funny and completely brilliant. Every time we would read this book together, I found myself saying ‘let’s just read one more chapter,’ because I didn’t want to put the book down. There are some real cliff-hanger endings, where you can’t possibly stop! We were both hooked and couldn’t wait to dive back in to it again.

Like all of Laura’s stories, you immediately click with the characters and they feel like your best friends. Ray is incredibly determined, never giving up on what she believes in, and she is very brave. Snowden is clever and always looking for solutions to the conundrums that him and his friends find themselves in (and he loves drizzle pickle sandwiches!). Droplett is sassy, very good at puddle-porting, and will stand up to anyone who is mean to her friends. Ray, Snowden and Droplett make an amazing team and they always have each other’s backs. You feel like you are right there beside them as they try to save the world. The situation gets pretty tense towards the end and we ended up biting our nails, wondering how they were going to get through.

The thing I love most about Laura’s stories is the humour and this book radiates humour. The humour is there in the names of the characters (La Blaze Delight and her pigeon, Coo La La, is just one example), it’s there in the dialogue and in the illustrations, and it’s there in the events of the story. There are so many parts that made us laugh, like knicker-nadoes, exploding cloud-cats, and people being called thunderbum-faces.

Laura Ellen Anderson’s cover is amazing, with Ray’s rainbow hair swirling through the title. If I didn’t already automatically buy a new Laura Ellen Anderson book I would certainly be picking this one up to read. Laura has such a recognisable illustration style, and one of the things I love most about her illustrations is that every character looks different. Each of the different types of Weatherling has a different style of dress. Droplett has her raincape and has tight-fitting clothes (good for puddle-porting), whereas Snowden has snow-white hair, gloves and a scarf. I especially love La Blaze’s style.

Laura wraps up the story nicely, but gives us a tantalising glimpse of what is to come in the epilogue. Both my daughter and I will eagerly await the sequel and there will be squeals from both of us when it is published. I can say with confidence that Rainbow Grey is a FANTASTIC read aloud, for ages 6-10. It is one of those stories that would be particularly good as a family read aloud, if you have a range of ages to cater for.

Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly by Jordan Quinn and Ornella Greco

So many kids love dragons. Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series has seen a surge of interest in dragon stories at my school in the last couple of years, especially when the graphic novel adaptations (illustrated by Mike Holmes) were released. Some of my readers want to be reading Wings of Fire but they’re a bit too hard for them at the moment, so I’m always looking for slightly easier dragon stories for them. A new series of graphic novels about dragons has just started this year, called Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly, and it’s perfect for those younger or less-confident readers.

In The Coldfire Curse we meet Ruskin and his friends. Ruskin is a young scarlet dragon, who is the pet of the prince of Wrenly. He lives a pampered life, with his own lair and all the food and toys a dragon could ask for. Cinder is a young dragon from the island of Crestwood, whose father has been struck down by the coldfire curse. Cinder ventures to the castle in search of help from the king, but only finds Ruskin. Cinder tells Ruskin about the legend of the scarlet dragon and he agrees to come with her to help her father. With the help of Cinder’s cousin, Groth, the three young dragons set out to break the curse and save all of Wrenly.

In the second book, Shadow Hills, Ruskin hears of a firestorm heading towards Wrenly, which will rain fire from the sky. The only thing that can stop the firestorm are lava rocks, which can absorb the energy of the storm and disintegrate it. The lava rocks are only found on Crestwood, so Ruskin returns to the home of his friends, Cinder and Groth. The witch-dragon Villinelle tells the friends that it is only the enchanted lava rocks in the Shadow Hills that will stop the firestorm, so this is where they head. They soon discover why it is called the Shadow Hills. They are given the enchanted lava rocks by the dragons of Shadow Hills, but they are soon stolen. All hope of saving the kingdom seems lost. Only Ruskin’s mysterious powers will be able to help.

The Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly series is full of enough action, adventure and magic to keep any young dragon fan entertained. The pacing is steady and there is a bit of mystery to each story, so readers will want to keep reading to find out what happens. The stories are broken up into chapters, so there are some good places to pause for less confident readers. They’re great stories to hook younger readers (7-9 year olds) on fantasy and adventure stories, because there are elements of those types of stories, without being too heavy on detail. The illustrations are bold, while also being not too detailed. All of the dragons have unique characteristics, with the younger dragons appearing smaller and younger, and the older dragons appearing weathered and wizened.

With each new story in the series we start to get more of a picture of Ruskin’s powers and how it is that he might fulfill the prophecy of the scarlet dragon. The friendship between Ruskin, Cinder and Groth also develops, while the truth of who the villain might be is still hidden away.

I have loved the first two books in the series and will be looking out for the next in the series (book three and four are also out now). I can’t wait to introduce the series to the kids at my school. I know these books will be snatched up quickly and will spread like wildfire.

Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter by Rich Moyer

Some books just speak to me. As soon as I see the cover or read the blurb I know that I’m going to love it. Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter had me at the title. I knew this was going to be hilarious, but I underestimated how much I would be laughing my ass off!

Ham Helsing has always been the odd one out in his family. The other males in his family have been daring and adventurous, hunting down monsters, but Ham doesn’t fit the mold. They may have had the brawn but not the brains, and they have all died in stupid situations. Now, the only one left is Ham, and it’s down to him to carry on the family legacy. Reluctantly, he sets out on his first quest. Mud Canyon has a vampire problem and they need a hero to save the day. With the help of a couple of enterprising rodents, a werewolf and a ninja, Ham sets off to hunt down the vampire. When they eventually confront the vampire, they discover he isn’t quite what they were expecting. There are other forces at work, and Ham and his friends must work together to defeat them.

Ham Helsing is an epically funny graphic novel that kids will be clamouring to get their hands on. Rich Moyer infuses humour into every aspect of the story, from the events of the story and the illustrations to the characters and the dialogue. The montage at the start of the book, of Ham’s family members dying in stupid situations, sets the tone for the story and gets you laughing straight away. Rich’s comedic timing had me laughing out loud. At the same time, Rich makes you feel for his hero, who didn’t really want to be a hero. There is plenty of action too, that keeps the story moving.

The characters are all endearing, especially Ham. I love his smiling face on the front cover because he looks like nothing would faze him. He’s very loyal and is always trying to do the right thing. Many of the characters are not who they appear to be, which adds to the humour of the story. The werewolf seems scary when Ham first meets him but he’s actually quite tame. I cracked up every time he transformed back into a human! The vampire in the story isn’t as terrifying as he’s made out to be either, especially with a name like Malcolm and bacon for minions.

Rich’s illustrations are bursting with humour and his characters are really expressive. There are lots of visual gags and Rich regularly uses chunks of wordless panels to tell the story. I especially like the parts where the werewolf transforms. I love what Josh Lewis has done with the colours too. The cover alone is brilliant! Much of the story takes place at night and Josh has done a great job of capturing moonlight and torchlight on the characters’ faces.

I desperately need more Ham Helsing adventures, and Rich leaves the ending hanging, so here’s hoping for more books! This is a must-have for school libraries, especially for those kids that love a good laugh.

The New Zealand Wars by Matthew Wright

With New Zealand history being part of the curriculum from 2022, teachers and school librarians are going to be on the lookout for great resources for students. Oratia Books are one of the publishers that are leading the way with their NZ Series of books that focus on New Zealand history. The most recent book in this series is The New Zealand Wars by Matthew Wright.

In his slim, visually-appealing book Matthew Wright gives readers a concise introduction to the New Zealand Wars. Matthew talks about how and why the wars started, who fought the wars, and breaks down the individual conflicts. We learn about the major incidents, including the Battle of Gate Pā, and the figures involved from both sides, including Hōne Heke and George Grey. The information has been broken down in to short sections of text, with lots of illustrations, photographs and maps. Matthew has very effectively used boxes and sidebars to explain points or words in more detail. There is also a list of further reading and an index in the back, making it easier to find details about certain people.

The New Zealand Wars will be an invaluable resource in New Zealand schools. I loved studying New Zealand history at primary school and high school, as it was history that was relevant to me. The books on New Zealand history were few, and very text heavy. Matthew Wright’s book, on the other hand, is short, but concise, and it’s very readable. It will be appealing to students as they won’t get bogged down by text and will be able to find the information they need easily.

The thing that I like the most about this book is that it is packed with images. There are primary resources, like the photos and paintings from the time of the conflict, but there are also modern photos of pā sites, graves and monuments. As Matthew mentions in his book, these monuments help to remind us that history isn’t a boring list of things that happened, that ‘it is about the shapes and patterns of the past that made us what we are today.’

The New Zealand Wars is the kind of New Zealand history book that I wish had been around when I was in high school. This is a book that should be in all schools in New Zealand, especially in primary, intermediate and high school libraries. I will be looking out for the other titles in Oratia Books The NZ Series.

The Memory Thief by Leonie Agnew

Leonie Agnew is one of my favourite New Zealand authors because each of her books is so different. Leonie can write funny stories, stories about kids standing up for what they believe in, and stories with touches of magic and darkness. Leonie’s latest book, The Memory Thief, is unlike anything I’ve read before and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Seth is a troll. By day he is frozen in stone, but after the sun goes down he comes alive. His home is a suburban park, surrounded by an iron fence. Iron burns Seth, so he can’t leave the park. He can’t eat normal food, but keeps his hunger at bay by eating the memories of humans. The only one who understands life as a troll is Celeste, the other troll who lives in the park. One night, however, Seth meets Stella, a girl who lives beside the park. Stella becomes the closest thing to a friend that Seth has ever known, but their relationship changes when Seth confesses his secret. Stella has a lot of painful memories that she would rather forget, and she forces Seth to eat them. With each bad memory that Seth takes, both him and Stella change. Seth realises that he has caused so many troubles taking memories and that only he can put it right.

The Memory Thief is an amazing story that captivated me from start to finish. It is a story infused with imagination, wonder and magic. This is an ancient kind of magic though, that feels more dark than exciting. I loved every minute of this story, but I also feel haunted by it, days after finishing it. It is one of those stories that you keep thinking about and want to keep coming back to. Seth and Stella are complex characters, who you are constantly trying to figure out as the story progresses. Like a troll eating a memory, Leonie gives us tantalising details about the characters to keep us wanting more.

Leonie’s reimagining of trolls is fresh and brings them in to the present day. The trolls in Leonie’s story eat the memories of humans, turn to stone during the day and wake at night, and live in a city park. Seth and Celeste are both trolls who live in the park, but they have different outlooks. Celeste has no qualms with eating the memories of humans, whereas Seth doesn’t want to hurt anyone by taking memories. He knows that he has to take memories to stave off his hunger but he doesn’t like doing it. Seth gets forced to take Stella’s bad memories, which make him sick and starts to change him. Seth doesn’t remember much about his past, which adds to the mystery of the story. How did he come to be living in the park? Has he always been a troll?

Kieran Rynhart’s cover is absolutely stunning! It is the best New Zealand children’s book cover that I’ve seen for a long time. Kieran has perfectly captured the tone of Leonie’s story and brought her characters to life. The cover has a haunting feel to it and draws you in. I especially like the composition, with Seth staring out from the middle of the cover, and the way that his eyes catch the light. Kieran has also created some atmospheric illustrations that are spread throughout the book, and the trees and gate of the park weave around the chapter headings.

The Memory Thief is one of those New Zealand books that will have worldwide appeal and I hope it gets published far and wide. It would be a great read aloud or class novel for Years 6-8.

MerTales: The Best Friend Promise by Rebecca Timmis

Do you need a new series of books to hook the young mermaid lover in your life? Rebecca Timmis has exactly what you’re looking for! The Best Friend Promise is the first book in Rebecca’s new series, MerTales, and it’s out now.

Pearl the mermaid is turning nine and she’s super excited for her party. While escaping from a reef shark on her way to school Pearl sees a shooting star crash into the ocean, and everything changes. Pearl’s tail starts to glow and shimmer, and now she can talk to animals. Pearl tries to show her friends that she can talk to animals but none of her friends believe her. Pearl makes the most of being able to talk to animals, especially when it comes to riding her seahorse, Silverdust. When Pearl upsets another mermaid from her class, Pearl and her friends must venture into the Weeded Wood to rescue her. Pearl will have to hope that her magic power is enough to save them all from a hungry reef dragon.

The Best Friend Promise is a bright, fun story that will hook young readers on this series. It is bursting with Rebecca’s cute black and white illustrations, with splashes of colour, lots of sea puns, and short chapters, making it perfect for newly independent readers. The cover is bright and shiny, and it will make the book hard to resist. My 6 year old daughter loves mermaids and we loved reading this together. It was fun to read aloud.

MerTales is perfect for fans of Sally Odgers’ Pearl the Unicorn series and readers who love mermaids, magic and animals.