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.

Brilliant fiction for newly independent readers

I’m always on the hunt for more great books to hook the youngest readers at my school. Having a 5-year-old daughter myself has helped me tune in to chapter books for 5-8 year olds, as I look for engaging books to read to her. This has also highlighted the imbalance of books aimed at boys and those aimed at girls for this age group. There are lots of great books and series aimed at girls, but not so much for boys. After searching through other blogs and publisher websites I found some new series that looked exciting and purchased these for my school library. After reading the first one or two books in the series below I can confidently say that these will be winners for the 5-8 year olds in your life.

Jasper and Scruff: Take a Bow by Nicola Colton

Take a Bow is the third book in the marvelous Jasper and Scruff series by Nicola Colton. In Take a Bow, Jasper and Scruff enter the Reach Fur the Stars talent show, hoping to wow the judges with their magic act. The horrid Sophisticats are back and are determined to win at all costs. They’ve messed with Jasper and Scruff before and they always come out with their tails out of joint, but they still haven’t learnt their lesson. Jasper and Scruff are delightful characters who I can’t get enough of. The book is illustrated in colour throughout, with illustrations on every page. This series is great to read aloud to Years 1 and 2 as the books are short and engaging.

Itty Bitty Princess Kitty series by Melody Mews, illustrated by Ellen Stubbings

This series is completely adorable and will make young girls squeal with delight when they see it (that was my daughter’s reaction). The first book (The Newest Princess) was released in February 2020 and there are currently 7 books in the series, with more to come soon. I bought the Itty Bitty Princess Kitty Collection, which includes the first 4 books in the series, and they have been gobbled up by my readers. I read the first one to my daughter in one night and we then read the three others over the rest of the week. Yes, they are super cute, but they are also funny and deal with things like coping with change and friendship. I especially love how, instead of knocking on doors, the cats scratch at the door, and there is a treat station in every room. Each book is illustrated throughout in black and white, with bright covers that jump off the shelf.

Jeanie and Genie series by Trish Granted, illustrated by Manuela Lopez

This is another series with a bright, colourful, girl-appeal cover. If the cover doesn’t scream ‘Pick Me!’ loud enough, the blurb will certainly grab readers. Jeanie is a girl who likes the ordinary and predictable, but her world is turned upside down when she meets the new girl, Willow. Willow is confident, friendly and fun, and after a bumpy start, Jeanie and Willow become good friends. Strange things start happening in class and it’s not long before Jeanie discovers that they have something to do with Willow. Willow is a genie! An actual, real-life genie, who grants wishes! She needs lots of practice to be able to earn her skill badges and pass her training. Together, Jeanie and Willow are going to have a lot of fun. I shared the first book, The First Wish, with my daughter and it was a winner for both of us. It is fun to read and very entertaining. We will be reading the rest of the series and I know that the girls in Year 1-4 are going to love them too.

Mack Rhino: Private Eye: The Big Race Lace Case by Paul Dubois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender, illustrated by Karl West

The Mack Rhino: Private Eye series is just one of many in Simon and Schuster’s Aladdin Quix range of Fast Fun Reads. These Quix books are specially designed to be fast, fun-to-read stories, full of humour and colourful characters. The Mack Rhino: Private Eye series certainly lives up to this. Mack Rhino is a detective in Coral Cove and he’s never short of cases. He has just put away the Ant Hill Gang, but someone else is up to no good. It’s the day of The Big Race around Coral Cove, but the laces from everyone’s running shoes are going missing. It’s up to Mack to solve the case before the end of the race. This is another great series that will appeal especially to boys. The chapters are short, there are illustrations on most pages and there is a helpful glossary at the back, with words that may be unfamiliar and how to pronounce them.

Fort Builders Inc.: The Birthday Castle by Dee Romito, illustrated by Marta Kissi

Fort Builders Inc. is another series in the Quix range of books. This is such a cool idea for a series and it’s going to be a hit with kids. Caleb loves books, especially his favourite series, Castle Quest. When he sees a special edition of the first book in the series in a bookshop his parents aren’t able to buy it for him. Along with his best friend, Jax, Caleb comes up with a plan to earn some money, so that he can buy the book. Together, they set up their own fort building company, called Fort Builders Inc. They will build box forts for anyone who is interested and charge for their services. Caleb and Jax find that they need other skills to help them make their forts really great, so they recruit Eddie and Kiara to help. With the deadline looming for their first creation the friends need to work together to build the best one possible. I loved the first book in the series and can’t wait to see how their business develops in the next books in the series. I especially like how they have to ask other kids to join them, as they know different kids have skills that can help them. I also like that Dee didn’t have a whole team of boys, but included Kiara too. Once again the chapters are short, there are illustrations on most pages and there is a helpful glossary at the back, with words that may be unfamiliar and how to pronounce them.

For more suggestions of fiction for newly independent readers check out my post about illustrated fiction for newly independent readers, featuring books by Swapna Haddow, Donovan Bixley, Sally Sutton and Paula Harrison. I also highly recommend Swapna Reddy and Binny Talib’s Ballet Bunny series for those readers aged 5-8 who want a super cute series to read.

Flying Furballs: Unmasked by Donovan Bixley

Claude D’Bonair and his cat friends are back for their third Flying Furballs adventure in Unmasked.  Donovan Bixley’s Flying Furballs series is one of the best series for young readers around.  The stories are packed with action, close shaves, puns to make you laugh-out-loud, brave cats and horrid dogs.  They are perfect for newly independent readers because there are lots of Donovan’s wonderful illustrations throughout the story and they are just really fun to read.


Claude D’Bonair is the heroic, young pilot in the CATS Air Corps, who you follow on his adventures in to DOGZ territory.  He flies all over Europe to try and foil the DOGZ plans and rescue fellow cats.  In the latest book in the series, Unmasked, Claude and Manx, CATs’ head engineer, have to go on an undercover mission to Venice to recover some secret plans.  With great escapes, explosions and marvelous inventions, Unmasked is another thrilling story in this fantastic series.

Flying Furballs is hugely popular in my library and I’m always trying to get new kids hooked.  The series is especially great for 7-9 year olds and they would be fantastic stories to read aloud to a Year 3/4 class.  I can’t wait to read more Flying Furballs adventures!

Yo-ho-ho! Here come the Steampunk Pirates!

Avast me hearties! Are you a land lubber lookin’ for a book chock full of adventure on the seven seas, robot pirates, laughs aplenty, and gold?  Well the Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates is the series for you. Hop on board The Leaky Battery and set sail with this rag-tag crew.

Wanted: Dead or Alive! (Or smashed into little bits and delivered in boxes.) Causing chaos wherever they sail, the robotic Steampunk Pirates are roaming the high seas, hunting for gold!

But the evil Iron Duke has other ideas…He’s determined to capture the pirates in return for a handsome reward from the King. Can these mechanical marauders stay one wave ahead of their enemy?

The Leaky Battery Sets Sail is the brilliant first book in Gareth P. Jones’ swashbuckling new series, Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates.  The Steampunk Pirates are a crew of robots who were once servants. They decided they didn’t want to be bossed around so acquired a ship and set out to find adventure.  Their crew is made up of their hot-headed leader Captain Clockheart, First Mate Mainspring (who gets dangerous when he gets overwound), Quartermaster Lexi (the brains of the crew who is fitted with an information file), Mr Gadge (so named because of all the gadgets he can attach to himself) and twelve other robotic low-lifes.

Their first adventure sees the Steampunk Pirates on the hunt for all the loot they can find.  They’ve discovered that life at sea isn’t so great when you’re made of metal because it rusts in the salty sea air.  They hear of an alchemist who can turn metal in to gold and Captain Clockheart believes this is the answer to their problems.  Along the way they meet the Iron Duke and other nasty humans who try to foil their plans.

Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates is perfect for readers aged 7+ who love adventure and love to laugh. They’re quick, fun reads with quirky illustrations that will appeal to young readers.  I look forward to seeing what happens in the next adventures of the Steampunk Pirates in Attack of the Giant Sea Spiders.  I highly recommend this series and you should definitely search out Gareth’s other books, including the Ninja Meerkats series, The Thornthwaite Inheritance, and one of my favourite books Constable and Toop.