Recommended children’s books & news for July

This month in kids books we’ve got a funny and honest verse novel, a new picture book from a master Australian storyteller, charming junior fiction about animals, a time-bending adventure and a sweeping Australian history book.

Find our July picks for YA books here.



Are You There, Buddha? by Pip Harry

Bridget ‘Bee’ Ballentine is 12 and starting her first year of high school in the beach suburb Crescent Bay. Still reeling from the departure of her mother for an ashram in India, Bee talks to Buddha and begs for her first period not to arrive.

Although Bee’s yet to find her tribe at school, her best friend forever is surfer Leon McKay, also known as the hottest boy in Year Eight. As long as Leon has her back, Bee can survive the mean girls, her meddling step-mum, Kath, and her swimming nemesis, The Piranha. Over one blistering summer, set against the backdrop of bushfires, smoke haze and water restrictions, Bee will grow up, show up, and make a name for herself.

This new verse novel from award-winning Australian author Pip Harry impressed our reviewer Athina, who said: ‘I loved Bee’s resilience in her search for friendship and identity and her transition to young adulthood; her story is inspiring, honest and wonderfully funny.’

You can read her full review here.

For ages 11 and up.



Kafka and the Doll by Larissa Theule & Rebecca Green

Inspired by a true story, Kafka and the Doll recounts a remarkable gesture of kindness from one of the world’s most bewildering and iconic writers.

In the fall of 1923, Franz Kafka encountered a distraught little girl on a walk in the park. She’d lost her doll and was inconsolable. Kafka told her the doll wasn’t lost, but instead, traveling the world and having grand adventures! And to reassure her, Kafka began delivering letters from the doll to the girl for weeks.

The legend of Kafka and the doll has captivated imaginations for decades as it reveals the playful and compassionate side of a man known for his dark and brooding tales. Kafka and the Doll is a testament to living life to the fullest and to the life-changing power of storytelling.

For ages 3 and up.


Story Doctors by Boori Monty Pryor & Rita Sinclair

Legendary storyteller Boori Monty Pryor invites us to travel with him from the first footsteps through 80,000+ years of strength, sickness, and immense possibility. From the very first stories and art, to dance, language, and connection with the land, Boori offers a powerful, beautiful, and deeply rich account of Australia’s true history, drawing on a lifetime of wisdom, and on his generous instinct to teach and heal.

An exquisitely illustrated celebration of the power of storytelling to unite us, how nature connects us, and the wonderful truth that the medicine needed for healing lies within us all. Our reviewer Angela highly recommends this book as ‘an important work by an Australian legend that celebrates storytelling and bringing people together.’

You can read her full review here.

For ages 5 and up.


News Hounds: The Puppy Problem by Laura James & Charlie Alder

Gizmo is a city dog, so when he moves to the village of Puddle with his journalist human he doesn’t know what to expect. Luckily he’s got Jilly, the wolfhound next door, to show him around. But Jilly has a problem. Her puppies are going to be given to new owners far away. She’ll never see them again! Gizmo might not know the difference between a cow and a tractor but he’s got a nose for a story, and a great idea to help Jilly. What if the dogs of Puddle had a newspaper?

This is a charming and hilarious new series by the author of The Adventures of Pug. Our reviewer Athina described it as ‘full of personality and charm’ and admired how it ‘beautifully explores the importance of friendship in resolving anxiety and finding creative solutions in challenging situations.’

You can read her full review here.

For ages 7 and up.


The Adventure Club: Red Panda Rescue by Jess Butterworth & Kirsti Beautyman

Tilly has no plans for the summer holidays and is dreading months of boredom – that is until she becomes part of The Adventure Club and wins a place to go track and monitor endangered red pandas in Nepal! In the Himalayas, she meets other members of the club, rides on yaks, plants a bamboo forest and even spots the secretive red panda. But then the red panda Tilly and her team has been monitoring disappears. Will Tilly be able to help find it, or will her first ever adventure end in disaster?

Our reviewer Dani recommended this first book in a new series by award-winning UK authors Jess Butterworth as ‘a great junior novel for all kids interested in animals, conservation and having adventures.’

You can read her full review here.

For ages 6 and up.


When Days Tilt by Karen Ginnane

It’s 1858, and there are two queens on the throne. Victoria reigns over London, and the time-bending Green Witch rules over London’s secret shadow city, Donlon. London is in turmoil and its people are disappearing into thin air. If they return, it is with empty eyes and torn souls, never to be the same again.

Ava, a fourteen-year-old Londoner, feels trapped by the limited life of a young Victorian woman and by her watchmaking apprenticeship with her father. Her predictable world is turned upside down when she discovers that the body in her mother’s grave is not her mother, but a stranger. When Ava goes in search of her real mother and her true identity, she is thrust into the dark world of Donlon…

Our reviewer Angela greatly enjoyed this action-packed fantasy story, and said it’s ‘an exciting debut Australian novel with an unique concept about transforming time.’

You can read her full review here.

For ages 11 and up.


The Story of Australia by Don Watson

Don Watson’s The Story of Australia is a modern history of our nation that integrates new understandings about Indigenous Australia and looks to the future, asking - where will we go from here? In clear, succinct language that both children and adults will appreciate, Watson guides readers from the ancient lands of Gondwana, through human settlement, colonisation and waves of migration, to the challenges facing our diverse nation today.

Each era is brought to life in a series of beautifully illustrated spreads, and each chapter ends with a profile of a person, from the oldest Australian ever discovered, Mungo Woman, to pop icon Kylie Minogue. Our reviewer Susan praised this well-rounded new history: ‘Watson’s book is a perfect introduction to Australian history that will leave the reader with big questions for the future.’

You can read her full review here.

For ages 10 and up.



Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

One night, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight. Armed only with an oversized purple crayon, Harold draws himself a landscape full of beauty and excitement. He conducts his adventure with the utmost care, letting his imagination run free, but keeping his wits about him all the while. This magical journey gives us the wondrous sense that anything is possible.

Crockett Johnson’s joyful story has delighted readers of all ages since its first publication in 1955. Our reviewer Tye described Harold and the Purple Crayon as ‘perennially relevant and whimsical, perhaps more so in these strange times of lockdowns in our own homes, where imagination is more important than ever.’

You can read her full review here.

For ages 3 and up.


We’re delighted to invite you and your family to Readings St Kilda on Sunday 11 July 2021 at 11:00am for story time with legendary and much-loved First Nations storyteller, Boori Monty Pryor. Boori Monty Pryor will be reading his latest book Story Doctors, and will also be playing didgeridoo on the day. Suitable for families with children aged 12 and under. Free to attend but bookings are essential!

If you have a curious kid, why not bring them along to the book launch of Why do Tigers Have Whiskers? And Other Cool Things About Animals on Saturday 31 July 2021, 10:30am at Readings State Library? The event will be chaired by The Conversation’s Lucy Beaumont and will feature Deakin University’s Professor Euan Ritchie and The University of Melbourne’s Dr Kylie Soanes - answering all questions in kids-speak, rather than academic jargon! This event is free to attend but bookings are essential.

Know someone on the cusp of adolescence who LOVES graphic novels? Check out our staff member Lucie’s excellent list of recommended graphic novels for tweens.

If you’re looking for some new at-home writing and storytelling activities to fill your school holidays, the wonderful 100 Story Building, has some fantastic activities and ideas to spark your creativity! Create your own continent, sort out the war between seagulls and horses, design a spaceship and much, much more.

Anyone interested in middle grade books will love the interviewees and reviews on the Middle Grade Mavens podcast. Recent interviews include Remy Lai, Shirley Marr, and Emily Gale and Nova Weetman.

Leanne Hall is the children’s specialist for Readings online. She also writes books for children and young adults.

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Are You There, Buddha?

Are You There, Buddha?

Pip Harry

$16.99Buy now

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