Recommended kids books, news & resources for July

This month in children’s books we have real friends, imaginary friends, not-imaginary monsters, heartfelt family dramas and pint-sized pranking activists.

Find our July picks for YA books here.


KIDS BOOK OF THE MONTH


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When Rain Turns to Snow by Jane Godwin

Lissa is home on her own one afternoon when Reed turns up on the doorstep carrying an unwell five-month-old baby. He’s trying to find out who he really is and thinks Lissa’s mum might have some answers. But how could he be connected to Lissa’s family, and why has he been left in charge of a baby? Reed’s appearance stirs up untold histories in Lissa’s already complex family, while her older brother Harry is dealing with a difficult situation online.

Our reviewer Kim loved this emotional coming-of-age novel about families and friendships, saying that it has ‘some intense themes that are approached compassionately and resolved thoughtfully.’ For ages 10 and up.

You can find our full review here.


FIVE KIDS BOOKS TO READ THIS MONTH


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Finding François by Gus Gordon

Alice lives happily and cosily with her grandmother, but sometimes she wishes she had someone her own size to talk to. After throwing a bottled message into the Seine, she meets François, the son of a lighthouse keeper, and a true friendship blossoms. But when something terrible happens, Alice disappears inside her grief, and François begins to worry that he’s been forgotten.

A new picture book from award-winning author and illustrator Gus Gordon is always a treat. Our reviewer Bronte is already calling Finding François one of her favourites of the year, admiring how it ‘pays tribute to the realities of loss and the healing power of friendship.’

You can find our full review here.


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Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham

When Ellie is very little, she finds a newborn dragon fresh from the egg on a supermarket shelf, and calls him Scratch. From that day on and over the years, Ellie and Scratch do everything together – movies, sleepovers and even flying. Ellie’s mum and her teacher can’t see her fiery friend, but all her friends can, and, over the years, Ellie’s dragon grows to be very big, house-trained, and very affectionate. Ellie is growing up too though, and when Scratch starts to fade, their paths are destined to separate.

Our reviewer Bronte says that: ‘Graham’s distinctive gentle humour and soft, whimsical drawings illuminate this bittersweet portrait of growing up.’ For ages 3 and up.

You can find our full review here.


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Hodgepodge (How to Make a Pet Monster, Book 1) by Lili Wilkinson & Dustin Spence (illustrator)

When eleven-year-old Artie and his newly blended family move into a spooky, creaky old house, he reminds himself that he believes in science, doesn’t believe in ghosts, and that his intimidating stepsister Willow is probably be the scariest thing in his life. But when Artie and Willow find an old spell book about monsters, they work together to make a (scientifically impossible) monster: Hodgepodge. Hodgepodge is energetic, farty and on a mission…

The first junior fiction book from established YA author Lili Wilkinson is highly illustrated and perfect for beginner readers. Our reviewer Natalie highly recommends this ‘funny adventure romp, featuring a really bad, bad guy, an endearing monster who eats smelly socks, and a hapless pair of heroes.’ For ages 7 and up.

You can find our full review here.


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The Secret Library of Hummingbird House by Julianne Negri

Hattie Maxwell is trying to make sense of her life since her parents separated. Her one escape is Hummingbird House, an old mansion with a giant mulberry tree just perfect for climbing to hide from the world. So when Hattie learns that the house is going to be demolished, she is determined to save it. A midnight visit becomes a step back in time, and Hummingbird House reveals its secrets: a hidden library, a mysterious new friend, and a lost treasure that could help stop the development.

Our reviewer Angela enjoyed the blend of magic, contemporary Melbourne setting and real-life family themes in this time-slip fantasy, saying: ‘Reminiscent of Playing Beatie Bow, this is a charming novel that will be enjoyed by readers aged 10+.’

You can find our full review here.


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The Power of Positive Pranking by Nat Amoore

When Casey and her friends Cookie and Zeke learn that the Mayor of Watterson has secret nefarious plans for their town, they are inspired by an old photo of Casey’s mum chained to a a tree to put their talent for pranks to productive use. With oodles of energy and creativity, their covert new activist group ‘Green Peas’ uses chaotic pranks to draw attention to the serious issues the adults are being apathetic about.

If you loved Nat Amoore’s Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire, then you’ll be pleased to know that The Power of Positive Pranking features some familiar faces. It can also be read as a stand-alone novel. Our reviewer Dani loved the way it showed ‘fun way kids can make a difference.’ For ages 8 and up.

You can find our full review here.


NEWS, RESOURCES & RECOMMENDATIONS


In a delightful turn of events, Australian author-illustrator Shaun Tan has won the very prestigious CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for his wonderful book Tales from the Inner City! This is a unique and beautiful collection of illustrated mythical poems and stories about our relationship with animals, both real and imagined. You can read about his Greenaway win here.

A reminder about one of our favourite prizes… The Readings Children’s Book Prize celebrates exciting new voices in Australian children’s literature for readers aged 5 to 12, and our shortlist of six books contains something for every kind of reader. We’ll be announcing the winner online on Tuesday 21 July. We’ll also be awarding the Readings Young Adult Book Prize at the same time.

If you know of a keen young fantasy reader aged 8-12, we’ve put together a list of recommended fantasy books that are culturally and LGBTQIA+ inclusive. We also regularly get asked for books to help kids reluctant to get started in their reading journey, so here some of our best picks for funny books to help ease the way.

For crafty and imaginative kids who need an art activity for the school holidays, check out this fantastic workshop with artist Tai Snaith (author of You Might Find Yourself and The Family Hour in Australia). Using paper and watercolours, kids aged 9-12 can create a beautiful and colourful imaginary landscape with Snaith’s help.

In the early days of isolation, Australian Children’s Laureate Ursula Dubosarsky wrote the poem ‘The Little Cat’ to uplift and encourage kids around Australia. You can now view a great Auslan translation of ‘The Little Cat’ here.

We’ll take every bit of good news we can get at the moment – so we’re delighted to hear that the beloved Australian junior fiction series by Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood, Real Pigeons, is getting adapted for the screen. We can’t wait.


Leanne Hall is a children’s and YA specialist at Readings Kids. She also writes books for children and young adults.

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When Rain Turns to Snow

When Rain Turns to Snow

Jane Godwin

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