By Georgina Gye

Honey and the Valley of Horses by Wendy Orr, published by Allen & Unwin

Honey and the Valley of Horses is the magical tale of a family trapped in paradise. Honey, her parents, NanNan and baby brother Rumi, escaped the city when “illness swept the world.” Packed into the family’s ice cream van were all the possessions they needed to live in the countryside until they thought it safe to return to civilization.


When they discover a hidden valley inhabited by wild horses, they were unaware that the path that leads back to the city disappeared behind them. They were trapped in an idyllic place but always dream of going back to their family and friends.


Befriended by the horses and guided by the animals’ uncanny knowledge of their surroundings, the family settled into a routine. As the seasons passed and they worked the land, they thought about what they’d left behind. Honey and Rumi were little when they arrived but seven years have passed and now they are all faced with a desperate situation. Honey’s dad is seriously ill and Honey must find a way out of the valley and find a doctor.


Wendy Orr has created a fragile magical paradise. A welcome escape from an infected world, but it comes at a price. It is a study of how the perfect can sometimes hide flaws. Of how families can learn to adapt. The themes of resilience, adaptability, family, bravery and pure belief are all explored here. Young Middle Grade reader will love the descriptions of how the family lives and the beautiful relationship Honey has with her horse, Moongold.


For Ages: 9 - 13 years


Number of Pages: 224


Published: August 2023


Themes: Resilience, family and belonging


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Hamlet is Not OK by R.A Spratt, published by Penguin Australia

R.A Spratt has given us another humour-filled novel. This alternate exploration of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is great. (I wish it had been around when I had to study it). The main character Selby, comes from a family of high achievers and is struggling with school. She is disengaged and avoiding homework – quite successfully, until Parent-Teacher night rolls around. Her parents are furious and not only ban TV and anything fun, they hire her a tutor.


Dan is a friend of her brother and Selby is not thrilled to have to spend time with him. They work after school in Selby’s parents book shop and her first task is to read Hamlet. Selby HATES reading.


Somehow, Selby’s reading of Hamlet transports her and Dan to a real-life enactment of Shakespeare’s play. They encounter Hamlet, his father’s ghost, his mother, uncle, school friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and poor Ophelia along with all the major plot elements of the play. Selby is struck by Hamlet’s behaviour and the casual violence enacted throughout the play and decides to try and set things right – or at least lessen the death toll.


What follows is adventure that explores the themes Shakespeare was so fond of. Anxiety, depression, delusions, unrequited love, loyalty, family and insanity. Though Shakespeare had different words for some of the emotions that ran so strongly through his characters, here we get to see them through modern interpretations. Selby’s struggles with what looks like classic dyslexia and compulsion to set things straight morally, all come together to give the reader the suggestion of a different angle to view the world.


For Ages: 13 + years


Number of Pages: 224


Published: July 2023


Themes: Family, dyslexia, depression, morals


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all illustrations have been done by Marianne Khoo & Ramona Davey who we love & appreciate more than they can ever imagine!

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