COVER REVEAL: ‘The Fire Star’, new from A.L. Tait

COVER REVEAL: ‘The Fire Star’, new from A.L. Tait

I am so very excited to share the beautiful cover of THE FIRE STAR (A Maven & Reeve Mystery), published by Penguin Books Australia on 1 September 2020.

The Fire Star, new from A.L. Tait


Step inside the castle. The mystery awaits . . .

A maid with a plan.

A squire with a secret.

A missing jewel.

A kingdom in turmoil.

Maven and Reeve have three days to solve the mystery of the Fire Star.

This could be a complete disaster . . . or the beginning of a great friendship.

Hasn’t the Penguin team done a wonderful job? I CANNOT WAIT for you and your young readers (12+) to meet Maven and Reeve and share their adventures.

You can pre-order through Booktopia here, through your favourite online bookseller here, or order at your local bookshop for delivery on 1 September.

Let the countdown begin!

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.

 You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

10+ GGSD (Girls Getting Stuff Done) Middle-Grade Reads

10+ GGSD (Girls Getting Stuff Done) Middle-Grade Reads

10+ GGSD (Girls Getting Stuff Done) Middle Grade Reads | allisontait.com “Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it.”

Anne Lamott’s quote has always resonated with me for two reasons. One is that you don’t really know how to write a book until you get in there and write one.

The second is that sometimes you don’t even realise what you’ve written until you reach The End – and, even then, sometimes not until someone else tells you.

In the spotlight today is my good friend Allison Rushby, the author of many books for children, YA and adults, who can also relate to this quote.

Discovering what you’ve really written

When The Turnkey was released in 2017, I was overjoyed with the reviews it received – until  one stopped me in my tracks.

The reviewer called The Turnkey “surreptitiously feminist” and I found myself reading her review over and over again, because it made me think A LOT about exactly what it was that I’d written.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the review in question was a lovely one (you can read it in its entirety here). In her review, one of the main points the reviewer makes is that, throughout the novel, Flossie remains in charge.

No older male steps in to tell her what to do, or how to save the day. Rather, she’s put in charge of large groups of men, including soldiers, and these men all happily report back to her as she works out how she’s going to save her cemetery and country.

At the time of reading this eye-opening review, I was finishing up the first draft of The Seven Keys (the second book in The Turnkey series, released this month with Walker Books Australia). I began to ask myself if what I was writing was also “surreptitiously feminist”…

I didn’t have to ponder this question long. There was nothing “surreptitious” about it. By the end of The Seven Keys, almost every key role in London’s twilight world is filled by a female character. The Seven Keys is just flat-out feminist.

When it comes to the portrayal of females in others’ work, I wasn’t surprised to find that a lot of the middle-grade fiction I connect with also has strong female protagonists. I do so love a good go-getting heroine. A girl who GSD (Gets Stuff Done) just like Flossie and her friends do in The Turnkey and The Seven Keys.

With this in mind, I came up with a list of some of my favourite GGSD (Girls Getting Stuff Done) middle-grade/upper-middle-grade reads that I hope you and your little reader love as much as I do.

10+ GGSD (Girls Getting Stuff Done) Middle Grade reads

Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Melody’s body might not be strong (she has cerebral palsy), but her mind is fierce. She’s on a one woman mission to let her classmates know just how smart she really is.

The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley

Ada’s fight for self-worth and a life to call her own is absolutely heartbreaking, as is her carer’s backstory of love and the loss of her partner. Together, these strong-willed characters manage to help each other strive for a happy ever after.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The star of the show is Ivan (a caged gorilla who lives in a shopping mall), but clear-eyed Julia, the custodian’s daughter, is underrated in this tale. Her actions and courage will stay with you for a long time.

The Ateban Cipher series by A.L. Tait

In a world of monks and a stolen illuminated text, it takes a couple of smart girls to get in there, work out what’s going on and begin to set things to rights.

The Family with Two Front Doors by Anna Ciddor

Set in 1920s Poland and centred on a very religious Jewish family, this might seem a strange choice, but the historical setting and different way of life provides so much to discuss from a feminist perspective.

Everything I’ve Never Said by Samantha Wheeler

Ava is desperate to communicate with her family, but Rett Syndrome makes this impossible. That is, until some new people in her life allow this strong, driven character to finally show the world her true personality.

The Ratcatcher’s Daughter by Pamela Rushby

It’s 1900 and Issy’s father is a rat-catcher. When he becomes ill, it’s up to Issy to – wait for it – help rid Brisbane of the plague.

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

Lenny’s world is falling apart, but how she deals with this (and, especially, her mother’s abusive partner) shows the depth of her character.

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

Jena must deny herself food and wrap her limbs in order to stay small so she can slip inside rock crevices and retrieve precious mica. It is only when she begins to question the inconsistencies in her world that she can be set free.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Mia’s immigrant parents are doing it tough and so is Mia, who tends the desk at the Calivista motel while they clean rooms. She might be small, but this tenacious heroine packs a lot of “I can do it!” action into one book.

Allison Rushby is the author of more than 20 books. Her latest middle-grade novel, The Seven Keys, is the sequel to the award-winning The Turnkey. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.







Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.

You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’d like more book suggestions for your young reader, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community.

*This post contains affiliate links. Click the title of each book to find out more about it or to purchase from Booktopia.

News, reviews + interviews (July 2019)

News, reviews + interviews (July 2019)

I confess the heading for this post may be misleading – this month, it’s mostly about the news!


Writers love writers’ festivals. We love them. They’re busy and tiring and a little bit crazy for someone like me, who spends most of her time alone with her computer and her dog.

But the joy of them for authors is that, for a few days, you’re part of a team of people who are doing exactly what you’re doing.

Which is why I’ve returned from the Whitsunday Voices Youth Literary Festival tired but with a huge smile on my face. With more than 5000 students taking part over two days, the festival, held in Mackay, is a huge event, but it is so incredibly well organised by the festival team that you feel as though nothing could possibly go wrong.

Sure, behind the scenes, there may have been hiccoughs, but we didn’t see them and I think the students who came to the many and various sessions would agree.

I’m sharing a few pics below so that you can get an idea of the flavour of the event.

Opening night panel with Jeann from Happy Indulgence book blog, Samantha Wheeler, Steven Herrick and me

A lovely drawing from a student.

One of six wonderful sessions.

In the green room. Pic: Michael Gerard Bauer



Shoalhaven Readers’ & Writers’ Festival

Next up for me on the writers’ festival front is the Shoalhaven Readers’ & Writers’ Festival this weekend. As director of the children’s program, I’ll have the pleasure of escorting Jacqueline Harvey to her school visits on Friday, while Jack Heath is looked after by another volunteer, and then introducing the festival on Saturday at Nowra Library (storytime from 10am) before conducting my all-but-soldout writing workshop later that day.

It’s all very exciting!

Other news

In the meantime, however, I have the absolute pleasure tomorrow of launching the MS Readathon in the Illawarra. I’m an author ambassador for the MS Readathon this year and I couldn’t be happier to be part of something that promotes reading in the widest sense of the word whilst also raising funds for a very worthy cause.

You can read more about the MS Readathon here, and I’ll report back on the launch later in the week.

Procrastipup and I are ready for the MS Readathon.


So You Want To Be A Writer, my book with my fabulous podcast co-host Valerie Khoo, has been garnering some lovely reviews. Thanks so much to Dianne Bates from BuzzWords for this review:.

“...it should prove to be very popular, in fact (in the words of Pamela Hart, award-winning historical fiction author), ‘it is perfect for the person who wants to write but doesn’t have the confidence or the know-how to start.’”

And to Nicole Melanson from Word Mothers for this one:

Whether you are merely curious about writing or already well established, I’d wager there are some useful tips for you sprinkled throughout So You Want to Be a Writer.”

Meanwhile, on Amazon, I was thrilled by this review, among others:










Thanks to everyone who’s left reviews! If you’ve read and enjoyed any of my books and you have a minute, please consider leaving a review on your platform of choice. It’s one of the very best gifts you can give any writer.

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.

 You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

100+ gift book ideas for kids of all ages

100+ gift book ideas for kids of all ages

100+ book gift ideas for kids of all ages | allisontait.comToday the very last of my 2018 book lists was published by Vanessa over at Style & Shenanigans, so it seems a very good time to collate them all in one place for easy reference (as much for me, as for you…)

So, here it is, the ultimate list of my recent book lists. Hundreds of books for readers aged from babies to teens.

If you’re looking for a new read for your kids for Christmas, for the holidays, or at any time of year, bookmark this page for easy reference. Click the post title to visit the full list.

Your Kid’s Next Read: Recommended reading lists for kids 10+, 12+, 14+ (2018 edition)

15 more tried-and-tested books for 13/14-year-old boys (+ 13 expert choices)

5 picture book picks for Christmas

10 spooky (or scary) middle-grade books for Halloween

40 YA books for tweens (+ 25 middle-grade books that feel like YA)

23 newish books for tweens by Australian women

21 book gifts for reluctant readers they won’t be able to resist

30 books by Australian authors to give to kids this Christmas

30 (more) brilliant books for girls this Christmas

The best kids’ books for Christmas

I’m sure you’ll find the perfect book for your young reader on one of these lists!

Need more? You’ll find another 100+ book ideas for your young reader here, in my round-up on last year’s book lists (great books remain great books, no matter what year they’re published, after all…)

If you’re after specific recommendations for a very particular kind of reader, why not join my Facebook community Your Kid’s Next Read, where you’ll find 5000+ parents, teachers, booksellers, librarians, bloggers and other interested parties all ready to help with recommendations? We’d love to see you there.

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m the author of two epic adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and you can find out more about me here.

Both The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher are great for kids aged 9+ and you can find out more about them here

How my book became a musical

How my book became a musical

How my book became a musical | allisontait.comIf you’ve been listening to the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, you’ll know that Val and I are both fans of musical theatre. She never misses an opportunity to drop Hamilton into the conversation, while I… well, you can read about the time I randomly auditioned for a musical here.

So when my friend (and author) Emma Grey began posting on Facebook about how she was working with fabulous ARIA-award-winning composer Sally Whitwell to turn Emma’s YA novel Unrequited into a musical, my ears pricked up and I watched the process unfold with great interest.

The musical was staged for the first time in Canberra a few months ago, to great reviews, and so I asked Emma and Sally to write a post to bring together all of those Facebook updates and share with us exactly how one goes about turning a novel into a musical.

And here it is. It’s a long one. You’ll need a cup of tea. And maybe a feather boa.

How Unrequited became a musical

Emma Grey, author

Ideas for novels hit in the strangest of places. Four years ago, I was sitting in a One Direction concert in Sydney with my then 13-year-old and her sister, enduring the piercing squeals of 20,000 screaming, infatuated fangirls. I imagined what would happen if you were a teenager dragged to a concert like that against your better musical judgement.

Maybe you were escorting your younger sister there and it was your worst nightmare… perhaps you’re a singer-songwriter yourself … and an anti-fan, and you’re ignoring the concert, minding your own business, and you’re noticed by one of the boys in the band you hate …

My daughter hated reading, but loved boy bands, and I wondered how difficult it might be to merge the two. It seemed the ideal way to show her that reading could be fun, while creating a contemporary romantic story populated by strong and driven female characters who can fall in love without losing their minds.

Unrequited was self-published in 2014. Shortly after, it was picked up by a literary agent, Anjanette Fennell, who sent to 17 publishers before HarperCollins offered a two-book deal in 2017.

One of the earliest reviews of the book was from my childhood friend, duel ARIA-winning composer, Sally Whitwell. ‘This has got hit Broadway musical written all over it. All. Over. It!’ Sally wrote, in what we hope will one day become a prophetic observation.

Sally took the story and set it to some unforgettable music and we had our first workshop at St Clare’s College in Canberra this year under the expert direction of our new friend and fellow hare-brained schemer, Vanessa Johnson.

Our first review described the show as ‘a glittery, loud, proud and completely unique musical extravaganza: think cleverly worded boyband numbers, beautifully orchestrated ballads, hilariously vain pop star numbers … and heart-wrenching duets that wouldn’t be out of place on Broadway’.

While we work towards the Broadway goal (beginning with finding the next Australian high school to stage it), I’ve just completed the first draft of a sequel, with visions of a six-part series. The draft had barely left Google Docs and landed in Sally’s inbox before she’d uploaded two new songs into the cloud, beginning the creation of our second musical. Sally had initially received advice from her peers to ‘scale down’ the concept of the show to fit the small venues and ensembles that would be easier and more realistic for us to arrange … so we promptly ignored that advice and scaled it up.

We envisage the show/s in numerous guises, from an abridged ‘Unrequited Junior’ and low-budget high school musicals through to national and international touring versions, the West End, Broadway and even a Schools-Spectacular-esque stadium performance with a cast of thousands.

Then there’s the movie-musical adaptation we’re imagining, the merch, the reality TV ‘search for the stars’ idea, the ‘making of’ documentary, the songwriting scholarship for young women that we’d love to establish once this all takes off … and all the other ideas we just haven’t thought of yet.

This has never been ‘just a book’. It began to light the imagination of my daughter, and somehow caught fire in our grown-up imaginations. For different and deeply personal reasons, this project has seen both Sally and I through some of the most difficult and fraught experiences of our lives. We all need a little more fun and light and hope in our world, and the Unrequited project has become our way of contributing some of that light. We’re quite in love with the story, the collaboration and the dream.

Sally Whitwell, composer

Who would have thought, 30 years after meeting each other in our high school ‘home room’, that Emma and I would be here having collaborated on a musical about a boy band? Certainly not me! In my teens, I was so busy practising Debussy on the piano, and Mozart on the bassoon, that the concept of the Boy Band pretty much passed me by completely.

I preferred Bach to the Backstreet Boys, Rachmaninov to Rick Astley, the New World Symphony to New Kids on the Block.

Fast forward to 2014, I sat down on my couch with a cuppa and a biscuit to read Emma’s novel Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band. My coffee went cold, my biscuit went soggy, so engrossed was I in this wonderful story for which I am absolutely, positively, definitely NOT the target audience.

I immediately messaged Emma begging her to allow me to adapt her story as a stage musical. She informed me that it was a movie, not a musical. I set some of the lyrics in the book to music, recorded it on my phone and sent it to her. She liked the song, but again she told me it was a movie. Stubbornly, I wrote a tune for yet more of the lyrics in the book. It seemed to do the trick. She finally said yes to the musical idea. We decided to tackle the adaptation together.

Thence followed what we now fondly refer to as The Great Summer of Writing. I was struck down by the worst bout of laryngitis I’d ever had. Couldn’t speak at all for at least three weeks over Christmas and New Year. Instead of being miserable about being sick in summer, I spent those hours collaborating with Emma over google docs and dropbox at all hours of the day and night. We’ve since worked out that this is the best way for us to work. When we’re in the same room, we constantly dissolve into conversation but when we’re 300km apart, we work really intensely and productively. Go figure.

I work with young musicians every day as an educator, so what thrilled me the most when I first read Unrequited was the message it sends to young women. A book with strong but flawed young female leads, characters with whom a teen girl audience can immediately identify, taking full control of their futures.

People regularly assume that I always knew exactly how my career would pan out, that I was always so certain, so sure of myself and my life in music. But it wasn’t actually that clear cut. I had a general idea that it would be music, but I didn’t know precisely how. Bassoonist in an orchestra? Accompanist? Teacher? Arranger? Composing didn’t come into my life until I was 35, so that career path wasn’t really open to me. It is plain weird that my writing life has taken a turn into both Boyband and musical theatre territory. I mean, I really kinda loathe both those things, or thought I did, but I can see now that I just didn’t like the way many other people do it.

Best way to make things happen is to do them yourself! So here we are.

Unrequited: #loveozya novel about girl meets boybandEmma Grey is the Canberra-based author of Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum (2005) and the award-winning I Don’t Have Time, co-authored with Audrey Thomas (2017). Her debut teen novel, Unrequited, was published by HarperCollins in September this year, and she is in the final stages of writing its sequel. She is co-creator of the productivity program, My 15 Minutes, creator of WorkLifeBliss, and she has a weekly column in HerCanberra.

Sally Whitwell is a dual ARIA Award winning composer and pianist based in Sydney. She has released four albums with ABC Classics/Universal (Mad Rush; The Good, the Bad and the Awkward; All Imperfect Thingsand I Was Flying) and will release her first double album in February 2018, Completely Piano Etudes of Philip Glass. For some years, she has worked as principle accompanist for Gondwana Choirs with whom she has toured widely in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Most recent compositions have included Face to the Sun, for the Acacia Quartet, Fatal Flaw by Ensemble Offspring.

Find out more about Unrequited (book and musical) here.

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