Fil & Harry (Jenny Blackford, illus by Kristin Devine, Christmas Press)
This charming novel is the first book in a new list from Christmas Press aimed at that tricky age between picture books and middle fiction. Written by Jenny Blackford, whose debut book The Girl in the Mirror won the 2020 Davitt Award for Best Children’s Crime Novel, Fil & Harry also includes whimsical illustrations by Kristin Devine. Fil is having a rough time of it lately: her mum has moved away and a new stepmum is upsetting the delicate balance in the family; her brother seems to be growing up and leaving her far behind; and worst of all, her best friend is turning into a bit of a frenemy. In fact, the only person who seems to have Fil’s back is her beloved cat Harry, who reveals that he can talk (and who, satisfyingly, is exactly as snarky as you would expect a cat to be). With Harry by her side, Fil discovers the confidence and courage she needs to believe in herself and stand up to bullies. Fil & Harry is a gentle novel with short, accessible chapters and some excellent vocabulary-building words for emerging readers to discover. It’s perfect for readers aged seven and up.
Lian Hingee is the digital marketing manager at Readings.