Penny draws: A secret adventure by Sara Shepherd

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For fans of Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid comes this new installment in the highly-illustrated Penny Draws series. Penny Draws a Secret Adventure is the third in the series, with a fourth on the way shortly. Sara Shepard is the American author of popular teen series Pretty Little Liars and the Penny Draws series is her first foray into middle grade books. The books are funny but heartfelt with comic style illustrations taking up half of the page space. Written in diary form, Penny writes to her dog Cosmo about her life and feelings. Dry humour abounds and Shepard has a clear understanding of contemporary tween and teen life; the teenage babysitter spends her time on her phone ordering smoothie deliveries and watching Tik Tok. There are also Penny's funny wonderings, such as her musings on the holey plot lines of Charlotte's Web.  

Penny is in Grade 5 and has new twin siblings, one of whom will not stop crying. Her mind is taken off the house chaos though when she discovers a treasure map in her attic. The clues lead the group of friends around their community, including the theme park and the school music room and end with them discovering that not everything is as it first appears. The writing style is witty and revolves around Penny's friendship dramas and family life, as well as giving voice to her ever-present self-doubt and lapses in self-confidence. She's a worrier - she even visits the Feelings Teacher (school counsellor) on a regular basis - and is worried because two of her friends are getting closer and have lots of the same interests. There is also the inevitable enemy who turns out to be a friend after all.

Themes: Friendship, Family, Anxiety, School Stories.

Nicole Nelson