Meredith Costain (text), and Danielle McDonald (illustrator), The Super Secret Club (Ella Diaries #15), Scholastic Australia, March 2019, 143 pp., RRP $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781743818084
The Super Secret Club is the latest title in the popular “Ella diaries” series which is much loved by girls aged 6-9.
In this episode, Ella’s second-best BFFs keep huddling together, whispering and giggling, and clearly leaving Ella and her best friend, Zoe, out of their seemingly exciting activities. Instead of feeling hurt at being excluded, Ella sees this development as an exciting mystery to be solved. She sets about concocting some hairbrained sleuthing strategies and holds an “emergency meeting” with Zoe to eat some snacks and brainstorm preposterous explanations for the friends’ secretiveness. All is finally revealed when Zoe and Ella receive pink envelopes containing invitations to join SOAP (Secret Organisation of Amazing People). But sadly, Ella forgets the required password for entry to SOAP and has to pass another series of stringent tests to be admitted. Finally, Ella makes a snap decision to avoid the club’s peer pressure by exuberantly and playfully escaping the last but most humiliating test. Happily, she is joined by her true friends as she runs from SOAP’s hideout. The lesson learnt is that inclusive games out in the open of the playground are far more satisfying and enjoyable.
Without being didactic, this story provides a lesson on coping with friends’ betrayals. The tone is joyful and humorous, and Ella is as a likable and optimistic role model. Danielle McDonald’s humorous cartoon style drawings, interspersed throughout the text, add to the light-hearted tone and further develop the characters. Being in bridging novel format, with only a few sentences per page, it is a manageable read for newly independent readers or to be enjoyed as a light, easy read. Girls aged 6- 9 will enjoy the drama of the goings on in the playground as well as Ella’s humorous, positive approach to coping with friendship group dynamics.
Reviewed by Barbara Swartz