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Archive for June, 2010

Now the ‘Lights Out’ visitors are gone, we thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of the children’s books that they liked reading undercover, and the ones they thought they’d like reading if they were reading after lights out today. So here’s a list! (Some of them might be out of print, but libraries will often have a copy of books that are out of print. Check your school library or your local public library. Ask your librarian!)

  • The Museum of Mary Child by Cassandra Golds
  • Swallows & Amazons series,
  • Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
  • The Queen’s Music
  • Deb Abela’s ‘Max Remy’ series
  • Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven series The Famous Five series, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Enchanted Wood, The Folk of the Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair series.
  • The Nancy Drew Mysteries
  • Roald Dahl books: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG
  • The Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren
  • Dr. Suess, in particular Green Eggs and Ham and Horton Hears a Who, and Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
  • Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are
  • Whiteoaks of Jalna Chronicles’ by Mazo de la Roche
  • Artemis Fowl
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • The Shark in Charlie’s Window
  • The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
  • Thai-riffic by Oliver Phommavanh
  • Zac Power
  • Specky Magee
  • Bonnie and Sam
  • Captain Underpants
  • CS Lewis’s Narnia series, including The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Jaguar Warrior by Sandy Fussell
  • Silver Curlew by Eleanor Farjeon
  • David Grimstone’s Gladiator Boy series
  • Little Women
  • Black Beauty
  • What Katy Did
  • Heidi
  • My Friend Flicka
  • Thunderhead
  • Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace, the adventures of a young teen in 1907.
  • The Works of Lewis Carroll
  • Hardy Boys
  • Nancy Drew
  • Nine True Dolphin Stories by Margaret Davidson
  • Fast-talking Dolphin by Carson Davidson
  • Mrs Piggle Wiggle books

What about you? Do you have any books you’d recommend? Tell us in the comments!

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Well, the Undercover Readers Club is now officially launched. In case you missed it — we’ve had children’s authors, poets and illustrators visiting the blog to talk about what they used to read undercover when they were growing up.

Tomorrow we’ll post a list of all the books mentioned, in case you’d like to look for them the next time you’re at a library or book shop.

And if you came late to the tour, here’s a list of all our visitors. Thanks for helping us launch the Undercover Readers Club. Hurrah!

~ Rebecca

Authors, poets and illustrators who visited:

Sheryl Gwyther
Aleesah Darlison
Katrina Germein
The Book Chook
Sandy Fussell
Sue Walker
Dee White
Chris Nixon
Kathryn Apel
Jackie Hosking
Hazel Edwards
Wendy Orr
Duncan Ball
Karen Collum
Robyn Opie
Angela Sunde

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Today we welcome the last of our ‘Lights Out!’ visitors to our blog. Angela Sunde is here to tell us what she used to read after ‘lights out’ when she was a child. Angela Sunde’s book Pond Magic, is an Aussie Chomp and will be published by Penguin Australia in September 2010.

"Pond Magic" cover

As a child I was a little scared of the dark. It’s not surprising really. You see, after lights out, when Mum and Dad were watching TV in "Angela Sunde photo"the lounge room, my brother would slither into my room on his stomach and pop his head up next to my bed with a wicked grin. Then, when my face was as pale as the flannelette sheets tucked under my chin, he would point to the top cupboard above my wardrobe doors (a cupboard I was too small to have ever seen inside) and tell me “A witch lives in there”.

After many interruptions to their evening viewing, Mum and Dad replaced a light bulb on the wall above my bed with a red globe. It was warm and soothing and I could easily see my brother’s bottom as it slunk into the room, sticking up in the air like a shark’s fin (enter Jaws music here).

What the red light globe also allowed me was the pleasure of reading in bed. Every book and comic had a red tinge, but I could read for hours and fall asleep with adventures and words spinning through my head. Mum knew of course. The pile of reading material under my bed must have been a sure giveaway. She warned me I would damage my eyesight and I promised the red light was only there to keep away my fears, not to read.

That was a lie.

I devoured every book in the school library and my cousin’s collection of Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’. A trip to the shops meant a detour to the bookstore, where I purchased the classics: Little Women, Black Beauty, What Katy Did, Heidi, My Friend Flicka and Thunderhead, and read them all by the red light of my room.

A favourite of mine was Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace, the adventures of a young teen in 1907. But my large volume of ‘The Works of Lewis Carroll’ took pride of place on my bookshelf. The illustrations by John Tenniel had me in raptures and one year a friend and I went to a fancy dress party as Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

I never owned a picture book and coveted my cousin’s Green Eggs and Ham. Nowadays if I were caught reading after lights out, it would either be a picture book or a mid grade/YA novel. Adult fiction doesn’t excite me, even though I joined a book club to force myself to read it. It seems the young reader in me is still alive, tucked up in a flannelette sheet, reading under a red light.

© 2010 Angela Sunde

Visit Angela Sunde’s blog for more information about her and Pond Magic!


"Undercover readers logo"Alphabet Soup magazine has been celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we had a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 (that’s today!) to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. You can read back through the blog posts if you missed any!

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The CYA conference is the Children and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators Conference. It’s actually a conference for adults interested in children’s and young adults books and writing them. But now there’s something for kids, too.

The CYA conference will include a kids’ conference, called Hatchlings, aimed at children 8 – 18 years old, who are interested in writing and illustrating, or who want to meet the authors/illustrators at the conference.

There will also be book launches by Paul Collins, Jo Thompson and Aleeseah Darlison and dads are welcome to come for Fathers Day Tea!

Venue: QUT Creative Industries Precinct, Kelvin Grove. Building Z2, Level 3.

Ages: 8 -18

When: 5 September 2010

For more info: http://www.cyaconference.com/

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Robyn Opie is a children’s author and screenwriter in South Australia. Some of her most recent books include Mr Fixit, Not! and Black Baron. Today she is visiting to tell us about the books she liked to read undercover when she was growing up!

"Balck Baron cover""Mr Fixit, Not""How to Write A Great Children's Book"

"Robyn Opie photo"I was born in Port Pirie and lived there until I was thirteen. Port Pirie is a country town about 200 kilometres from Adelaide in South Australia.

During my childhood in Port Pirie, we only had two television channels. I know that’s hard to believe nowadays, when people have dozens, if not hundreds, of channels. In our backyard was an antenna as tall as a skyscraper, which received transmissions from the television stations in Adelaide. On good days, we had five television channels, including three from Adelaide. I made a cubby house on the second level of the antenna. Trust me, these antennas are huge. However, more often than not, all we received from the Adelaide television stations was fuzzy “snow”. Maybe we saw a few grainy figures through the “snow”, if we were lucky.

To cut a long story short, with only two reliable television stations, I had plenty of time to read. In fact, there wasn’t much else to do in the evenings. I have two older brothers but they’d moved to Adelaide to study and work. I felt like an only child. My main company were characters from books. My favourite books were from the Famous Five, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. Probably because I lived in the country, I was in need of great adventures.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved living in the country and wouldn’t change a thing about my childhood.

Most nights, I didn’t have to read after “lights out” because I’d already spent hours reading. But I do remember occasions when I read after “lights out” from the soft glow of the night light in my bed head. When I heard my parents come to bed – they slept in the next room to mine – I’d switch off my night light and pretend to be asleep. My parents read in bed every night. Sometimes I fell asleep while I waited for them to turn off their lights. Other nights, I managed to stay awake and switch on my night light again after my parents were asleep. I hated to leave a great adventure in the middle of trouble. What if the Famous Five were in danger? Or the Hardy Boys? Or Nancy Drew? What would happen to them?

Of course, I’m not encouraging anyone to disobey their parents. But a good book is a good book and is hard to put down.

All these years later, I still read in bed every night. I read fiction and non-fiction, children’s books and adult books. If I couldn’t read, I’d have to resort to going to bed earlier or reading by torch light. Anything, because I’m not happy if I can’t read in bed. And I still love a great adventure. I wonder if the Famous Five, Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew are in danger. Oh no!

© 2010 Robyn Opie

Visit Robyn Opie’s website or her blog to find out more about her and her books!


"Undercover readers logo"Alphabet Soup magazine has been celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we had a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day. Tomorrow  (29 June 2010) is the last day of the launch, with author Angela Sunde visiting to tell us what SHE liked to read after ‘lights out’.

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Karen Collum is visiting today, to tell us about the books she read after ‘lights out’ when she was growing up! Her picture book, Samuel’s Kisses, will be out in December 2010 (New Frontier Publishing).

"Karen Collum (photo)"

Karen Collum

When I was a kid, I had the perfect bed for reading in late into the night. Made by my dad, it had a bedhead that was a bookshelf for all of my favourite books and included my very own light. There was no need to sneak a torch under the covers or climb out of bed into the cold to switch on the light. I just had to reach up and CLICK! I could read to my little heart’s content. And read I did … until Mum or Dad came in for the fourteenth time and insisted it really was time to get some sleep. (To this day I can’t ever fall asleep reading a book, which means I have way too many late nights … )

I read everything I could get my hands on as a child, but I remember being about 7 years old and developing a fascination with dolphins. I still have two of the books I read and re-read and re-read some more from that time: Nine True Dolphin Stories by Margaret Davidson and Fast-talking Dolphin by Carson Davidson. I also remember reading The Famous Five and The Secret Seven series and I loved the Mrs Piggle Wiggle books too.

Reading was a huge part of my childhood and was something that provided me with hours and hours of pleasure and entertainment. While we didn’t have a lot of money to buy books, I borrowed as many books as I could carry from the library. When I lost myself in a book as a little girl, I could be anyone, go anywhere and do anything.  As an adult I still feel the same way. And I still read way into the night, long after I should’ve gone to sleep …

© 2010 Karen Collum

Visit Karen Collum’s website to find out more about her and her books.


"Undercover readers logo"Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up.

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Today we welcome Duncan Ball to the blog, talking about what he liked to read when he was growing up — he didn’t like to read under the covers! Duncan Ball wrote the books in the Selby series (including some Selby joke books), and the Emily Eyefinger series, but did you know he has also published a book of poetry, My Sister Has a Big Black Beard?

"Selby Book cover""My Sister Has a Big Black Beard book cover""Emily Eyefinger book cover"

"Duncan Ball photo"

Duncan Ball

I didn’t read when I was a kid. I could read a bit but I was a very slow reader so it wasn’t fun. I never read books when I didn’t have to. I’d been read books so I liked what was in them but I didn’t have the key to unlock their secrets. So I didn’t read under the covers after lights-out. I’m sure my parents would have happily given me a torch if I did.

In primary school I lived in Alaska, the northernmost state in America. There was no TV and a lot of the year it was very cold and dark so you couldn’t play outdoors. We had toys, mostly basic wooden toys, but also games and puzzles to play with. My sister spent all her time reading. Even when we were driving somewhere and there was beautiful scenery she barely looked up from her book.

"Duncan Ball with his sister, Sally. 1949 ca Mountain View,  Alaska."

Duncan Ball with his sister, Sally. Mountain View, Alaska, around 1949.

Comic books saved my life. They were exciting and funny and I could manage the few words on each page. At school our reading books said things like: “This is Dick. He is a boy. This is Jane. She is a girl. This is Spot. He is a dog.” If they’d given us Superman or Batman comics I’d have learned to read much sooner.

When I was twelve my family moved to Spain. I was put into a Spanish school where no one spoke any English and I didn’t speak any Spanish. But the kids were great and soon I had lots of friends and had to learn Spanish to talk to them. We lived in the middle of Madrid, a big city completely different from the tiny place we’d lived in in Alaska. There was so much to see and do. It was a wonderful three years.

"Duncan as a student in Madrid about 1953"

Duncan as a student in Madrid, about 1953

In Spain, I was able to get American comic books. I also read a few Spanish ones. Spanish comic book dogs said gua gua gua when they barked instead of bow wow or arf arf. If you pronounce that in Spanish I think it comes closer to a real dog’s bark than bow wow and arf arf.

As a teenager in Spain I started reading for enjoyment—in English. I loved poetry because a good poem can bypass your brain and go straight to your guts. But I also started reading novels, adult novels because what we now call “young adult” novels didn’t exist yet.

It seems strange that a boy who couldn’t read when he was in primary school now writes books like the Selby and Emily Eyefinger books for primary school kids. When I write them I try to remember what I was like at ten and I try to write stories that I think I would have loved when I was young. Recently I took time out and wrote a book of funny poems for kids called My Sister Has a Big Black Beard. It was great fun to write. I wonder if I’d have liked to read it when I was young.

© 2010 Duncan Ball

Visit Duncan Ball’s website and his blog to find out more about him and his books.


"Undercover readers logo"Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up.

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Today we are thrilled to welcome (Wendy Orr), author of Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea. Her most recent book is Mokie and Bik Go to Sea. And The Princess and her Panther will be out in July!

She’s here today to help us celebrate the launch of our Undercover Readers Club – by telling us about what she used to read after lights out when she was growing up!

Wendy Orr

I always used to read as late as possible, because I always had a book that I couldn’t wait to finish. If I didn’t have a torch so I could read under the covers without being caught, I’d sneak into the bathroom with the book! However I don’t think I ever really got into trouble for reading after lights were supposed to be out, because my parents used to do it too – in fact, one Christmas they gave my son a booklight so he could go on reading after bedtime.

Now my husband has given me a booklight too, so I can read under the covers without bothering him, because I’m still not very good at putting a book down just because it really is bedtime. The last book that I kept on reading under the covers was the Museum of Mary Child by Cassandra Golds, but when I look at my book shelves, I can see many, many other books that kept me awake till I got to the last page (and sometimes after!)

And as well as reading under the covers,  I’m still guilty of reading while I brush my teeth or wash my face… a few water spots are worth the extra pages I can discover.

© 2010 Wendy Orr

For more information about Wendy and her books, visit www.wendyorr.com – now with blog!


Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. So be sure to check back tomorrow!

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To tell us what she used to read after lights out, today we welcome Hazel Edwards, author of many, many books, including There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, The Gang-O Kids, and Outback Ferals.

Gang-O Kids (cover)

Outback Ferals (cover)

There's a Hippopotamus on my roof eating cake (cover)

Hazel Edwards, the Aqua-readaholic

Hazel holding new Plato Book

Hazel Edwards holding Plato The Platypus Plumber (Part-time)

Yes, I did read under the bedclothes with a torch. Didn’t have to use my pocket money for torch batteries because we lived in a country general store which sold everything.

But my favourite place for reading was, and still is, in the bath. So I’m an aqua-readaholic. Maybe a publisher will make waterproof pages in the future?

My grandfather had a lending library, so I could borrow Enid Blyton mysteries and then I moved onto spy stories. (If I were aged under 12 today, I’d probably read Deb Abela’s ‘Max Remy’ series.)

I like quest stories where you have to find something. That’s why I wrote the Gang-O Kids who solve mysteries while orienteering.

Now I write stories like Outback Ferals (published by Hachette) which has an eco-scientist Kyle who is trying to solve a pandemic mystery, or picture book Plato the Platypus Plumber(part-time) who is a problem-solver.

Also, I travel a lot so I listen to audio stories, especially mysteries.

- Hazel Edwards

PS I have dropped a few books in the bath, but don’t tell.

© 2010 Hazel Edwards

You can find out more about Hazel Edwards and her books by visiting her website – www.hazeledwards.com.


undercover readers logoAlphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. So be sure to check back tomorrow!

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"Short and scary (cover)"Today we welcome Jackie Hosking, here to tell us about her experiences of reading undercover.  She loves to write rhyming poetry. We’ve published several of her poems in Alphabet Soup magazine, and she’s had poems published elsewhere, including The School Magazine, and in an anthology, Short and Scary.

"Jackie Hosking (photo)"

Jackie Hosking

As a child I loved to read. I read all of Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven books ( http://www.enidblyton.net/secret-seven/ ), I loved their meetings in the clubhouse where their mother brought them homemade biscuits and lemonade. Later I enjoyed The Nancy Drew Mysteries and always looked forward to receiving a new copy at the end of the Sunday School Year.

At the time I was reading these books I lived in Cornwall, which is in the United Kingdom. I was about ten years old. Just after my tenth birthday my family and I came to live in Australia where I discovered the amazing stories of Roald Dahl. I particularly remember Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and James and the Giant Peach. At primary school I was a frequent visitor to the school library where I borrowed and read the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren and it was at about this time I discovered that I really enjoyed reading science fiction books.

I was encouraged to read at home and had always been read to as a child. I read in bed, on the couch, in my tent, on the grass, in the car, on the bus … but never, never, never at the dinner table. This was a time to chat and catch up with the goings on in the family. And we certainly weren’t allowed to watch television at meal times. In fact television was a bit of a luxury in our house as was being allowed to stay up late. Most nights I was in bed by 8pm and so had plenty of time to curl up with my favourite book. I don’t ever remember being told to stop reading or to turn my lights out but after reading for a couple of hours I can imagine that my eyelids would have made that decision for me. I was what you might call a pretty sensible child, boring others might say. I did as I was told, most of the time, including brushing my teeth, saying please and thank you and eating my vegetables, even the brussels sprouts!

Books were my escape where I could be brave, daring and brilliant. Where there were no bedtimes or manners, just adventure and excitement (without of course, any real danger). Nothing thrilled me more than to open the pages of a new book, eager to discover where I might end up and who I might meet. Books allow you to reinvent yourself; they give you permission to shine.

As an adult I still love to read. And you’ll find me in bed on a Sunday morning with my latest book texting my husband for a nice cup of tea!

© 2010 Jackie Hosking

Visit Jackie Hosking’s site for more information about her and her poetry.


"Undercover readers logo"Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. So be sure to check back tomorrow!

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