Posted in authors, interviews, teachers' resources

Cryptosight: an interview with Nean Mckenzie

Nean McKenzieMEET THE AUTHOR

Nean McKenzie is a children’s writer and optometrist who lives in western Melbourne with her husband and two teenage children. When not writing or testing people’s eyes, Nean enjoys travelling to interesting places around the world. She also likes bush walking and reading books, especially ones for 8-12 year-olds. Earlier this year she published her first children’s novel, Cryptosight.

Rafferty Kaminski is a 13-year-old who believes in facts. Not like his Cryptozoologist father, who searches for creatures not proven to exist.

When their father disappears in the Flinders Ranges, strange things start happening to Raff and his younger sister Zara. They learn that their father belongs to a secret organisation and they are suddenly being pursued by bunyip hunters.

Today Hannah (age 13, QLD, and one of our regular book reviewers) interviews Nean McKenzie about writing Cryptosight. Over to you, Hannah and Nean!


Cryptosight by Nean McKenzieWhat inspired you to write about the wonderful world of cryptozoology?
Cryptozoology is a weird sort of world between fantasy and reality, which I thought was great to write about. While the likelihood of any of these crypto-creatures actually existing is really low, it’s still not impossible. I have had people talking to me since the book came out about things that they’ve seen, but no-one believed them! And the creatures are uniquely Australian.

Obviously a lot of research went into the creation of the novel. Can you describe how long the research period took and how the it impacted the overall story?
I like to go to the places I write about to get a feel for them, so we went to the Flinders Ranges and Mildura on family holidays. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Grampians – it’s one of my favourite places. I also went the Wombat State Forest, especially for story research. I really find it helps me to get ideas and also to describe smells, sounds, etc. I research as I write really, so it’s all part of the process.
.

When was the first moment you discovered you had a passion for
writing and it would be your career?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, since I was about seven. I wrote my first novel when I was fifteen, an adventure story set in 16th century Scotland. I did a professional writing and editing course as an adult, which further inspired me to write. I have written quite a few books, but this is the first one to get published. I do have another job, as an optometrist which is good as it is not always easy to earn money as a writer! But when I write I can escape to other worlds and it makes me happy. I think I will always love it.

What advice would you give young writers?
The best advice I’ve been given is that writers need to write. It sounds obvious, but it’s not always easy to do. There are many things that get in the way of writing, but making time to do it and doing it often, makes the writing better, I think. I also think reading a lot is important as it feeds the mind and the imagination.

Can we expect a sequel or even a series for this novel?
I wanted Cryptosight to finish with a few unanswered questions as  cryptozoology is all about mystery and never really finding out what’s real. So I think that is the end of Raff and Zara’s story but I have written another story set in the cryptozoology world with different characters and creatures, and am working on a third. There is so much to write about!


Awesome extras:

Cryptosight by Nean McKenzie

Click here for teachers’ notes.

Click here to read a book review of Cryptosight (review by Hannah, age 13).

Click here to check out Nean McKenzie’s website.

Cryptosight by Nean McKenzie is out now! Find it at your nearest bookshop or library.

Posted in authors, interviews, teachers' resources

Maddie in the Middle: an interview with Julia Lawrinson

Julia LawrinsonMEET THE AUTHOR

Julia Lawrinson was born just after the first moon landing and grew up in the outer suburbs of Perth. Julia is an award-winning author of books for children, teenagers, and adults – her latest book is Maddie in the Middle.

Maddie Lee is in year six. Her best and oldest friend Katy is busy with school duties and music and scholarship plans, and Maddie feels lost and lonely. Then a new girl starts at school. Maddie wants more than anything to become friends with her. And she does. But Samara’s friendship comes at a high price, with consequences Maddie could never have imagined.

Today we’re thrilled to welcome Julia to Alphabet Soup to talk about writing books.


Maddie in the Middle by Julia LawrinsonWhat sparked the idea for Maddie in the Middle?
The novel was sparked by a friend telling me how her daughter was caught shoplifting. It was something completely out of character for this girl, and I began thinking of all the reasons good kids might do bad things. Then I began wondering what would happen if a kid was doing bad things for a good reason. And so Maddie and her story were born!

How long did it take you to go from the initial idea to the finished manuscript?
It took a couple of years. I work full time so I write in half hour blocks early in the morning, or on weekends, so progress is slow. Also, every book seems to take at least three re-writes before I have a grip on point of view and character development, and then what feels like a million edits after that! The team at Fremantle Press [the publishers] were wonderful to deal with – direct but sensitive with suggestions.

Pen and paper, or computer?
I prefer writing with pen and paper, but I am a fast typist, due to time constraints (see above!) all my drafts are done on the screen. I am still very fond of keeping a pen and paper journal, though.

Do have any advice for young writers?
Start writing! Practice writing – anything, from fake hashtags to parody lyrics to poems, short stories and scripts. Write and don’t worry about what will happen with it. Have fun!

What are you working on next?
Its working title is The ABBA novel’ – it’s set in 1979, features roller-skating, Countdown, horses, glitter pens, and prank calls, as well as letters to someone from the past. I am having the best fun writing it.


Maddie in the Middle by Julia LawrinsonAwesome extras:

Click here to read a sneak peek of the book.

Click here to read a review of Maddie in the Middle. (Review by Hannah, age 13)

Click here for Teachers’ Notes.

Click here to visit Julia Lawrinson’s website. 

Maddie in the Middle by Julia Lawrinson is out now! Find it at your nearest bookshop or library.

Posted in poetry, Young Writers in Action

Young writers in Action: Ode to Lego

ODE TO LEGO
by Lewis, 10, WA

Child building something by hand. Photo from pexels.com Oh, Lego! I have love and happiness
for thee, and I would be bored without.
I am only disappointed when I hear a crash!
And I am always satisfied when I hear a click.

Getting my first set is still in my mind!
It was so small, yet so big and great for thyself.
I am creative and happy when I touch you.
I save up so much to buy you all.

Lego, you’re old and wonderful,
I am grateful and excited when I open a set!
Lego, you are my memory of yesterday,
And I will never forget your darn good beauty!

Thy Lego has such cool features,
I feel like I’m in the future!
When I turn the light on I imagine you there.
I will never forget you and your beauty!


This is Lewis’s first poem for Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR book review, poem, story or artwork: check out our submission guidelines

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Kobe

Book review: Arabella and the Magic Pencil

Arabella and the Magic PencilREVIEWED BY
KOBE, 9, WA

Arabella and the Magic Pencil by Stephanie Ward, illustrated by
Shaney Hyde,
EK Books,
ISBN 9781925820010

Kobe received a copy of this book from the publisher.

This AMAZING AND INCREDIBLE picture book is the most wonderful picture book that I have ever seen! So the story is mainly about a girl who was born from a duke and duchess who doted on their delightful child Arabella until … her new born baby brother, Master Archibald Vermillion Remington XV or Avery for short. He just destroyed everything, so she used her magic pencil from her wish to erase him! But does that make Arabella’s freedom? You have to read this book to find out!

The words might not be much but they are very important to learn from.

I admit Stephanie Ward is a great writer and that Shaney Hyde is a great illustrator! WOW! GREAT BOOK! I’m going to read it to myself every day!

This should be a popular book soon and be an award winning  book too! THIS BOOK IS THE BEST EXAMPLE OF A PICTURE BOOK!


Kobe is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read all her reviews here. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Top Reads, what we're reading

Top Reads: October 2019

It’s the last day of October, and that means it’s time for some recommendations from members of our Top Reads Team.*

You’ll find a recommended list from our Top Reads Team on the last day of every month (February to November). If you’d like even more recommendations, browse all through all our Top Reads ever!

*All our Top Readers are kids aged 13 and under. No grownups allowed!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Total Quack Up Again

Total Quack up AgainREVIEWED BY JANE, 7, WA

Total Quack Up Again, Edited by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck, illustrated by Jules Faber, Penguin Australia, ISBN 9781760893583

Jane received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Total Quack Up Again is a collection of funny short stories. I really like it. It makes me laugh. It was hard to pick a favourite story, they are all so good. One of my favourites was ‘Clean The Car’ by Kim Kane — it’s hard for me to read it out loud because I’m laughing so hard. This is one of my favourite parts (pp 111-112) in ‘Clean The Car’:

‘What’s that?’ (Mumma-Sue) pointed to a small tree, which had sprouted in the leaves composting under Tom’s booster seat.

Mumma-Jacq bent down to pick it up. ‘It’s a small tree,’ she said.

‘I can see that.’ Mumma-Sue rolled her eyes.

‘Possibly a fig or a plum.’ Mumma-Jacq examined a tiny green leaf.

‘Well, that’s terrific. But what’s it doing sprouting in the back seat of the car?’ Mumma-Sue tried not to yell. She was not successful.

I think lots of people will like this book, including adults.


This is Jane’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Bowral Public School, Young Artists in Action

Young Writers in Action: Into the Mist

INTO THE MIST
by Maya, 11, Bowral Public School, NSW

A tree in mist, photo from pexels.comI always wondered what the mist could do, I wonder if it could fly high or create images, too. Could it be a theme park or could it be an adventure to a brand new world? Today was a really misty day in Bugs-worth. You couldn’t see the foot path, nor could you see our plain sky. The day was very different to our wonderful sunny days.

The birds weren’t coming out of the trees and everyone’s furry little friends didn’t want to come and play. None of the children wanted to come outside. It was very unusual, all the children would play in their front yards.

I decided to go and have a look to see what was going on and then I realised I was walking on water. I didn’t know who or what created the mist but they would pay. I kept on walking and I finally found what was creating the mist. It was a giant mist monster.

I wonder what will destroy the mist monster, probably not bird droppings, not water but maybe a sweet lullaby? Nothing will work, I might have to try something different. I decided to shine a light on the monster.

It finally decided to disappear and go put some more mist on another place or country. When I eventually got back to my home the whole place was covered in filthy bugs and rubbish. It looks like the next hour of the day will be cleaning up. After a while all the children and animals in Bugs-worth were all out and playing around.

The world will never know the name of the person who saved the whole world from the beast. I am the saviour of the world and no one can do it ever again.


We’ve been sharing writing from students at Bowral Public School over the past few days. If you’d like to send us YOUR book review, story, poem or artwork, check out our submission guidelines