Posted in authors, interviews, teachers' resources

Lazy Daisy: an interview with Caz Goodwin

Caz Goodwin and Daisy the Koala
Daisy and Caz Goodwin


Caz Goodwin lives in Victoria and writes picture books, junior fiction, short stories and poetry for children. Her latest picture book Lazy Daisy is a hilarious rhyming tale, illustrated by Ashley King.

From the publisher:
All of Jasper’s dreams come true when he finds his very own ‘puppy dog’ to walk in Centenary Park. But Daisy the ‘dog’ isn’t much of a walker — she tends to spend most of her day climbing gumtrees and dozing. If only someone would explain to Jasper that Daisy is a koala, NOT a dog! Just as Jasper’s about to give up on his dream, he has a madcap idea of how Daisy can still join him on his daily walk, whether she’s asleep or not.

We’re thrilled to welcome Caz Goodwin to Alphabet Soup today!

Lazy Daisy (cover) by Caz Goodwin and illustrated by Ashley KingDo you write on a computer, or use pen and paper?
When I’m writing a first draft, I use old-fashioned pencil and paper. I often use an exercise book, and only write on one side and use the opposite page for notes and ideas. I like to cross out and edit as I go, and make a lovely, scribbly mess. Later, I type it onto my computer.

You write picture books, novels, short stories and poems … how do you know which one to start writing if you get an idea?
My writing ideas usually start with a character. I toss the character around in my head for a while before I start writing, to work out what adventures they might have or what trouble they might get into. (I like to put my characters in lots of strife.) Once I have an idea of what the story will be, I can work out whether it would be best as a picture book or novel or short story.

Daisy Runs Wild (cover) by Caz Goodwin and illustrated by Ashley King

What’s next for Daisy?
Daisy the koala causes a hullabaloo in the next book, called Daisy Runs Wild. While on her daily walk, she unexpectedly leaps into the air and takes off round the park. Jasper runs after her as she interrupts a yoga class, ruins a game of cricket and accidentally pushes poor posh Mrs Pallot into the pond! Can Jasper work out what is wrong with Daisy?

(Daisy Runs Wild, published by Little Hare/Hardie Grant Egmont, will be released in March.)

Which of your characters is most like you?
If I’m honest, I’m quite a bit like Daisy the koala. Two of my favourite things are eating and sleeping, and despite my best intentions, I often end up in trouble.

Do you have a tip for young writers?
Can I give you two tips? Read a lot. Write a lot. (Like anything, your writing will improve the more you practice. And don’t forget to edit your work.)

Awesome extras:

Click here for Teachers’ Notes for Lazy Daisy.

Click for details of the QLD launch of Daisy Runs Wild 7 March 2020

Click for an author event & book launch (VIC) 28 March 2020. 

Lazy Daisy is out now! Daisy Runs Wild will be out in March 2020. Look for them at your nearest bookstore or library.

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

Book review: 100 Ways to Fly

100 ways to fly by Michelle TaylorREVIEWED BY KOBE, 9, WA

100 Ways to Fly by Michelle Taylor,
ISBN 978 0 7022 6250 0

Kobe received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Did you know that Michelle Taylor was the first person to ever make you fly? It’s the book I’m reviewing and when I read it I flew high in the sky!

100 Ways to Fly is a great book that’s full of interesting poems that make your heart soar (fly) over the clouds like a plane … no wonder it’s called 100 Ways to Fly!

Every time I read one of the book’s poems I seem to smile, so I’ll always try to read one or two poems before I go to sleep. I bet you’ll do exactly the same thing when you read this fabulous book. Try reading 100 Ways to Fly and you’ll be amazed when you find out you’ve been lifted off the ground by this book of wonder.

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


Posted in authors, interviews

The Gift: An interview with Michael Speechley

Michael SpeechleyMEET THE AUTHOR

Michael Speechley has been a graphic designer and high school art teacher in WA.
His first picture book, The All New Must Have Orange 430, explores themes of consumerism and the environment. It was shortlisted for Book of the Year, CBCA awards, 2019. His second picture book, The Gift, deals with kindness and the joy of giving.

The house across the road looks abandoned, but Rosie knows someone lives there. She decides to give her mystery neighbour a gift – something different, something unusual, something surprising. Something her mum would have been proud of.

We’re thrilled to welcome Michael Speechley to Alphabet Soup today.

What are your favourite illustrating tools?

The All New Must Have Orange 430 by Michael Speechley

I’m pretty basic here. My first book, The All New Must Have Orange 430 was just a bunch of sketches from my A4 sketchpad that I photocopied onto brown paper, then splashed on a bit of white gouache for some highlights.

My second book, The Gift, was drawn with an ordinary black pen, but I used a special paper called drafting film (it looks like thick tracing paper). This paper allowed me to scratch and scrape into the black pen lines, making the drawings look a bit vintage and old. It was fun, and I could scratch away my mistakes. I could also draw my images on paper first, fix up any mistakes, then literally trace over them because the drafting paper is see through. Good trick hey! Then I scanned in my images and added colour in Photoshop.

Your illustrations are very detailed – how long does it take you to create one double page spread?

The Gift by Michael Speechley

They are very detailed, but I kind of cheat! Not in a bad way though. Sometimes it is easier for me to create lots of individual drawings, then put them all together in Photoshop. The trick with Photoshop is that I don’t want to make it look like I’ve used it, but if you use it well, it can make a single, very complicated looking image, but one that is actually made up of lots of little individual drawings. The big garden image in The Gift probably has more than a hundred little drawings in its construction, and some images in The All New Must Have Orange 430 might be made up of about 50 drawings. I could draw them as one image if I wanted to, but I don’t need to and it’s actually better not to in some ways. Even using Photoshop at the end, the whole process of drawing and putting them together on the computer can take a couple of months.

Writing text: Pen and paper? Or typing straight into the computer?
I scribble anything down onto anything I can find; it could be a scrap of paper, a napkin, a post-it note, but usually into my current A4 sketchpad. I have about 12 of them now, and all of my terrible early sketches and story ideas are in them. When I feel as if the story is basically laid out and will fit roughly inside the 32-page limit, I start sketching and drawing my page compositions. These are super rough, but they give me an idea about how much text I have to play with and the type of image that would suit. It’s the hardest bit, but I like this challenge; to-ing and fro-ing between words and images. Sometimes I can remove words because the image says it all anyway, and sometimes I can add words to make things clearer. It’s a juggling act, it can be very difficult, but it’s so much fun, especially when you solve these puzzles.

Which comes first – illustration or text?
I always start with text. The story is so important. I’m a real observer, it’s an artist thing I guess. While I’m drawing in cafes, I sometimes listen to conversations about what people believe to be important. I don’t mean to be a sticky-beak, but you can’t help it when you are drawing. Sometimes they talk about getting new houses, renovating kitchens, higher paid jobs, fancy holidays, expensive cars and big watches. Then again, a lot of people talk about doing nice things for others, sharing some of the problems that they may be experiencing, discussing their hopes and dreams; real human things that matter. Some people want to stand out, some don’t. Personally, I think that some people can be a bit caught up with life’s trappings, but most people are really nice, and so many people come up to me and say lovely things about my drawings, ideas and books. So these all give me ideas about people and how they think.

When I write a book, I like to think that I’m not judging people with different viewpoints to the ones that I have, but I hope I can either offer an alternative way of looking at the world, or confirm their own feelings about the things that they find important and observe around them as well.

What are you working on next?
I always try and have a few ideas brewing. I have been spending some time working on an old idea lately. I have really tried to get it working, but it actually needs a full makeover, so I’ll put it away for a couple of years and let it simmer in my head. I have some new ideas and directions for it though.

So instead of spending time on that picture book, I’m developing some ideas for another picture book about a boy called Mike (not me though, it just rhymes with bike), and it’s about a boy who doesn’t have a bike. Very sad, hey? Everyone should have a bike! I also have ideas about a Bigfoot, a greedy princess, an average person, and many, many more.

The Gift by Michael SpeechleyAwesome extras:

Click here for a sneak peek at pages inside The Gift

Click here for Teachers Notes for The Gift

The All New Must Have Orange 430 by Michael SpeechleyClick here for a sneak peek at pages inside The All New Must Have Orange 430

Click here for Teachers Notes for The All New Must Have Orange 430

The All New Must Have Orange 430 and The Gift  are out now! Look for them at your nearest bookstore or library.

Posted in authors, interviews

Catch a Falling Star: An interview with Meg McKinlay


Meg McKinlay is an award-winning children’s writer and poet. She has published seventeen books for children, ranging from picture books through to young adult novels, and a collection of poetry for adults.

Meg lives with her family near the ocean in Fremantle and spends most of her time cooking up books. Her latest titles are Let Me Sleep, Sheep! (illustrated by Leila Rudge) and Catch a Falling Star, both published in 2019.

A bit about Catch a Falling Star:

It’s 1979 and the sky is falling. Skylab, that is. Somewhere high above Frankie Avery, one of the world’s first space stations is tumbling to Earth. And rushing back with it are old memories. Things twelve-year-old Frankie thought she’d forgotten. Things her mum won’t talk about, and which her little brother Newt never knew. Only … did he? Does he? Because as Skylab circles closer, Newt starts acting strangely. And while the world watches the sky, Frankie keeps her own eyes on Newt. Because if anyone’s going to keep him safe, it’s her. It always has been. But maybe this is something bigger than splinters and spiders and sleepwalking. Maybe a space station isn’t the only thing heading straight for calamity.

We’re very pleased to welcome Meg McKinlay to Alphabet Soup today.

Image: Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlayWriting a book: Pen and paper? Or straight into the computer?
Pen and paper for fragments and scribblings, the little snatches of stuff that might eventually turn into something. These are all entered into the computer for ease of access and potential future fiddling. When I’m actively working on a story, computer always; I do far too much chopping and changing, back-stitching and cross-stitching and general gnashing of teeth, to work any other way. When it’s time for major editing and re-drafting, I’ll often print out sections and scribble across them. I find this very freeing, and having things on paper helps me sort things in my head; looking at the hard copy gives me a different sort of sense of chapters and pacing and balance.

Catch a Falling Star is historical fiction and you’ve talked about growing up in the time it was set. Does that mean you didn’t need to do any research for this book?
Hahahahaha. No. I rather foolishly thought the only research I’d need to do would be about Skylab – checking old newspaper accounts, getting the timeline right, that sort of thing. But I quickly realised that even though I have very vivid memories of this period, those memories are specific and personal and don’t necessarily generalise in the way I needed – for example, I grew up in country Victoria but Catch A Falling Star is set in country Western Australia. And it also became clear that there really is nothing reliable about memory; I had mis-remembered all kinds of things, and failed to notice gradual changes in things, such as language, which is hugely important if you want to capture a particular time period with any authenticity.

I ended up doing heaps of research and having so much interesting material I wanted to stuff into the book, which is also something you have to be careful about. I reflected on the research and remembering process in more detail here:

When you were writing Catch a Falling Star, did you do anything special to put yourself in the era before you sat down to a writing session? (e.g. listen to music, use a corkboard)
No, I know some writers gather all kinds of reference and ‘mood board’-type materials but I never do anything like this. I really just relied on tapping into my own childhood feelings from that time; this is something I find very natural and tends to bring sensory memories along with it. It’s not something I consciously do before a writing session in any case. I just sit down and drop into the voice of the character and the rest comes along with that.

Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to try writing a piece of historical fiction?
This is a little tricky for me as I don’t really think like this myself. I’m not a writer who would ever say, ‘I’d like to try writing historical fiction.’ I’m always led by the characters and story and if that takes me into the historical space then so be it. So that’s my first thought. Don’t approach things in that way; don’t sit down to write historical fiction for the sake of it.

With that said, if you find yourself writing historical fiction, I would say read read read as much incidental stuff as you can about the era you’re working in. You may have already zoomed in on your character and aspects of your story but it’s really important to zoom out and read widely about the time period, with no particular goal in mind. if your research consists only of looking for facts, you’ll have a very narrow view of things, and will miss out on discovering lots of little nuggets of information and anecdotes that will send your story in unexpected and interesting directions. On the flipside of that, you must resist the temptation to use every interesting nugget you find. It’s so important always to have a clear sense of what your story is about and keep the focus on that without getting too distracted by shiny things that have nothing to do with it.

Bella and the wandering house by Meg McKinlayCan you tell us something about what you’re working on next?
Yes! I find myself unexpectedly in sequel land. I’ve just finished a sequel to my chapter book Bella and the Wandering House. This has taken me much longer than it should have and there’s a good chance my publisher has forgotten about my existence, but if it ever gets published it will be a ton of fun. A Single Stone by Meg McKinlayNext up is a sequel to my middle grade/young adult novel A Single Stone, which will no doubt also take me much longer than it should. And I have about half a dozen picture books in my mental queue which I hope to work on in the cracks of that longer project. And maybe some poems and and and … I think you can see why everything takes me longer than it should! 🙂

Awesome extras:

Image: Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlayRead a review of the book by St Thomas Primary students

Click here for Teachers’ Notes (PDF by Robyn Sheahan-Bright)

Click here for a 2016 interview with Meg McKinlay

Click here to visit the author’s website

Catch a Falling Star is out now! Look for it at your nearest bookstore or library.

Posted in authors, interviews

Claire Malone Changes the World: An interview with Nadia L King


Nadia L King is a children’s author and award-winning short story writer. Her novel for teenagers, Jenna’s Truth, is about cyberbullying. Her first picture book, Claire Malone Changes the World (illustrated by Alisa Knatko) was published in November 2019:

Armed with her typewriter and the determination to make a difference, Claire Malone is an ordinary kid with an extraordinary desire to change things for the better. The moment she sees the broken swing and the cracked slide at her local park she decides to take action. 

We’re thrilled to have Nadia L King visiting us at Alphabet Soup today.

Claire Malone Changes the World by Nadia L King and illustrated by Alisa KnatkoHow long did it take you to write Claire Malone Changes the World (from story idea to publication)?
I thought of the idea while I was on holiday. I always take a notebook when I go away so I wrote the story down and promptly forgot all about it! A few months later, I found the story again and worked on it for a few weeks. So the short answer is, it took me a very long time to write Claire Malone Changes the World.

Is Claire based on anyone you know?
Claire Malone is kind of based on me when I was a kid. I loved writing and receiving letters when I was young (I still do) but I didn’t think about writing to the government to change the world. I wish I had. The character Claire is also based on my youngest kid who is an awesome environmental warrior.

Writing a book: Pen and paper, or typing straight into the computer?
I am very much a pen and paper writer. I eventually transfer my drafts onto the computer but I find when I’m stuck I need to go back to pen and paper again. I can also write much faster than I can type so handwriting my first drafts is a huge part of my writing process.

Do you have a tip for young writers?
My BIG, BIG, BIG (add another 100 BIGs) tip for young writers is to READ. Reading is fun but it also teaches you how to write. Read everything you can and then go read some more.

Can you tell us something about your next writing project?
I’m trying to write a very creepy young adult novel. I’ve never written creepy stories before so I’m really focussed on building evocative scenes. I hope I can scare you with one of my stories one day.

Awesome extras:

Claire Malone Changes the World by Nadia L King and illustrated by Alisa Knatko

Click here for Teachers’ Notes (PDF)

Click here for a review of the book by Mrs B’s Book Reviews

Click here to visit Nadia L King’s website

Click here for a video of the author talking about the book

Claire Malone Changes the World is out now! Ask for it at your nearest bookshop or library or order it online.

Posted in authors, interviews

The Lost Stone of SkyCity: an interview with HM Waugh


HM Waugh is an environmental scientist, writer and educator with a long-term love of wild places and high mountains. This has led to icy feet and sunburnt cheeks in magical countries like New Zealand, Nepal, Bolivia and Switzerland. She has studied dolphins in New Zealand and rare plants in the Wheatbelt, and worked in mining and construction projects across Western Australia.

When she’s not writing, she’s teaching school and community groups about science and the environment. This often involves working with children and animals concurrently, and Waugh loves being able to truthfully say she handles dragons for a job. HM Waugh’s new children’s novel is The Lost Stone of SkyCity:

Sunaya’s peaceful village life is turned upside down when a simple mountain mission turns into a death-defying quest for survival.

Winter treks to summer pastures, mythical Ice-People that are scarily real, avalanches, ice falls, power plays, mysterious magic and surprising friendships – it seems not everything in life is set in stone …

We are pleased to have HM Waugh visiting Alphabet Soup today.

The Lost Stone of SkyCity by HM WaughYou live in Western Australia. What inspired you to write a book set in the snow?
I absolutely love mountain landscapes, I love to travel to them and I love reading about them in books. For me, they’re both beautiful and dangerous. There are so many different challenges you have to face and issues to deal with when it comes to snow, and – honestly – I’m not always that good at them. I remember wearing gumboots sledding when I was a kid living in New Zealand, and the snow all got stuck down my boots, partially melted and then froze solid so I couldn’t get the boots off. Ouch.

So one day I was thinking – wouldn’t it be awesome if you could understand and read mountains as naturally as people who’ve grown up in those areas seem to be able to? And from that thought came the world and the magic of The Lost Stone of SkyCity.

How long did it take you to go from the story idea to the published book?
I like to let my ideas bubble away and pick up extra details and join with other ideas before I start to write them. I first thought of the idea for The Lost Stone of SkyCity in 2015 but there wasn’t enough for a story so I jotted it down in my notebook and left it. It wasn’t until late 2016 that I actually wrote the book, but then I basically forgot I’d written it. I found it again near the middle of 2018, did some serious editing and submitted it to my (now) publisher. And they loved it! Hooray! I signed the publishing contract at the start of 2019 and had a whirlwind nine months of preparation before it came out in October.

So, that’s a bit over four years from first thought to having the book on shelves.

What’s the most recent children’s book you’ve read?
Because I love these books (and books you love are like old friends) I’ve recently re-read Scorch Dragons by Amie Kaufman, which is the second book in the Elementals series for middle readers. (I’m being very patient waiting for the next instalment!)

Writing a book: pen and paper, or typing straight into the computer?
I plot and brainstorm with pen and paper, but then it’s absolutely writing on the computer. I can write much faster, and it’s so much easier for me to read what I’ve written!

What are you working on next?
I’ve just finished the first round of edits on a really fun middle-grade adventure set on a dying Mars of the future, where kids can basically fly and, in order to save their planet, have to team up with those they’ve always been taught to fear.

But I’m pushing my Mars story to the side at the moment, because [as I write this] it’s National Novel Writing Month time, and I’ve got a super-secret-squirrel story idea on the go. I love new ideas!

The Lost Stone of SkyCity by HM WaughAwesome extras:

Click here to WIN a copy of the book

Click here to read a sneak peek inside the book

Click here for Teachers’ Notes

Click here to visit HM Waugh’s website

The Lost Stone of SkyCity is out now! Look for it at your nearest bookstore or library.

Posted in competitions

Christmas 2019 Giveaway

Thanks to the lovely people at Fremantle Press — and supplemented by our own generosity (Happy Christmas!) — we have some fabulous booky prizes to give away to two lucky Alphabet Soup readers. We have ONE BOOK PACK and ONE PICTURE BOOK to give away. You may enter in both categories, but be sure to read HOW TO ENTER before you do! Terms and conditions are at the end of this post. Be sure to read those too.


The winners are:

Book pack prize: L Barnes (NSW)

Picture book prize: S Giltrow (WA)