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

Book review: The Book of Secrets

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 11, WA

The Book of Secrets by AL TaitThe Book of Secrets (The Ateban Cipher book #1) by A.L. Tait, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780734417671

A review copy of this book was provided by the author.

The Book of Secrets is the first in The Ateban Cipher series. It’s about a young monk who has been living in the abbey all his life, and has never been outside the abbey walls. Then he finds Brother Benedict bleeding and maybe dying, and Brother Benedict hands him a book. What is the secret of the book? Why is it in a code he can’t distinguish? And who is this Aidan he has to take it to?

I loved this book because at first it seems magical and absurd … but it could actually happen. My favourite character is Gwendolyn, because she is determined and independent, and does everything to help other people. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the next book in the series.

I would recommend this book for readers aged 9 and older who love fantasy and adventure.

Extras:

Read the first chapter!

Teachers notes, available at the publisher’s website.

Read an interview with the author.


Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. You can read Matilda’s other reviews here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Recommended reading, Top Reads

Top reads: November 2017

This is the LAST Top Reads for 2017 (and it’s only a tiny bit late — sorry — our editor has been off sick).

At the end of each month (from February to November) members of our Top Reads team recommend fantastic books. This year the list has included audiobooks, graphic novels, novels, joke books, picture books, and nonfiction titles.

A big thank you to everyone on our team for this year*, we’ve loved seeing your recommendations. (Keep an eye out in February when we’ll be introducing our 2018 team.)

Add these to your Christmas wishlist or visit your local library — get set for some great holiday reading …

You’ll find a recommended list from our Top Reads Team on the last day of every month (February to November). If February seems too far away, you can check out all the Top Reads posts ever.

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

Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Jen Banyard

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today the book baton is passed to Jen Banyard!

Jen Banyard at the beach

Jen Banyard lives in Western Australia and writes fun adventure stories, including the Riddle Gully series. Her books have been serialised in the West Australian newspaper.

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Jackie French asked:

Why do you write?


Jen Banyard answers:

You could say there are three main reasons I write. One is that when I write I feel I’m having the kind of experience I’m giving my characters. If I’m writing a sad part, I feel sad, a scary part, scared, or a funny part, happy. So when I sit down to write I’m giving myself lots of feelings and ‘experiences’ I wouldn’t otherwise be having that day.

Also, when you write stories you start looking more closely at the things going on around you—I mean really looking. Otherwise your stories miss the little details that bring them alive. Have you ever seen one of those nature films where everything is magnified and slowed down? Well, that’s what writing is like—it turns you into a giant magnifying glass and everything you see is more vivid and significant. (When I’m mid-sentence, though, a bird could poop on my head and I wouldn’t notice!)

Lastly, there’s the big buzz you get from creating something, be it building a raft or baking muffins. You’re in control of the story and you get to say how it turns out. You have all these parts—an idea, some images in your head—and gradually you file them down and shuffle and shape them into something people want to read. It’s awesome!

Read more about Jen Banyard and her books at her website: www.jenbanyard.com

and …

Read an earlier Alphabet Soup interview with Jen Banyard (from 2012!).


Gary by Leila RudgeAnd now Jen passes the book baton to our last Friday visitor — Leila Rudge. Leila Rudge is a writer and illustrator. Her books feature artwork in pencil, paint and collage.

Jen asks:

In your books you’ve painted ducks, bears, pigeons, dogs and skunks. If you could take all the best bits from the animal characters you’ve created, what would your animal look like?

(While you’re waiting for Leila’s interview you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Jackie French

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Jackie French, photo by Kelly Sturgiss
Jackie French (photo by Kelly Sturgiss)

Today the book baton is passed to Jackie French. Jackie French is an ecologist, the author of more than 200 books, and the 2014–2015 Australian Children’s Laureate (and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year!).

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Sherryl Clark asked:

What are your best or favourite research tools for your historical novels?


Jackie answers:

Old letters, newspapers, advertisements, paintings of the time.

Old diaries are great. People don’t lie in diaries.

Archeology surveys on the ground or by satellite.

Inscriptions in pyramids.

Ancient Viking rubbish tips.

Depends on the book. Incredible fun, like the best detective investigation in the universe. You never know where the trails will lead. Plus you get to play in a dozen different times with no danger of dying of the bubonic plague or getting your head sliced off by Vikings.

You can check out Jackie French’s website for more about her and her books: www.jackiefrench.com. Or read a 2015 Alphabet Soup interview with Jackie here


Riddle Gully Secrets by Jen BanyardAnd now Jackie passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Jen Banyard. Jen Banyard is the author of adventure stories, including the Riddle Gully series.

Jackie asks:

Why do you write?

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (While you’re waiting you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young writers in action: The Day at the Zoo

THE DAY AT THE ZOO
by Gabriel, 7, NSW

On Tuesday October 17th 2017, our family went to the Beijing Zoo. We went to the Beijing Zoo because it was for a home school excursion.

We saw beautiful swans and amazing ducks in a lake. There was a waterfall. Two birds were standing on the side.

Later, we saw the big bird cages. The birds were very very colourful and amazing, such as the flamingos. Other birds were blue, red or yellow. Next we saw parrots. There were ten cages. The parrots were green, white, red, blue and yellow. My sister’s favourite parrot is the eclectus parrot.

Before we saw snakes, we had lunch. We had burgers for lunch. Then we saw reptiles, like crocodiles, turtles and snakes. The zookeepers threw rats in the cages for food.

After that, we stared at the penguins. The thing that I did not like about the penguins’ cage was that they had fake ice! There were five penguins. The zookeepers showed us penguin bones in another place.

We walked over to the monkeys. They were swinging like crazy! We saw four golden monkeys and two black monkeys. The black monkeys were not swinging around but at the end they started to swing.

Later, we saw two chimpanzees. They were huge. One was eating some fruit and went to the other side to poo. That is smart not to poo where it eats.

Then we looked at the American animals. We saw sloths, tapirs and ostriches. The funny thing about the tapirs was that one tapir was weeing and smiling at the same time.

We also stared at the Australian animals. The kangaroos were eating lunch. One cassowary was resting and the other one was walking around.

We went over where we saw bears. We saw the Asiatic bear, black bear, brown bear and two polar bears. One polar bear was hitting the wall with its tummy. The other polar bear was pushing the wall with its bottom.

Next we saw thirty nocturnal animals. I can’t tell you all the names because there were too many. All the nocturnal animals that I saw eat fruit.

We saw African and Indian elephants. The African elephants have bigger ears than Indian elephants.

It was fun after seeing most of the animals. I want to go back to Beijing Zoo.


Gabriel is a regular contributer to Alphabet Soup. You can read some of his earlier work here. If YOU would like to send us a story, drawing, poem, or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy writing!

Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book baton: Sherryl Clark

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

Sherryl ClarkIt’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today the book baton is passed to Sherryl Clark. Sherryl is an author and poet — with over 40 books published in Australia. 

You might recognise some of these!

Last week Yasmin Hamid asked:

I know you have travelled to many different countries, but do you find it difficult to write books that are set in an Australian landscape when in your mind you have the embedded landscapes and terrains of the New Zealand you grew up in?


Sherryl answers:

Farm kid by Sherryl Clark

I think it’s firstly the people from my childhood and teen years that are embedded! I often find myself using bits of them, or certain anecdotes (changed to fit my story, of course). But also I find I tend to write stories set in valleys, and in the country, probably more than writers who grew up in the city do.

It’s tricky because publishers often want city stories where most of their market of readers live. Whereas I think it’s good for city kids to read about living in the country. It’s one of the reasons I wrote Farm Kid, because the Australian drought in the 2000s was so devastating for farmers, but people in the city didn’t really understand what it meant.

I suspect the main effect, though, has been the urge to travel (common among Kiwis) which has led to me writing historical novels set in the USA, England and France. The lure of history and stories that can go back many centuries into the past.

Read more about Sherryl Clark, her picture books, novels and verse novels at her website: www.sherrylclark.com


Diary of a wombat by Jackie French and Bruce WhatleyAnd now Sherryl passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Jackie French. Jackie French was the 2014-2015 Australian Children’s Laureate, and has had more than 200 books published.

Sherryl asks:

What are your best or favourite research tools for your historical novels?

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (While you’re waiting you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

Posted in poetry, Young Writers in Action

Young writers in action: Beach pollution

BEACH POLLUTION
Anishka, 7, QLD

The beach I used to go,
Always showed me fantastic show.
The fishes splashed, the dolphins dashed,
Nature is always at its best.
The days passed,
Now, it has all gone and faded.
No more ice-cream,
Not even a cone,
No more fishes,
Not even a dolphin.
Not anything to be seen,
Not anything to be so keen.
I think, we changed sea’s face,
And made this beach a mess.
It is now full of sea weed,
I picked it all for a good deed.

A hand stretched out to the sea. image courtesy pexels.com

 


Anishka is a regular contributor to Alphabet Soup — you can read all her earlier work here.