Posted in Book reviews by kids

Book review: Alex and the Alpacas Ride Again

Image shows the cover of a children's novel, Alex and the Alpacas Ride Again by Kathryn Lefroy. The cover illustration shows a girl with long black hair waving in the wind. She's holding a tiny black box up above her head and there appears to be a glow about the box. In the other arm she cradles a small plant in a black pot. Surrounding her and looking on are four alpacas, one black, one brown, one beige and one white. Above them is a stormy dark sky with two forks of lightning.

REVIEWED BY MIA, 10, WA

Alex and the Alpacas Ride Again by Kathryn Lefroy, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781760991739

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

Alex and the Alpacas Ride Again is a terrific novel written by Kathryn Lefroy. It is the second in a series of two books.

My favourite chapter was chapter 32, the last chapter, because it tells me what the alpacas will going to do with their lives next. And it wrapped up the story in an incredible way! (but I won’t give that away!)

I liked the book because it had so many twists in it and so many discoveries. It kept me reading until the very end.

In my opinion, the funniest chapter was chapter 31 because when Alex’s mum walked in, Griffin was struggling to say anything in front of her, and straight away I knew that Griffin had a crush on her!

I would recommend this book to anyone ages 9 to 13 as it has some difficult words in the novel. I would also recommend this book to anyone who is fussy with their books, because this one will surely keep you reading until the very end!   

Read an excerpt from the book at the publisher’s website!


This is Mia’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by kids

Book review: John Long, Fossil Hunter

Image shows the cover of a children's biography: John Long, Fossil Hunter by Danielle Clode. The cover is predominantly brown. There's a hand-drawn illustration of John Long, a fair haired man wearing a brown hat, black spectacles and holding a pick and a fossil in each hand. Around this drawing of him are doodle-style illustrations of a fish skeleton, a spade, a paintbrush and an ancient looking fish, as well as a lightbulb lit up in yellow.

REVIEWED BY BELLA, 10, WA

John Long, Fossil Hunter, story told by Danielle Clode, Wild Dingo Press, ISBN 9781925893687

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

This book in the Aussie Stem Stars series features John Long, the inspiring fossil hunter. The story is told by Danielle Clode.

I recommend this book for ages eight and up.

The chapter I found hilarious was “karate kid”, when suddenly John fell in love with karate. He first had a passion for karate when he saw Bruce Lee do karate!

I learned many facts about fossils in this wonderful book, that I didn’t know before. I also had never heard about John Long before, until I read the first few chapters of the book.

My favourite chapter was ‘Camping Chaos’, because I like how the author described the the event, which made me feel as though I was in a different world, right there stuck in the terrific story!

If I could star rate this book, I would probably give it a 4.5 out of 5! That is my opinion on how the book is really good.

I really enjoyed John Long, and learning about his experience with fossils.

Take a peek inside the book at the publisher’s website!


This is Bella’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Emily, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Red Pyramid

Image shows the cover of a children's novel, book 1 in The Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. The cover illustration shows a boy and a girl in silhouette facing a dangerous looking sphinx like creature which is glowing red and yellow.

REVIEWED BY EMILY, 10, WA

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, Penguin UK, ISBN 9780141325507

Emily reviewed her own copy of this book.

The Kane chronicles: The Red Pyramid Is a thrilling adventure book by Rick Riordan. It is about  siblings Carter and Sadie that look nothing alike. They must go on an action-packed adventure to save the world from the Egyptian God of Chaos, Set, before he takes over the world. It takes place throughout the world including the underworld, the Duat.

I really enjoyed these books because it taught me so many new things about Egyptian gods and pharaohs. I also think that this book is amazing because of all the adventure that takes place.

I think that this book would be suitable for ages 11-15 but could also be enjoyed by people older then 15 or younger than 11. If I had to rate this book I would give it 5 out of 5 stars because I like how in the first book Sadie and Carter have a massive adventure just to save their dad.


Emily is a regular reviewer for Alphabet Soup. Read Emily’s other reviews here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, read our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Saskia

Book review: The Rat-catcher’s Apprentice

Image shows the cover of a children's novel: The Rat-Catcher's Apprentice by Maggie Jankuloska. The cover illustration shows a silhouette of a girl in a skirt going into a rounded hollow in what looks like a dark forest. The centre of the hollow she's walking towards is pale blue. In the bottom right of the illustration is the silhouette of a small rat. The title is in large gold letters.

REVIEWED BY SASKIA, 12, WA

The Rat-catcher’s Apprentice by Maggie Jankuloska, MidnightSun Publishing, ISBN 9781925227949

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

The Rat Catcher’s Apprentice (by Maggie Jankuloska) is a gripping novel about a young girl, Marie, sent to catch rats during the Middle Ages, where the plague was always near.

I really enjoyed reading this book because it shed a light on what children would have to deal with during an epidemic in a time where beliefs and technology were so different from today. I also think this book is very relevant to today and was easy to relate to because we are dealing with a similar problem as Marie.

I think this book would be suitable for 10 to 14 year olds, but could be enjoyed by older people too. Out of five stars, I would give this book a four.


Saskia is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read more of her reviews hereIf YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in authors, interviews

Sharon Giltrow on Get Ready, Mama!

Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia and now lives in Western Australia with her husband, two children, a tom cat and a miniature dog. She works in Early Childhood Education and Teacher Education Support, working with Young Children with Developmental Language Disorder. Her debut picture book was Bedtime, Daddy!, illustrated by Katrin Dreiling. Today we’re chatting to her about her new picture book, Get Ready, Mama! illustrated by Arielle Li.

From the publisher:

Getting Mama ready for the day can be a challenge… you’d better watch out that she doesn’t sneak back into bed, try to distract you with cuddles, or … wait, is Mama watching TV?! 


Your first picture book was Bedtime, Daddy! Did you have the idea for a series of books about family members when you wrote the first book or did the idea for a companion book come after the first book was out?

Bedtime, Daddy! is a role reversal book where the child (actually a bear) has to put the daddy to bed. The idea came from my own family. Once I signed the contract for Bedtime, Daddy! I thought writing a series of books using the same structure but different family members would be a great idea. I wanted one about a mum and about the other end of the day, getting up, so I wrote Get Ready, Mama! which was recently published 3 ½ years after the first book. I also wrote a story about taking a grandma shopping and a grandpa to the beach. Those two will be published in 2022 and 2023. So, my picture book family series is now complete. (Wait a minute – what about the aunty and uncle?)

Are you a morning person or a night owl? (Do you spring out of bed in the morning yourself?)

I am a morning person or as a like to call myself an early bird, although at times I am also an exhausted pigeon. I don’t spring out as bed as quickly as I use to, it’s more of a slide, but I do like to get up before everyone else in the house. Then I can have a few minutes of ‘me’ time.

Did you work with the illustrator (Arielle Li) during the book’s creation?

Anouska, the editor at EK Books, encouraged Arielle and I to work together from the beginning of the publishing process. She shared Arielle’s initial character sketches with me and as a team we decided whether the characters would be guinea pigs or humans. We chose humans! I’m glad we did after seeing the child and mama’s amazing facial expressions in Get Ready, Mama! Then Arielle started working on the storyboard and again shared it with me. Throughout the whole process I was able to suggest changes. There weren’t many as Arielle did such a fantastic job interpreting my text. Once the changes were made, I put my text onto the storyboard to check how the story flowed. Finally, as a team we decided on a cover.

Do you have a tip for kids about writing illustrated stories or picture books?

After you have your idea, spend some time brainstorming the idea and in particular the characters. I do this for about 20 minutes every day for a week before I start writing. Here are some questions I use when I am brainstorming.

  • What does your character love or hate?
  • What is their nickname?
  • What kind of being are they?
  • What is their age?
  • What is their physical appearance?
  • Who are their family members?
  • Do they have any pets?
  • Who is their best friend/s?
  • What items do they carry in their backpack?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • What does your character want more than anything?
  • What are their fears?
  • What is their favourite food?

Can you tell us something about your next writing project?

I am currently writing my third book in my early middle grade series The Utility Belt. Books one and two release in 2022 and 2023. But I don’t want to give too much away.

I am also enrolled in a graphic novel course; I want to learn how to write (and possibly illustrate) a graphic novel. I already have a great idea, now to develop my characters – stay tuned!

Get Ready, Mama! is out now. Ask for it at your favourite bookstore or local library.


AWESOME EXTRAS

Image shows the cover of a picture book: Get Ready, Mama! by Sharon Giltrow and Arielle Li. The cover illustration shows a mother still in bed, cuddling her teddy. There's a child standing next to her bed in a school uniform and with neatly tied plaits. The child is holding a white button up blouse on a coat hanger. Next to the bed is a white dog with brown patches and a pink tongue lolling out. The mother in bed has tousled hair and doesn't look alert. The dog and the child look enthusiastic and full of energy.

Take a look at some pages inside the book

Make your own Get Ready, Mama! mini colouring book

Download the Teachers’ Notes for this book

Visit the author’s website for more about Sharon Giltrow and her books

Posted in Book reviews by Anwen, Book reviews by kids

Book review: What Snail Knows

Image shows the cover of a children's verse novel: What Snail Knows by Kathryn Apel and illustrations by Mandy Foot. The cover illustration shows a small girl in a blue pinafore dress over a yellow tshirt. She's sitting on a swing, holding up a tiny snail in her left hand. She has messy hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. There's a flowerbed underneath the swing.

REVIEWED BY ANWEN, 8, WA

What Snail Knows by Kathryn Apel, illustrated by Mandy Foot, UQP, ISBN 9780702265464

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

I really enjoyed this book. I recommend it for 7 and older. It is a chapter book and has the loveliest illustrations. The artworks are beautiful and detailed. It is a verse novel which means it is a novel but it is like a poem. The words are sometimes in shapes. 

Lucy is the main character. She is kind, calm and lonely. Lucy only has her dad and moves to different places a lot. Lucy asks questions about her family, but her dad doesn’t like to talk about it. Her mum, grandparents and other family are a mystery to her.

Snail is Lucy`s pet and only friend. He means a lot to Lucy. Snail lives in a box in Lucy`s caravan. Lucy only has Snail and her dad until she meets Tahnee. She finally finds a place she likes. But the question is will she stay?

Read our interview with the author of What Snail Knows


Anwen is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read more of her reviews here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in authors, interviews

HM Waugh on Mars Awakens

HM Waugh is the author of books for children and young adults. She’s also an environmental scientist, and educator with a 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. Her latest book is Mars Awakens, the unputdownable first book in a duology.

From the publisher:

Raised in two colonies on Mars each long ago abandoned by Earth, Dee and Holt have been brought up to hate even the idea of each other. But when a mysterious object crash-lands on a far-flung plain, they are both sent to investigate and their fates intertwine. Together they must battle epic storms and deadly bioclouds while unpicking the web of lies they have been told about their planet.


What brought you to write a book set on Mars? Did you need to do much research before you began writing?

I love space and the idea of going to other planets, and we’re so close to being able to send people to Mars – kids reading my book could absolutely be a part of this – that one day the idea to write a book based on Mars just popped into my head. Mars is a real place, so I did have to do a lot of research. Not only about the Mars we know – like its gravity and size and moons and what it looks like from the surface – but also into the Mars we could create. The plants we would need to make wax and rope and clothing. To feed the population. To stabilise the planet. It was a lot of fun!

What’s your favourite unusual fact about Mars?

There are so many! I think one of my favourites is how rovers have been detecting strange levels of methane (like fart gas) on Mars. And recently they discovered rocks on Mars that contain substances that, on Earth, can be created by methane-producing bacteria. Did Mars once have life? Does it still?

Dee uses kites to travel long distances across Mars on her own. What gave you the idea? Did you test a prototype or put trust in your imagination?

The kites came from an epic brainstorming session. I knew Mars was too big to walk around, so I needed some low-tech way for Dee and her colony to travel long distances. And what did Mars have going for it? Much less gravity than Earth so you can leap higher and run faster, and some serious windstorms. And I thought about sailboats, and umbrellas in storms, and kite-surfers, and combined them all to create the Martian kites. I did not test this out! I’m not even sure they’d work on Earth? But I did use my experiences doing things like sailing, skydiving and ziplining to create the feel of kiting with the wind.

If there was a callout tomorrow for volunteers to move to Mars – would you be tempted to put your hand up?

Absolutely! Try out for all the things. What’s the worst that could happen? Either I don’t get selected and I’ve lost nothing, or I do get selected and get to decide whether to accept the place or not. If it was a one-way ticket I honestly think I’d find it very hard to say goodbye to my family. Maybe they could come with me?

Can you tell us something about your next writing project?

Well, obviously, my next project is Mars Book 2 and I’m not giving away any spoilers! Beyond that, I have ideas simmering away in my head for a new project and I’m just letting them develop. It can take a while for the right collection of ideas to come together, and then I suddenly know I’ve got the ingredients for a book.

Mars Awakens is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.


AWESOME EXTRAS

Image shows the cover of a children's novel: Mars Awakens by HM Waugh. The cover illustration shows the silhouettes of two children, standing face to face. Behind them is a greenish sky over the red ground on Mars.

Enter the author’s short story challenge! The winner will have a character named after them in the sequel to Mars Awakens. (Entries close 31 May 2022.)

Do you live in Perth? Book a ticket to the 8 May launch of Mars Awakens. Meet the author! Eat crickets, like Dee!

Read our 2019 interview with HM Waugh about her first children’s novel.

Visit HM Waugh’s website for more about her and her books.

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: HiLo

Image shows the cover of a children's book: HiLo, The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick. The cover illustration shows a boy with yellow hair, a red shirt with a letter H on it, blue jeans and sneakers. He's holding his hands up in the air and each hand is in a fist, circled with yellow glow. Behind him is a boy with short black hair and a girl with brown skin and a pink shirt. They are all standing on a road.

REVIEWED BY EZRA, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

HiLo by Judd Winick, Penguin UK, ISBN 9780141376929

Ezra read his school’s copy of this book.

Have you ever read a graphic novel with a funny robot? Well then HiLo is the book for you. I think you should read it because there are portals and powers/magic.

In the story, HiLo and Izzy came from a planet of powers/magic. And they are both robots. Their best friends are DJ and Gina. DJ is funny and is a normal person. Gina, on the other hand, is also a normal person but she learns crazy good magic from their friend, Polly. Polly is a cat that can talk and he came from the same planet as RAZORWARK. RAZORWARK was a good robot to protect the earth. But then someone changed his orders.

One reason I like this book is because I like robots. In the story HiLo is a robot and he shoots coins out of his bellybutton! Another reason I like this book is because HiLo and Izzy are hilarious. For example HiLo and Izzy poop out pencils! And that is my favourite part of HiLo. The third reason why I like this book is that in the story Polly makes up the funniest jokes EVER!

I hope you can read this book right away. I recommend this book for kids ages 6 and up. I give this book 10 out of 10 stars.


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: Dragon Masters series

Image shows the cover of a children's book: Dragon Masters, Rise of the Earth Dragon. The cover illustration shows an orange dragon shaped like a snake with bat wings on a green grassy mountain smiling at a boy in a yellow tunic and brown trousers. Behind them are snow covered mountains with an icy blue look to them.

REVIEWED BY TEDDY, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

Dragon Masters series by Tracey West and Graham Howells, Scholastic, Book 1 ISBN 9780545646239

Teddy read his school’s copies of books in this series.

Do you like fantasy, mystery, and dragons? Then Dragon Masters is the series for you! I like this series because it is funny and mysterious with dragons you could never even think of!

In Book One Drake (the main character) gets pulled away by castle guards to the castle where he becomes a dragon master and works with a dragon! One reason that I like this book is because it is cool when Worm (Drake’s dragon) makes rocks float with his mind! Another reason I like this series is because there are lots of powerful dragons! For example in book 17 Drake meets a stone dragon and it has the power to turn things to stone! A third reason I like this book is because there are lots of good wizards and bad wizards. For instance Diego and Griffith are nice, but wizards like Maldred and Astrid are not. These are some reasons why you should read this series.

If you want to learn more about this book, visit your local library. I recommend this book for ages 5-80. I give this book 10 out of 10 stars.


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!