Posted in Book reviews by kids

Book review: Tom Gates Ten Tremendous Tales

REVIEWED BY AASHI, 7, VIC

Ten Tremendous Tales

Tom Gates: Ten Tremendous Tales by Liz Pichon, Scholastic UK, ISBN 9781760974282

Aashi reviewed her own copy of this book.

Ten Tremendous Tales is a book with ten stories, all of the different ten stories are written by Liz Pichon.

The main character of the book is Tom Gates who likes to doodle. You must be wondering what doodling is. Well, it is practically drawing!

I like the book because there is a whole range of stories to read. Each story is unique and has a different moral, like one of them is about always to have hope. I liked this moral because in Covid times having hope is so important!

After reading this book I feel like I could read many more books where Tom Gates is the main character. He is super-duper at doodling but always gets into trouble. I won’t say more about Tom to keep some surprises for you.

This book is also cool as it is the tenth book in Tom Gates series by the author. The Brilliant World of Tom Gates was the first book and sent out to stores in 2011.

I would rate this book 9/10 because I think that some of the stories could continue a little bit longer. It will be enjoyed by children who are ages 7-11.

I hope you would like to read Ten Tremendous Tales.


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

Posted in Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Amira’s Magpie

REVIEWED BY WILLIAM, 10, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

Amira's Magpie by Kate Gordon and Krista Brennan

Amira’s Magpie by Kate Gordon, illustrated by Krista Brennan, Wombat Books, ISBN 9781925563986

Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.

“He sings to her, too, and she knows his language.”

Amira’s Magpie is a slow-moving, gentle book of imagination and longing. Amira imagines her magpie flying across the world, to visit her homeland and the family she left behind. From this, and through both words and pictures, we are left to imagine her story.

This book isn’t very long, but it doesn’t need to be, because every thing you need to know comes from the beautiful illustrations and your imagination.

I would recommend this book for people who can read beyond the words, and feel that the character is their own self.

I rate this book: 5 stars.


Iona Presentation College students are members of Alphabet Soup’s review team. This is William’s first review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour

REVIEWED BY LILY, 11, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780734419163

Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour is about a 12-year-old girl named April, whose mother abandoned her when she was just an infant. The only thing April has from her past is a mysterious key on a chain. Years later, after moving around between many foster families, April arrives at the Winterborne Home for Orphans. At the Winterborne Home, she meets a group of children and together this group of misfits uncover deep and dark secrets which have been masked for a decade. As part of their journey of discovering mysterious secrets, this mismatched band of orphans come to rely on one another and ultimately become like the family they all longed for. 

Little does the group know, April holds the key to the Winterborne Legacy. It is sought out by one of the last living Winterborne’s, Evert Winterborne. Why does Evert desire this key? What does it unlock? Evert is willing to commit murder to get his hands on the Legacy, which he believes is rightfully his. However, his mission of unlocking his family’s Legacy is continually thwarted by the orphans, who are the only thing that stand between Evert and the Winterborne Home and Legacy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it captivated me and held my attention right until the end. I felt as if the characters were so real and relatable that they could jump right out of the page and I was in the Winterborne Home with them. I think this book was very interesting and for people who love mysteries and adventures this is the book for you! I would give this book an eight out of ten and would recommend it for older readers.

Read an excerpt from the book via the publisher’s website.


Iona Presentation College students are members of Alphabet Soup’s review team. This is Lily’s first review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Charlotte, Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Mina and the Whole Wide World

REVIEWED BY CHARLOTTE, 11, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

Mina and the Whole Wide World by Sherryl Clark and illustrated by Briony Stewart

Mina and the Whole Wide World by Sherryl Clark, illustrated by Briony Stewart, University of Queensland Press, ISBN 9780702263231

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

This is the story of Mina, a young girl, and her parents one day decide to take in a refugee boy. At first, Mina is shocked and upset, but when the boy, Azzami, moves in, she starts to discover his full story …

This heart-warming and emotional story is wonderful and easy to read. I thought that using the idea of a refugee child was sure to make people think about refugees differently. After reading this book, I learned that there are more to refugees than just being poor and homeless. I felt sorry for Azzami, who was always picked on and teased at school, but as Mina soon learned, there was more to him than she thought.

I would definitely recommend this book to children. It certainly touched my heart and shared a powerful message. I would suggest that kids aged around Year 4 to 6 will enjoy this amazing story!

Read Alphabet Soup’s interview with the author of Mina and the Whole Wide World.


Iona Presentation College students are members of Alphabet Soup’s review team. This is Charlotte’s second review for Alphabet Soup. Read another review by Charlotte here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Bad Beginning

REVIEWED BY AYAAN, 10, VIC

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 9780064407663

Ayaan reviewed his own copy of this book.

This is a book written by Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler).

The Bad Beginning is the first book in the series: A Series of Unfortunate Events. The series, unsurprisingly, has thirteen books, and the thirteenth book ends on the thirteenth chapter! These books are about the misfortune of the Baudelaire children. 

This first book in the series is the start of the Baudlaire children’s misfortune and misery. The Baudelaire children are orphans after a fire that wiped out their parents. Violet, who is the oldest and a girl of fourteen, loves inventing. Klaus, a boy of twelve, is an avid reader. Sunny, an infant, has four sharp teeth and loves to bite things. Violet is to inherit the Baudelaire fortune when she is of age.

They are adopted by Count Olaf who is horrid and mean. But is he just mean or is something sinister going on? When they come over for dinner, his acting troupe look a bit suspicious. When the children are invited to perform in Count Olaf’s play, something seems amiss. What are Count Olaf and his troupe planning?

I would rate this book five stars as it is mysteriously interesting. This book is good for people who like mystery and are aged 9+.

Oh, by the way, the book is written in a way that not many books are written. Just something you ought to know.

(Take a sneak peek inside the book!)


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

Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: An Unpleasant Surprise

Cat peeking out a doorway. Photo by Henda Watani at pexels.com

AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE

by Audrey, 10, VIC

Sometimes people ask me, “Hey, if you were an animal, what would you be?”

I’d think, and then say, “A cat!”

I wonder what it would really be like…

I think cats are amazing creatures! If only I could stay up late exploring! I can’t think of anything bad about- oh wait, humans picking me up! I hate being picked up. I wonder if I should say anything else next time …

“If you were an animal, what would you be?” the new kid asks.

This time I don’t hesitate. “A cat! I love cats.”

After school, she comes up to me. “Are you sure you’d want to be a cat?” 

“Yes … why? What do you- OH!” I blink, and suddenly she’s like a giant! I close my eyes and rub them. Wait, why do I have paws? Oh no, she’s turned me into a cat!

“Turn me back into a human! I don’t want to be a cat!” I yell, but she just laughs. I must be meowing!

Suddenly, my friend Natalie appears out of nowhere! “Hey! I just saw you turn her into a cat!”

The new girl turns around quickly. “No, I didn’t! You’re going mad, Natalie.” She puts her hand on Nat’s forehead. Oh, that girl is infuriating!

Natalie moves away. “Then why is her bag there? Hair ties too! THERE’S CLEARLY A CAT IN FRONT OF YOU!” she yells.

“That’s MY bag, and I dropped my hair ties. That cat is a stray,” the new girl lies, turning red.

“I’d recognise Audrey’s bag anywhere. And those are her hair ties. I bought them for her birthday last year!” Natalie retorts, and leans forward to pick me up. “This is my friend, and you’re not going anywhere until you turn her back into a human!” I wave my paw and meow in approval.

Natalie boops my nose. “See? Even as a cat, she’s exactly the same person.”

The new girl sighs. “Fine. But it’s not going to wear off until tomorrow morning. She’ll have to stay this way until then.” 

“Drat! What will my parents say?” I meow.

As if she can understand me, Natalie strokes my head. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell your parents you came over for a sleepover. My parents will totally believe me. They believe anything I say!”

The new girl nods at us and runs off. 

The next morning, a bright sunny Saturday, I walk back home with Natalie. She waves at me goodbye. “Bye!” I yell.

Being a cat is pretty fun. I think. But I’d rather be a human.

Mum greets me at the front door. “Had a fun night? Lucky girl, I was worried you wouldn’t come home!” 

“I had a great night, thanks Mum!”

She winks at me like she knows a secret. “Staying at a friend’s house sure is the cat’s whiskers! I sure know what it’s like.”


Audrey is a frequent contributor to Alphabet Soup. Read another story by Audrey here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submissions guidelines. 

Posted in authors, interviews

Julia Lawrinson on Mel and Shell

MEET THE AUTHOR

Julia Lawrinson is an award-winning writer of more than a dozen books for children and young adults. Her books are about friendship, family and the occasional Jack Russell. We’re very pleased to be chatting to Julia today about her latest book Mel and Shell.

From the publisher:

It’s 1979. Swedish pop group ABBA rules the airwaves, rollerskating is cool, and Mel and Shell are best friends. There’s nothing they like more than making up dances to ABBA songs, and there’s nothing they like less than Scary Sharon and Stinky Simon. But things are changing, fast. Confiding in her pen pal from 1829, Shell discovers she has a lot to learn about loyalty, honesty and rollerskating.


How did you come to write a book set in 1979?

In 1979 I was in year five, and it was a hugely exciting year to be a kid. ABBA was at its most popular, rollerskating was huge, Doctor Who with Tom Baker was my favourite show, and BMX was just taking off. It was also the 150th anniversary of English settlement in Western Australia, so everyone was given a diary with lots of olden day pictures, which fascinated me.

You incorporate two timeframes from history in the book – 1979, when the book is set, and 1829, which the main character is learning about in year 5. How much did you need to research before you began writing the novel?

A lot! I went to the State Library and looked at all the old newspapers on clunky old machines called microfiche, to see what was happening in the first half of 1979, and also to remember what television shows were on when. I also had to make sure I had the right information about who was on what ships coming from England, and what happened to them on the way.

OK, we have to ask – are you an ABBA fan yourself?

ABBAsolutely! I still have an ABBA calendar every year, sent to me by my best friend who lives in England. When we see each other we still dress up and pretend to be Anna and Frida.

If you found a way to time-slip back to 1979, what would be the first thing you’d do when you arrived?

Go rollerskating, buy a yo-yo, and watch Young Talent Time.

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?

My next project is my first picture book, set in 1962 in Perth, and features an astronaut. It will be out in June 2022 with Wild Dog Books.

Mel and Shell is out now! Ask for it at your favourite book shop or local library.


AWESOME EXTRAS

Read a sample chapter from Mel and Shell

Download Teachers’ Notes for this book

Read our 2019 interview with Julia Lawrinson about another of her books, Maddie in the Middle

Visit Julia Lawrinson’s website for more about her and her books

Posted in Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

REVIEWED BY EVIE, 12, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, Algonquin Books, ISBN 9781616207465

Evie reviewed her own copy of this book.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is an adventure novel that was a New York Times bestseller and won the 2017 Newbery Medal. This book is about a place called the Protectorate and the people of the Protectorate sacrifice a baby each year to the witch in the forest. But the witch, whose name is Xan, is very kind. She takes the babies left in the forest to a new family on the other side of the forest where she knows they will be happily taken in and cared for. Along the way she feeds the babies using starlight, which has a little bit of magic in it but not enough to make the babies magical. But one year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight. And moonlight is magic. For years the girl (Luna) grows up as an ordinary child with Xan, Fyrian the Simply Enormous Dragon and Glerk the monster from the bog. But what happens when Luna’s magic starts to come out … ?

I enjoyed this book as it is beautifully written and explores the meaning of memory hope, love and emotion. The characters are not perfect and that is what makes them relatable. The heroes and heroines are resilient, empathetic and show the importance of family and friends.

This book filled me with a little bit of magic and is an all-time favourite. So if you like magic, suspense and surprise then this a great book for you. This book is probably best suited to 10 to 12-year-olds.

Read an excerpt from The Girl Who Drank the Moon.


Evie is a member of Iona Presentation College’s student reviewers’ team. This is her second review for Alphabet Soup. Check out Evie’s review of Fozia and the Quest for Prince Zal! To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, refer to our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Fozia and the Quest of Prince Zal

REVIEWED BY EVIE, 12, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

Fozia and the Quest of Prince Zal by Rosanne Hawke, UQP, ISBN 9780702263071

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

Fozia and the Quest of Prince Zal is an adventure and fantasy novel. This book is about Pakistan after the floods and about a girl called Fozia trying to find her family. Fozia lives with a boy called Jehan and his family after he saved her from the flood. Jehan’s family grow to love Fozia but they remind Fozia too much of her old family. So to help herself keep the memories of her family alive Fozia tells them a story. She tells a story about a prince with leprosy who is searching for his little sister in the jungle on a flying carpet. Prince Zal faces the beasts of the jungle and the pariyan to find his sister. Will he reach her before it’s too late? Everybody loves Fozia’s story but is it really fiction? Can Fozia learn to love her new family?

I liked this book as it was very original and creative talking about memory and hope as well as the love of friends but most importantly, family. The characters are very realistic, making you believe that this story actually could’ve happened, whilst still adding a bit of that fairytale magic.

This book showed me what the aftermath of a natural disaster would be like. This is the third book in the series so please read the other books first: Jehan and the Quest of the Lost Dog and Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll.

If you like fairytales, history and real life references then I recommend this book for you. This book is probably best suited to 9 to 11-year-olds.


Evie is a member of Iona Presentation College’s student reviewers’ team. This is her first review for Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

REVIEWED BY EMILY, 9, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows by Denis Knight and Cristy Burne

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows by Denis Knight and Cristy Burne, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780734420190

Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.

I found Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows to be a fascinating fantasy fiction adventure, but it is missing the absence of surprise when Wednesday made the portal back home. When Wednesday and Alfie fight off the laundry monster I imagined it wearing Alfie’s hat and I almost laughed so hard!

I enjoyed this story because of its detail and how each character showed perseverance and resilience to help family and friends. When I read Wednesday Weeks I had to notice its similarity to Scarlet and Ivy because both books try to help family and are about magic! I liked the skull, Bruce, because he was funny and helped Wednesday and Alfie.

I rate this book a full 5 stars!

Read a sample chapter of Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows!


Emily is a member of Iona Presentation College’s student reviewers’ team. This is her first review for Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!