Posted in competitions, info, teachers' resources

Autumn 2011 writing comp: THE WINNERS (Part III)

"Boy writing © Greg Mitchell"Here is the winning Under 7s story from our autumn 2011 writing competition. You were asked to write a story about something to do with cooking.

A reminder: always check the rules of the competition. If you don’t stick to the rules, we have to disqualify your entry and that makes us sad!

Under 7s winner: O Small (WA)


Once there was a chef, a crazy chef. He was so crazy that if someone ordered pizza he would give them pasta instead. But one day he said “I’m going to make myself a coffee. I love coffee it’s my favourite thing.”

So he went to the cupboard and got out what he thought was coffee beans. The milk was real, but the coffee beans were really poisonous sultanas.

“ARGOOWY!!!!! I used the poisonous sultanas” and he flew up to heaven never to be crazy again, still wearing his chef’s hat.

Enter our winter writing competition. Entries close 29 July 2011.

Posted in competitions, info, teachers' resources

Autumn 2011 writing comp: THE WINNERS (Part II)

"Boy writing © Greg Mitchell"Here is the winning Under 9s story from our autumn 2011 writing competition. You were asked to write a story about something to do with cooking.

A reminder: always check the rules of the competition. If you don’t stick to the rules, we have to disqualify your entry and that makes us sad!

Under 9s winner: G Oakley (WA)


Once upon a time there lived a girl named Misty. Misty lived with only her mother.

One day Misty’s mum was making a stew.

But then all of a sudden there was a cry from the kitchen. It was Misty’s mum. Misty ran to the kitchen as fast as she could. And there right in front of her mum was the stew, but the stew didn’t look like a stew it looked like a monster.

Misty asked her mum what she did to the stew but her mum just said ‘I just put this sauce in that a stranger gave me’ said her mum.

After Misty’s mum said this Misty was just about to ask her mum about the stranger but before she could say anything the stew monster tried to jump on her. All of a sudden Misty found herself being chased by the stew monster.

As Misty was running very fast she had an idea. Misty remembered that stew goes rotten in the sun so Misty made the stew monster chase her outside into the bright sun then Misty quickly ran inside and locked the doors. As soon as Misty locked the doors she sat down and asked her mum about the stranger her mum had met. Her mum said she had a big wart on her nose.

Misty started to laugh, ‘Oh mum’ she said, ‘you bought something off the witch who lives outside of town.’

Misty and her mum both looked outside to find the monster but all they found was a puddle of stew.

Enter our winter writing competition. Entries close 29 July 2011.

Posted in competitions, info, teachers' resources

Autumn 2011 story comp: THE WINNERS (Part I)

"Boy writing © Greg Mitchell"Here is the winning Under 12s story from our autumn 2011 writing competition. You were asked to write a story about something to do with cooking.

A reminder: always check the rules of the competition. If you don’t stick to the rules, we have to disqualify your entry and that makes us sad!

Under 12s winner: R Mukherjee (NSW)


No, Amanda!” Kathleen groaned to her friend, “I am not entering!”

“Oh, Kath! Everyone is entering. It’s just for fun, after all!”

Kathleen watched her brown hair ripple out in the breeze. After a moment she replied quietly, “I’m hopeless at cooking.”


Amanda had piercing green eyes and she fixed them determinedly on Kathleen. “You are not! It’s just a Cupcake Competition, Kathy! C’mon, we are entering!”

She leapt out of the pool, grabbed her towel and strode away. Before she left she yelled over her shoulder, “Just believe in yourself!”


Two weeks later, Kathleen and Amanda were ascending the steps to Harrow Hall, where the Cupcake Competition was to be held. Kathleen was so reluctant Amanda practically had to drag her along. Amanda loved cooking and decorating, but Kathleen was different. She loved reading. Her favourite genre was crime fiction and she adored puzzling out mysteries! As a result, she’d become exceptional at finding lost things! But reading couldn’t help her now. This was a cooking competition. Kathleen knew she couldn’t do it. She was about to let her team down—and embarrass herself. Oh, what was she doing here?!


Jeanie and Maria, who went to school with Amanda and Kathleen, joined the girls at a bench. The workbench was full of icing, sprinkles and flour. It was a mess!

“Ladies and gentlemen!” the announcer cried, “Are you ready?!”


No, I’m not! Kathleen whined to herself. She spied Tom Wright at another bench. They were school enemies. Great! This really would give him something to snigger about! “You have fifteen minutes to make a batch of four cupcakes,” the announcer continued, “so manage time effectively! On your marks, get set … go!”


It was eight minutes into the competition. Everyone except Kathleen was enjoying themselves and working hard. Kathleen stood to one side, eyeing the mess of supplies. Suddenly someone cried, “The ladle!” It was Jeanie.


“What’s wrong?” asked Amanda, impatiently.

“The ladle’s gone! It’s not here!” At this, everyone made a frantic search for it—but it was truly gone. Kathleen snapped into action. A minute later she returned, smiling, with the large wooden spoon.

“Kath,” Amanda breathed, “you’re a life saver! But … where was it?”

Kathleen nodded towards Tom Wright’s group with a wry smile. “Kath, you didn’t want to come—and now you’ve saved the group!”

Kathleen shrugged, “You’re the one who told me to believe in myself!”

Enter our winter writing competition. Entries close 29 July 2011.

Posted in authors, teachers' resources

Meet the author: WENDY ORR

In every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine we interview an author or illustrator. The trouble is, we can only fit some of their answers in the magazine. So we print the full interviews on the blog—we wouldn’t want you to miss out!

Wendy Orr, photo by Roger GouldIn issue 11 we talked to Wendy Orr, author of many books, including Nim’s Island, The Princess and her Panther, and Raven’s Mountain.

1. Where do you live?
On a hill near the sea on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne.

2. What made you become a writer?
I love stories and books so much that I always knew I wanted to write them. My dad used to tell us crazy stories that he made up, and my mum read us wonderful books for bedtime stories, so wanting to write books never seemed like a strange thing to do.

3. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Reading, going for walks (especially on the beach or in the bush, and especially with my dog), seeing my friends and family, doing tai chi, and travelling.

4. Was it easy to get your first book published?
I was quite lucky with my first book (Amanda’s Dinosaur) because it won a competition, and the prize was having it published. The next few were harder!

5. What was your favourite book as a child?
At different ages: Winnie the Pooh; My Son in Law the Hippopotamus; Anne of Green Gables; Swallows and Amazons; Little Women; The Eagle of the Ninth.

6. Where do you get your ideas?
I’m often not sure where an idea has come from until I’ve finished the first draft. Sometimes it’s from something that has happened in my life, and sometimes it’s a crazy sort of thought—which of course has still probably happened from something I’ve seen or heard or experienced in some way. Sometimes it might be by asking ‘What if?’ about something that’s happened. Of course you need a lot of ideas to make a whole book—one idea starts it, but then you need more for how a character looks or acts, or what happens in chapter 3, and what’s exciting in chapter 5, or how everything all comes together in the end … I sometimes think that there’s a little bit of magic in how all these different ideas come together.

7. Do you prefer to write with a pen in a notebook, or on the computer?
On the computer. I use a pen to make notes in a notebook with a pen; often one book will have its own notebook and I jot down my thoughts or try to work something out. But once I start writing the story, I always use the computer. (For one thing my handwriting is so messy that writing a whole story with a pen would be too tiring— and even worse, I often can’t read my writing!)

8. What do you love best about being a writer?
Living inside a story and playing with it till it comes out right.

9. Of your own books, do you have a favourite?
It’s very hard to choose a favourite, because they’re like friends or pets. I sometimes think Ark in the Park is my favourite, because when I read it there are still no words I want to change or lines I’d like to rewrite. But Nim has been my favourite character for a while—except that now Raven’s Mountain is out, in many ways that’s my favourite, because I always feel very protective about a new character about to face world. So that might be why Raven is my favourite character right now.

Nim's island (cover)

"Raven's Mountain (cover)"

10. Are you working on a book at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’m always working on several books at a time. I’ve just finished Raven’s Mountain, which was out in February. The short blurb would be, ‘Three people go up a mountain; one comes down.’ It’s an adventure story about a girl named Raven who goes mountain climbing with her older sister and stepdad—but when there’s a rockfall and the others are trapped, Raven has to face the wilderness alone to try to save them, and herself.

I’m also working on a series of books set in The Rainbow Street Animal Shelter. I’m doing these with an American publisher; in Australia the stories will most likely be collected into one or two books. I’ve just finished editing the second book, MISSING: A Cat Called Buster, and now am waiting for my editor to work on the third book while I rewrite the fourth (FREE: A Lion Called Kiki).

There are also several other books at various stages on my computer and in my head!

11. You write picture books, books for primary school aged kids, and young adult books. Do you have a favourite age group to write for?
If I had to choose one age group, it would be primary school or middle grade readers. But I’m very glad that I can skip around and play with a picture book or plan an adult novel in between.

"The Princess and her Panther (cover)"12. How do you know if an idea is best for a picture book, a middle grade book or a young adult book?

That’s part of the mystery of writing that I don’t understand. As an idea starts to grow into my mind, it shows me the shape the book will be, so that by the time I’m ready to write it, it’s obvious what sort of story it wants to be.

13. Do you have any advice for young writers?
Just keep on writing! Have fun with it; try writing different types of stories with different types of characters. Remember that the first person you’re writing for is yourself—you need to love what you’re doing. When you’ve finished, read it and see if there are any parts that are a bit boring, or don’t make sense—pretend you’re a teacher with a big red pen, be brave and mark everything that isn’t good. Ask yourself if that bit needs to be in the story. If it doesn’t—delete it. If it does—make it better. Does it make you laugh, or cry, or hold your breath? Keep on rereading and rewriting till you’re happy with everything in your story.

And don’t forget to read, and experiment with different types of books. Writers need to see how other writers work—but most of all, we need to love stories.

You can find out more about Wendy Orr and her books on her website. And visit the Nim’s Island blog!

“Meet the author: Wendy Orr” © Rebecca Newman 2011
Posted in competitions, info, poetry, teachers' resources

Winter 2011 Alphabet Soup — out now!

Issue 11 cover, Alphabet Soup magazineThe eleventh issue of Alphabet Soup magazine (yay! yay!) was posted yesterday. If you are a subscriber, keep an eye on your letterbox.

Here’s what you’ll find inside the winter issue:

  • Q&A with author, Wendy Orr
  • Meet a beekeeper
  • Writing tips for kids from The Book Chook
  • Stories by Michele Purcell and Emma Cameron
  • Poetry by Edel Wignell, Jackie Hosking and Lorraine Marwood
  • Stories, poems and book reviews by kids
  • Crossword
  • Our winter writing competition
  • Our annual design-a-cover competition

and more!

Later today we’ll be posting the Q&A with Wendy Orr and on Monday we’ll be posting the winning stories from our recent story-writing competition. So stay tuned!

Subscribe to Alphabet Soup magazine

Posted in Events, illustrator, teachers' resources

Two book launches (WA)

Here are two book launches coming up in June and July!

1. JUNE 2011 BOOK LAUNCH for picture book, The Last Viking

written by Norman Jorgensen, illustrated by James Foley

"The Last Viking (cover)"
When: Friday 24 June 2011, 6:30pm
Where: Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre (Old Freo Prison hospital), cnr Hampton and Knutsford Rd, Fremantle WA
RSVP for numbers to Fremantle Press: (08) 9430 6331 or email

A bit about The Last Viking (taken from the Fremantle Press site):

Young Josh is very brave.
He’s not afraid of anyone or anything—except maybe the dark. Pirates worry him a bit, of course, and so do boy-eating dinosaurs, and monsters under the bed. He’s also just a little afraid of dragons and vampires. But other than those few things, Josh is as brave as a lion.

Sort of.

When Josh comes face to face with real-life trouble, he begins to find out how brave he really is …

2. JULY 2011 BOOK LAUNCH for Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers

written and illustrated by Briony Stewart

"Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers (cover)"

When: Sunday 10 July 2011, 1.30pm–4.30pm
Where: Town of Vincent Library, 99 Loftus St, Perth WA.
Short reading, book sales, signing, sale of original illustrations and prints from the book.

Light refreshments and a chance for kids to win book prizes and colour in a giant dragon!

For more info, email Briony Stewart.

A bit about Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers (taken from the UQP site):

Kumiko is used to having a dragon guarding her night and day, but what she doesn’t quite know is why she needs one …

Since discovering the secret of the Shadow Catchers, a group of powerful sorcerers determined to steal magic at any cost, Kumiko knows it’s only a matter of time before her family’s link to dragons puts them all in grave danger. Is there a way to stop the Shadow Catchers once and for all and will Kumiko take the risk?

Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers follows Kumiko’s last and most exciting adventure as she travels through a world of shadows and dark magic in order to find freedom for herself and the kingdom of dragons.

Do you know about any upcoming book launches? (Let us know!)

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Rebecca, teachers' resources

Review: Our Australian Girl series

A brilliant new series for girls: Our Australian Girl

Review by Rebecca Newman

Under the main title of the Our Australian Girl series, there are four Australian girls who each have their own series. The four girls are Grace (a convict girl from 1808), Letty (a free settler in 1841), Poppy (a gold rush girl in 1864) and Rose (a Federation girl in 1900).

Penguin Books sent me the first book for each girls’ series. Each book is an adventure and you learn a bit about Australia’s history without even trying to. They aren’t true stories, but they are based on the lives of children who lived in those particular times in Australia.

Here’s a bit about each of the books:

Meet Grace (book 1 in Grace’s series). Author: Sofie Laguna Meet Grace (cover)

Grace is poor and lives with her uncle in London. She loves horses, particularly the horses on Fleet St and one day she steals an apple from a cart to give to one of them. Grace is seen stealing the apple so she runs away and she’s terrified about being caught—she knows she might be sent to prison or something even worse.

Meet Letty (book 1 in Letty’s series). Author: Alison Lloyd Meet Letty (cover)

Letty’s big sister is about to go on a sea voyage to Australia to start a new life. When Letty and her father go to wave goodbye, there’s a misunderstanding and Letty somehow ends up on the ship too. There’s no way to go home to her family, she has to stay on the ship and nobody seems pleased to have her on board. Life on the ship is hard, but what will life be like when they arrive in Australia?

Meet Poppy (book 1 in Poppy’s series). Author: Gabrielle Wang Meet Poppy (cover)

Poppy lives at Bird Creek Mission near Echuca during the Gold Rush. She hates it there—and her brother, Gus, hates it, too. When he runs away from the mission, Poppy really misses him. She decides to run away from the mission and find him. But how can she escape without being caught? Will it be easy to find Gus when she doesn’t know the way?

Meet Rose (book 1 in Rose’s series). Author: Sherryl Clark Meet Rose (cover)

Rose lives with her family in a big house in Melbourne. She’s a bit of a tomboy and in those days girls weren’t supposed to play cricket or climb trees. Then Rose’s aunt comes to stay and she’s not like the other women in Rose’s life. Rose is not even sure her mother will let her aunt stay. With her aunt around, maybe her life will start to change …

I loved all four of these books. The girls are similar to girls today, and things that are important to today’s girls are important to them, too—friendship, to feel safe, to have a home and a family that cares about you. But back then these girls also had different challenges—like having to make all the decisions because there were no grownups around and you were in danger. Or like girls not being allowed to wear comfortable clothes, especially trousers (unless they were secretly disguising themselves as boys!), having to wear a corset even when you were still a kid, and not being allowed to go to school. (Sometimes you might think it would be better if you didn’t have to go to school. But imagine if you weren’t allowed to, or that you weren’t allowed to read a lot or ride a bike or play sport either because it wasn’t ‘ladylike’. Would your life be different?)

These books are suited to girls aged 8–11, especially girls who love reading books in a series and like stories with adventures and friendships.

Extra bits:

Check out the series website with extracts from the books, quizzes, activities and competitions. (The second books in the four series are out now!)

Don’t forget to read our interview with Gabrielle Wang about writing the Poppy series!

These four titles from the Our Australian Girl series were sent to us by Penguin Books Australia.