Posted in authors, interviews

Rebecca Lim on Eddie Woo: Superstar Maths Teacher

Today we’re pleased to have award-winning author Rebecca Lim visiting Alphabet Soup. Rebecca Lim is a writer, illustrator, editor and lawyer based in Melbourne, Australia. She is the author of nineteen books for children and teenagers. Her latest book is Eddie Woo: Superstar Maths Teacher, part of the Aussie STEM Stars series.

From the publisher:

Eddie Woo has already packed a lot into his short life. Australian High School Maths teacher, education ambassador and advisor, author, TV Host and YouTube sensation, Eddie has been putting the magic in maths for the past ten years, allowing students to learn in creative and practical ways, and being at the forefront of school-based integrated STEM education. His is an inspiring story of empathy, generosity, mentorship, personal connection, and overcoming adversity.

How did you go about your research for writing about Eddie Woo?

I was lucky, because Eddie has a huge social media presence and footprint and I could get to know him from his Maths videos as well as talks he’s done (like his 2018 Australia Day Address and TED talk) and TV and radio interviews he’s given, even before I actually got to speak to Eddie himself. He kindly let me ask him loads of personal questions over the course of several emails and phone calls. 

Did you watch any of Eddie Woo’s YouTube videos before writing this book?

I did watch some of Eddie’s YouTube videos including footage of Eddie spontaneously running over and giving the winner of the 2018 Top 10 Global Teacher Prize, Andria Zafirakou, a huge congratulatory hug. It was a prize that he was also shortlisted for, along with 9 other teachers from around the world. It told me that Eddie is exactly like he is in all his videos – spontaneous and warm and human. All great things in an educator, advisor and industry expert.

You moved to Australia from Singapore when you were a toddler. Were there similarities in your school experiences and Eddie’s?

I copped lots of casual racism when I was in primary school, even from ‘friends’, and experienced a brief, intense period of bullying when I started at a new school in Grade 6 because I was the new, very tall, very dorky Asian kid in class. I don’t think I’ve forgotten a single instance of racism that I’ve experienced in this country from the 1970s onwards – I can tell you where it happened, who I was with, how old I was. As recently as 2020, during the second Melbourne COVID-19 lockdown, I experienced racism from my neighbour’s extended family while I was standing in the ‘safety’ of my own backyard. So there are definitely similarities between Eddie’s school experiences and mine, but I didn’t get ‘roughed up’ like he did, which I’m very thankful for.  

Do you have a tip for children in primary school who’d like to try writing nonfiction?

Some key skills for writing non-fiction are:

·         being able to work through a lot of data, pick out the high points or themes and pull them together into a compelling narrative 

·         being observant about your subject, about the time that they live(d) in and how the things in their wider environment might have contributed to making them who they ended up becoming

·         being empathetic – you might not agree with the subject or the subject matter that you’re writing about, but you need to be objective and be able to step into your subject’s shoes or see things from their perspective 

·         being truthful and factual – whatever you write, you need to be able to argue it, defend it, back it up

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on next?  

Something with a bit of fantasy and paranormal in it because I love setting things in our world but then having the characters and the story go completely off road, into unexpected places. Like lots of writers I have three or four things on the go at the moment. The story with ‘legs’ will win out eventually!

Eddie Woo: Superstar Maths Teacher is out now! Ask for it at your favourite book store or library.


AWESOME EXTRAS

Take a peek inside the book

Find out more about the books in the Aussie STEM Stars series

Eddie Woo Superstar Maths Teacher story told by Rebecca Lim
Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: Thirty Reasons to Read

Thirty Reasons To Read
by Zohar, 11, USA

  1. Pexels photo courtesy Amina FilkinsYou’re bored and have watched all of Netflix.
  2. You can’t leave your house, so why not leave reality.
  3. You can’t sleep.
  4. Why not learn about something new while having fun?
  5. You have some really good books at home but haven’t got a chance to read them.
  6. You “have to” read for school.
  7. Your brain will thank you.
  8. It keeps you busy.
  9. If you seriously don’t want to read, sort through your books, ex. alphabetically, by which you would read next.
  10. You are worried your dog will chew them up.
  11. Your books are taking up space.
  12. Your brain gets to relax and not stress over when your next test is.
  13. You travel around the world for free.
  14. Books make you laugh!
  15. Books make you think about things differently.
  16. Reading helps you write.
  17. When you finish a book, you feel like you climbed Mount Everest.
  18. Reading books helps you pay better attention.
  19. Books are genuinely fun.
  20. Who doesn’t want to time travel?
  21. You feel like you have ten million friends.
  22. Reading books helps you be more creative.
  23. It’s like you’re using all five senses when you’re only using one.
  24. Reading books answers your questions.
  25. Reading books make you look at things differently, ex. what would happen if a deadly virus would be on the loose?…(we still aren’t sure!)
  26. It doesn’t require much to read.
  27. Reading books makes you a better writer.
  28. Books can be used anywhere.
  29. Books could be life changing.
  30. WHY NOT?!?!

This is Zohar’s first publication at Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines.

Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: A Fresh Start

A FRESH START
by Analia, 10, USA

Backpack photo by Luis Quintero on pexels comThe bell rang, setting the hallways into chaos. Left and right kids raced past me in an attempt to get to class while I awkwardly stood there, confused. I patiently and nervously waited as the hallways cleared up. Now, I was the only one. Chatter rose from inside the classrooms around me but I was too scared to move. This was my first time transferring schools, and I was in the middle of 6th grade. The middle of the school year is always the worst time to transfer but it’s when my parents wanted me to take the step. There was nothing wrong with my other school. Normal class, normal teachers, normal lunch. The only thing was that it was an hour away. Now I understand why my parents wanted me to transfer but they could’ve waited 5 months. Then, I would’ve moved to another school like normal for middle school. My parents think it’ll be a fun experiment. I don’t agree.

“Excuse me, I don’t believe we’ve met,” a voice sounded from behind me. I turned to face a thin, tan man with a snappy suit on and a Starbucks coffee in one hand.

“Sorry, sir. I’m Lola. Lola Sanchez. This is my first day here and I was a little confused about where my class was. Can you help me find room 554?”

The man smiled, “Ah, as principal, you know these hallways like the back of your hand. Mr Johnson’s your teacher for this year. Just take a right up at that hallway then it’s the first door to your left,” the man explained as he gestured with his hands.

“Principal? I’m so sorry for wasting your time. I’m sure you have a bunch of important work to do. Thanks for the directions. Bye!”

Whipping the wooden door open, the classroom of 554 danced around me. The paneled walls didn’t have a speck of dust on them and I felt like I was floating on the newly mopped tiled floor.

Kids snickered as I nervously placed myself in an empty seat. Mr Johnson, who was wearing a suit like the principal, had curly blond hair and piercing jade eyes.

Mr Johnson barked, “Have a seat! You’re late!”

Mr Johnson continued to criticize other kids as I seated myself. Then, finally, he began teaching us. My head was in another place, though. My other school. It didn’t have the best principal but it had special kids. My friends. The stress of starting over was nothing compared to the feeling of not having any friends at a new school. No one to support you, just yourself. Sometimes, that isn’t enough.

After school that day, I walked over to Central Park where I spotted a bench to drown myself in music as I waited for the bus to pull up. When it arrived, I took off the headphones and climbed on. Staring at my phone, texts sprung out multiple times from my friends. They all wanted to know how my first day at the new school was. I didn’t think they would understand. At one point, they tried doing a group call. I ignored that, too. I looked my problem right in the eye, but not the solution. I thought seeing them would remind me too much of the life I left behind. What I would give to go back there again. I’m stuck in this school, now.

******

The next week as I trudged up the stairs to Mr Johnson’s class, something caught my eye. In a corner of the hall, a girl with shoulder-length blond hair was crouching down, trying to hide. I walked over to the corner and studied her face. It was the same face as mine, last week when I arrived. The same face of misery, confusion, and defeat.

“Hiding won’t help.”

The girl lifted her head so I could see her swollen crimson eyes.

“How would you know?”

Calmly I answered, “ I know because I came here last week and I tried to hide. People here don’t let you. What’s your name?”

“Jamie Hunter. What’s your name?”

“Lola Sanchez. Nice to meet you, Jamie. Do you want to team up so you and I can defeat middle school?”

A smile crept onto Jamie’s face, “Why not?”

I grinned as well, “We’ll make it into a game. Level 1: Surviving your teachers – especially Mr Johnson.”

“Check!”


This is Analia’s second publication at Alphabet Soup. You can read her earlier work here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines

Posted in authors, interviews

Nadia L King on The Lost Smile

MEET THE AUTHOR

Nadia L King

Nadia L King was born in Dublin, Ireland and now calls Australia home. Nadia writes for children and adults. She believes in the power of stories and that stories can change the world for the better. When she was a little girl, Nadia rode an ostrich. When she was older, she rode a camel. One day she hopes to ride an elephant! Nadia is currently a postgraduate student in English and Creative writing. She lives in Western Australia with her family, two tabby cats, a beautiful black Labrador and a vast (and growing) collection of books. The Lost Smile (illustrated by Nelli Aghekyan) is her third book.

The Lost Smile by Nadia L King and Nelli AghekyanFrom the publisher:

When Zaytoon wakes up sad, she goes on a search to find her smile. From the kitchen to the garden, Zaytoon searches high and low. Themes of cultural diversity, emotional intelligence, family life and the importance of connecting with nature and animals make this a perfect book for our times.

On with the questions!


Finding the best name for characters in a story can be challenging. How do you choose names for your characters?
Choosing names for characters is HARD. One of my favourite places to visit is the local cemetery (I know that sounds creepy!), and I like to read inscriptions on the tombstones. Sometimes they give me ideas for naming characters and I write names from tombstones down in my little book which I carry everywhere with me.

Did you meet/talk to the illustrator of The Lost Smile while it was being illustrated?
The illustrator of The Lost Smile is an artist called Nelli Aghekyan who lives in a country called Armenia. It’s very far away from Australia, about 12,000 kilometres away. Nelli and I spent a lot of time emailing and chatting about the illustrations for The Lost Smile and consequently, became friends.

The Lost Smile deals with themes about sadness and emotional intelligence. What are your ‘go-to’ activities if you’re feeling sad?
I don’t like being sad but I know that feeling sad won’t last forever. These are some of the things I do to help make me feel happier:

  • Have a cup of tea and a nice biscuit;
  • Go outside for a walk;
  • Look at the plants in my garden and sniff the flowers. I love smelling flowers.
  • Have a cuddle with my cats (if they let me), or with my dog Pippa who always lets me cuddle her.
  • Read a book. I love reading.

Nadia L King at the launch of The Lost Smile
Nadia L King at the launch of The Lost Smile

Do you have a tip for young writers who’d like to write a picture book?
If you want to write a picture book, first you need to find ideas. Not just one idea, but a few because each story needs a few ideas. Think about a beginning and then think about an ending. In the middle, think about what could go wrong, what challenges and obstacles could your hero face? Congratulations, you’ve just mapped out a three-act story, well done!

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project? 
I’m very excited about my next writing project which is a short YA novel being published later in 2021 (somewhere around August). The book is called Can the Real JR Stand Up, Please? and my favourite character in the book is a yoga-loving, talking dog called Baba Ami (I didn’t see that name in the cemetery. I made it up after researching Indian gurus on Google!). I can’t wait for Can the Real JR Stand Up, Please? to become a real book because it took me a very long time to write.

The Lost Smile is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or library.

The Lost Smile by Nadia L King and Nelli AghekyanAwesome extras:
Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young writers in action: The attack

THE ATTACK
by Analia Rivera, 10, USA

It was 8 pm. Attack time! In the morning, they just made noise, but at night they come to terrorize the house or anybody who dared to come too close. As we drove into the driveway, the cicadas bounced off the muddy CRV. We were trapped; there was no escape. If we got out, they would swarm. None of us were brave enough for them. We spent a half-hour trying to figure it out. Then, my dad got impatient and fled, slamming the car door. Approaching the house’s side door, he fumbled with the key in the inky darkness but couldn’t place the key in the lock. My sister shined the light from her phone to help. BIG MISTAKE! The cicadas were attracted to light and instantly made my dad their target. He screamed in terror as they attacked him. Pulling the door open, he lunged in and then closed it, leaving us still trapped in the car. We debated for another half hour on what to do. Then, a light flickered on outside at the other side of the house. We waited, hoping the cicadas would be attracted to it. Then it flickered off and was replaced by a light right where we were.

“Turn off the light! Turn off the light!”

My dad couldn’t hear us, but eventually, he did turn off the light. The darkness comforted us as we waited for the cicadas to evacuate our escape route. I was starting to get restless, and so was my sister and my mum. We decided to be quick and move. My sister, Indi, and I were right next to the unlocked door, but my mum was on the other side. We let her get out first and waited until she got to the back of the car. Indi and I opened our doors, joining my mum. Indi made a run for the door and was followed by my mum. I trailed behind, getting shoved left and right by Indi and my mum. The unpleasant sound of cicadas buzzed in my ear, and I could feel them attacking me. Indi and my mom were already in the doorway, and the wooden door started to close in front of my chestnut eyes.

“Wait!”

Sprinting into the doorway, I heaved a sigh of relief. We had won the battle, but the war was still to come. Some cicadas got inside, and now it was our job to dispose of them. Once that was done, the four of us laughed at our survival from the bugs and settled down on the couch. Then we heard the buzzing sound, inside! We missed one! Searching for it, we located it and calmed down except for me. I was thinking, and then I formed my practical question.

“Are there any more?”

The sound of the cicadas filled the endless night as we pondered the question.


This is Analia’s first publication at Alphabet Soup.To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Elizabeth

Book review: Beneath the Trees

REVIEWED BY ELIZABETH, 8, NSW

Beneath the Trees by Cristy Burne and illustrated by Amanda BurnettBeneath the Trees by Cristy Burne, illustrated by Amanda Burnett, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781760990411

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

The book Beneath the Trees is by Cristy Burne and it is very entertaining. 

Cam and Sophie want to see a platypus. They go with their cousins Jack and Liv to try and find a platypus in the rain forest. Jack tells Cam and Sophie that if they wear the bright yellow ponchos the platypus won’t come to them, but then one tiny platypus does appear! 

The platypus is in trouble because something is stuck around its neck. Then Jack tries to save the platypus but then he gets into trouble because he falls into the river, and Sophie falls in, too. Cam tries to help Sophie, but they all get stuck in the river and need to be saved. Liv tries to save them by going to find the parents. 

I give this book five stars out of five because this is a realistic and amazing story. I like the section when the leeches crawl up the legs of the cousins and they had to try to get them off to survive! I recommend this book for ages 8 and up. 

Read our interview with the author.

Read the first chapter of Beneath the Trees on the publisher’s website. 


Elizabeth is a regular reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read another of her reviews here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Tree

REVIEWED BY AIDEN, 7, WA

The Tree by Graeme BaseThe Tree by Graeme Base, Penguin Books Australia, ISBN 9781760897048

The publisher provided a review copy of this book. 

It is a story about a cow, a duck and mooberry tree.
Cow and duck were friends but they became greedy and lost everything. They learnt that through sharing, they receive a lot more.
We love the message from this story.

This is Aiden’s second review for Alphabet Soup. You can read his earlier review of A Crocodile in the Family here. 
Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Kobe

Book review: Tricky Nick

REVIEWED BY KOBE, 9, WA

Tricky Nick by Nicholas J JohnsonTricky Nick by Nicholas J Johnson, Pan Macmillan Australia, ISBN 9781760787363

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

If you love magic tricks, then I have got a brilliant true and definitely-not-made-up story for you. Pulled right out of the hat is Tricky Nick! This is a real story about a boy named Nick. In fact, he’s the best magician in the world! Magic changed his life and if you live with magic long enough, it’ll probably change yours.

This truly amazing story is all about magic and Nick. It is a truly amazing book and incredible and unbelievable – you would swear that is is so made up, although it is not. In this mystical story, Nick meets a magic mystery girl called Trixie. You’ll even get to learn a trick Nick learnt when he was ten, and a whole bunch more!

This book is such a great book, it is even a magic trick itself – you just read the second last page and you did a fabulous magic trick! If you want a book where you learn a billion tricks, this is certainly the right book for you. I am pretty sure you are walking to the shops as fast as you can!

Read the first three chapters of Tricky Nick on the publisher’s website


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

Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: Cradle Mountain Adventure

CRADLE MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE
by Monica, 10, VIC

Cradle Mountain is home to all your favourite native Australian animals in the wild. With an exquisite hotel surrounded by wildlife, adventurous night walks through the bush and beautiful scenery everywhere, Cradle Mountain has everything you need for a perfect holiday on an adventure.

Up near the Enchanted Walk, there is a gift shop and hotel. The Enchanted Walk is full of echidnas, wombats, and wallabies so you can sometimes see animals wandering around outside your window. Enjoy the pleasure and thrill of hiking and seeing adorable native animals over a few days and even join a night walk.

Tasmanian Devil by MappingMeganTravel on pixabay
Tasmanian Devil (Photo by MappingMeganTravel on pixabay)

By 8pm, the mountains are alive with animals. Hundreds of them poke their heads out of their homes and set off to explore. At this time, people will take long walks through the bush, squealing in delight when they spot an animal. There are wombats, wallabies, echidnas, quolls, platypuses, and a shelter for Tasmanian devils.

The water in Dove Lake ripples and glitters like a million diamonds, the forest has beautiful flowers and densely packed trees, and the bush is full of animals. There is so much wonderful scenery in the mountains, you are sure to get a lot of amazing pictures.

Cradle Mountain is such an exciting and fascinating place. Book a trip to Tasmania and visit Cradle Mountain for your next holiday.


This is Monica’s second publication at Alphabet Soup. Read her poem ‘The Four Seasons’ here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines

Posted in authors, interviews, poetry

Lorraine Marwood and Footprints on the Moon

Lorraine Marwood

Today we’re pleased to have Lorraine Marwood visiting Alphabet Soup. Lorraine is an award-winning poet, novelist and verse novelist. She likes to write about the goldfields, country life, a tiny moment in time, families, animals, mystery, a longing for something, fantasy … and more! Lorraine’s latest

book is Footprints on the Moon.

From the publisher:

It’s 1969 and life is changing fast. Sharnie Burley is starting high school and finding it tough to make new friends. As the world waits to see if humans will land on the moon, the Vietnam War rages overseas. While her little cousin, Lewis, makes pretend moon boots, young men are being called up to fight, sometimes without having any choice in the matter. Sometimes without ever coming home.

Dad thinks serving your country in a war is honourable, but when Sharnie’s older sister, Cas, meets a returned soldier and starts getting involved in anti-war protests, a rift in their family begins to show. Sharnie would usually turn to her grandma for support, but lately Gran’s been forgetting things.

Can she find her own way in this brave new world?

We’re pleased to have Lorraine visiting today to talk all about the book!


Footprints on the Moon by Lorraine Marwood

Footprints on the Moon is historical fiction, set at the time of the moon landing and the Vietnam War. How did you go about your research?
I read newspapers, articles, personal stories, and delved into my own childhood memories of that time. This was in contrast with the exciting, exuberant conquering of man on the moon – how could there be such polarizing events operating at once?

I visited the Australian War Memorial and one impression that stayed was the fierce unearthly sound of the helicopters (choppers) that were an integral part of the Vietnam War. I came away with much material to read and ponder. I had newspaper articles of Vietnam War experiences, I researched posters of protest movements, found out numbers of conscripts sent to Vietnam etc.

Similarly I researched the moon mission and had many articles and booklets to read from many years collecting. I knew I wanted to write about this era but when it came to writing the book I needed to delve more deeply and think about the questions the teachers in the book might ask students about the Vietnam War. I also knew the prevalent attitudes of political and establishment at that time, as well as communism, had to be shown too. I also spoke with Vietnam veterans and families affected by the conflict.

This is your fourth verse novel. Can you tell us a bit about the editing process for a verse novel?
A very interesting question as I feel this verse novel is different in format from my other verse novels – each format seemed to reflect the subject matter and as this was set in a high school, it was written for a slightly older audience than two of my other verse novels.

Each poem or section has its own title to lead us into the narrative. I think the editing is the same for other novels, to get facts right, to get the main character to shine in her own story, to see growth in the character from start to finish, to find a climax of narrative, a progression, a flow, to take out unnecessary words and especially for the verse novel, to make sure those spontaneous lines of poetry flow and sparkle.

Did you watch the moon landing in 1969? Were you aware of the Vietnam War?
Yes indeed – just as the book says – in the cookery room of my secondary school, amazing, amazing and then looking up at the moon at night and noting that it had been conquered and was not the same mysterious orb that had always been there.

Yes the Vietnam War impacted family around me, male acquaintances anxiously waited for their birthdate to come up in the ballot. Political opinion was being rocked, the establishment was called into question and protests, especially the Melbourne ones called young protestors into action, to change history as it were.

Do you have a tip for young writers who’d like to write historical fiction?
Yes, delve into that era, immerse yourself in the nitty gritty of daily life, food, clothes, world events because this is where your story will flourish. Ask questions of anyone who might have experienced that era (contemporary era) look at old newspapers online, examine as many resources as you can, to see an entry point that resonates with you, then write the story. Once that is down you can check the facts later.

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
Another historical novel – but not a verse novel, a longer one with mystery in it. I have researched the era it focuses on for years and years and written it on and off for years also and now have stripped it back and begun again. I am also tackling plot which is hard for me as I am a pantser but this will be a bigger novel …

Then of course I have enough material for another poetry collection and I’ve always wanted a picture book … lots of material there to work on!

Footprints on the Moon is out now! Look for it at your favourite bookshop or local library. 


AWESOME EXTRAS:

Footprints on the Moon by Lorraine Marwood

Download teachers’ notes from the publisher’s website

Do you live in Victoria? Go to the book launch celebration at the Bendigo library! 11 am, Saturday 27 February 2021. It’s free but you do need to book tickets online. 

Read our earlier interviews with Lorraine Marwood –