Posted in Book reviews by Emily, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Julia and the Shark

REVIEWED BY EMILY, 9, WA

Image shows the cover of a children's novel: Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston. The cover illustration shows a black and white whirlpool of birds and a shark and at the centre is child in a yellow coat with yellow hood and yellow shoes walking with arms outstretched.

Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston, Hachette Children’s Books, ISBN 9781510107786

Emily reviewed her own copy of this book.

Julia and the Shark is about a girl called Julia, whose mum is a marine biologist. Julia and her mum and dad move to Shetland, Scotland for 6 months. They all get along really well, but things are about to change.

 True adventure begins when Julia’s mum gives her best shot to find an ancient shark. Julia finds Kin, they quickly become best friends. Can Julia help find the shark, bring back her best friend and find the mum and dad she knows? But this isn’t all …

“Did you know that turtles breath through their bottoms!” This was one of the many Marine facts that I enjoyed. While some parts were amusing other parts gave off waves of sorrow.

This book was like a journey through Julia’s heart, full of joy and anguish. I recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure, friendship and a bit of ocean facts. Overall I rate this book a 10 out of 10.


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 Aashi, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Biscuits, bands and very big plans

REVIEWED BY AASHI, 7, VIC

The image shows the cover of a children's graphic novel called Tom Gates: Biscuits, Bands and very big plans by Liz Pichon. The cover illustration shows the title in child-like lettering surrounded by doodles of patterns and pictures like a dog, an arrow, smiley face, stars and a boy with short hair wearing a shirt that says 'Doodling Rocks'

Biscuits, Bands and Very Big Plans by Liz Pichon, Scholastic UK, ISBN 9781743832868

Aashi reviewed her own copy of this book.

Like other Tom Gates books, cheeky little Tom Gates is the star of this book as well. Tom loves to doodle but it’s hard in school when he sits right at the front of his classroom. He can even see through his report through his teacher’s nostrils! Mr Fullerman is basically bald and is a very strict teacher.

Tom, Derek and Norman have a band called ‘dogzombies’. They have a big mission which is to get this band well known.

On the other side is Delia, Tom’s sister. Delia hates Tom and Tom hates Delia. One day when Tom goes snooping into Delia’s room he finds something unusual. What was it? Little did he know that there could be a purple curse coming.

I would rate this book 10/10 because it is funny, interesting and mysterious. It would be a great book for 7–9-year-old kids.


Aashi is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read more of her book reviews here. To send us YOUR book review, read our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Ayaan, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Neverseen

REVIEWED BY AYAAN, 10, VIC

The image shows the cover of a children's fantasy novel: Neverseen by Shannon Messenger. The cover illustation shows three children in cloaks and with wind-blown hair rushing along a wooden bridge while a huge wave splashes up behind them.

Neverseen by Shannon Messenger, Simon & Schuster Ltd, ISBN 9781471189449

Ayaan reviewed his own copy of this book.

Neverseen is the fourth book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, written by Shannon Messenger. The three books that precede it are, in order, Keeper of the Lost Cities, Exile and Everblaze.

Sophie Foster and her friends must go into hiding. And who better to keep them safe, than the Black Swan. They all have mixed feelings about meeting Sophie’s creators. With stowaways, species-threatening plagues, bizarre disguises, after curfew meetings and traitors, can they make it through and finally defeat the Neverseen?

When they meet with the Black Swan’s ruling order, they see bizarre disguises. Who are these mysterious people? Who is Squall, Granite, Blur, Wraith and Mr Forkle? When will they find out?

I would rate this book ten out of ten. I especially love the plot twist at the end when the traitor is finally revealed.


Ayaan is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read more of his book reviews here. To send us YOUR book review, read our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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

Book review: Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny

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

Image shows the cover of a children's novel: Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny by Denis Knight and Cristy Burne. The cover illustration shows a girl in a yellow polo shirt, with brown hair with a blue streak in it, a punk looking human-sized fairy with yellow wings and wearing a jumpsuit, a boy with dark skin and short hair wearing a white collared shirt and tie and carrying a sword, and a floating disembodied skull that looks cheerful. In the background are many steps leading up to what looks like giant concrete ice crystals.

Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny by Denis Knight and Cristy Burne, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780734420213

Emily received a review copy of this book.

When Gorgomoth steals an oh-so-important crown he unleashes power that only the crown holds. Then, wanting revenge, he turns Wednesday’s Grandpa into a frog. However, this was only the beginning … 

I liked the fact that Adaline, who had been really helpful, got a good title as the summer princess and that everything went well in the end. I also liked how I had to keep on guessing what would happen and it certainly kept me on the edge of my bed. 

I recommend this book to anyone who likes magic and evil (stinky) sorcerers, regardless of your age.

Overall I rate this book as a 10 out of 10.

Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny is Book 2 in a series! Take a sneak peek inside the book.

Read Emily’s review of Book 1 here.


Emily is a member of Iona Presentation College’s student reviewers’ team. This is her second review for Alphabet Soup. Check out her earlier review of Book 1 in this series. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, read our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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

Book review: When We Say Black Lives Matter

REVIEWED BY CHLOE, YEAR 6, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE

Image shows the cover of a picture book: When We Say Black Lives Matter by Maxine Beneba Clarke. The cover illustration shows a black mother and child against a blue background. The child is carrying a handmade sign taped to a stick. The sign is facing against the child's leg, so we don't know what's written on it yet.

When We Say Black Lives Matter by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780734420428

Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.

I enjoyed this colourful book. The topic is important and current as it talks about how black lives matter.

This story is told by a black child’s parents and reminds us all how important it is to consider everyone the same way and how sad and painful it can be for people when they are not treated as everyone else is. 

The colours and pictures in the book draw the reader’s attention, as they tell a story and show life in every illustration. Each page of this book has one word in a different colour and it underlines important values such as respect, knowledge, joy.

This book will surely spark a lot of conversations in every family. I rate this book 5 stars as it approaches the ‘black lives matter’ topic gently and positively.

Preview some pages from When We Say Black Lives Matter at the publisher’s website.


Iona Presentation College students are members of Alphabet Soup’s review team. This is Chloe’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: Mel and Shell

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

The image shows the cover of a children's novel: Mel and Shell by Julia Lawrinson. The cover has a 70s vibe. In the centre of the book are two girls with the backs to the viewer. They are both wearing jeans and bright coloured tshirts, one has long blonde hair and one has shoulder-length brown hair. They are dancing, with hands above their heads. The remaining ilustrations make an oval 'frame' around the girls. Crammed into these illustrations are orange and pink flowers, a pair of yellow roller skate boots, a grey horse, and a bike.

Mel and Shell by Julia Lawrinson, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781760990725

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

Mel and Shell is a book about friendship, laughter, friendship problems and of course ABBA. This book is set 40 years ago when the world was obsessed with the sensational band ABBA.

In this book Shell and her classmates are writing to a pen-pal from 1829 about their day, what they would be surprised about and what they would like. 

Another character in this book is Sharon the girl who can’t get enough of herself. She is a mean person but gets people to think that she is nice.

There were many surprises in this book but one of my favourites was that they went on school camp and Sharon forced Shell to push her and some boys out to an island and something happens to one of them.

The cover of this book is amazing and tells a lot, and I love the characters; Shell is just so outgoing, kind and funny and Mel is adventurous and nice. I recommend this book for kids aged 10 and up and for anyone who needs a good book to laugh.

I give this book 5 stars for the creativity and the good plot.

Read our interview with the author and read an excerpt from the book.


Iona Presentation College students are members of Alphabet Soup’s review team. This is Kate’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 Joshua, Book reviews by kids

Book review: A Glasshouse of Stars

REVIEWED BY JOSHUA, 12, NSW

The image shows the cover of a children's book: A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr. The cover illustration shows a girl with black plaits and a green tunic shirt walking into a glasshouse that looks lit-up from inside and packed full of colourful and marvellous plants, flowers and trees. Above the glasshouse it appears to be night/a dark sky.

A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr, Penguin Australia, ISBN 9781760899547

Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.

‘The hardest part is over. You made it.’ 

You find yourself in a new country, in a big city, in a big house. It’s all new and scary. You, Meixing, have been told you need to go to school as well. Everything is strange to you – the language, the people, the culture and the school. This is Australia. 

Your home, Big Scary, is your friend and looks out for you. Big Scary keeps you safe and protected. Everything is ok.

But everything goes wrong when Ah Ma’s wedding ring, your grandma’s wedding ring, is lent to you for good luck at school. The problem is that your supposed friend tricks you and steals the ring. You don’t know how to get it back as you can’t speak the language fluently and your now ex-friend lies and says that her parents got it for her. Distraught, you go home.

What are you going to do? What other problems will you face?

Shirley Marr’s book, A Glasshouse of Stars, expresses big, strong emotions and feelings such as when Meixing loses someone close to her and is very torn apart. Later she finds the glasshouse’s secret and is exuberant upon her findings. Marr mixes Meixing’s imagination and brings it to life, causing the reader to visualise the scene before them. The way Marr uses second person helps the reader to understand and empathise with Meixing. 

As an avid reader, I really enjoyed reading this book and every time I see the coloured cover of the book, I am compelled to pick it up and fly back to Meixing’s world. This book is very creative through the metaphors and images that connect the story together. It is also relatable as I have also faced some of the problems Meixing met. I encourage you thoroughly to pick up this book and find yourself in the shoes of a migrant girl.

I loved this book deeply and rate it a well-deserved 5 out of 5. Come read this exceptional book!

Take a sneak peek at the first chapter of the book.

Read our earlier interview with the author.


Joshua is a regular contributor to Alphabet Soup. Read his earlier review of Eddie Woo, Superstar Maths Teacher here.  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: A Tale of Witchcraft

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

The image shows the cover of a children's fantasy novel: A Tale of Witchcraft. The title is at the top of the book. At the bottom are the words "Bestselling author of The Land of Stories, Chris Colfer". The cover is predominantly in purples. At the centre of the cover is a circle (reminiscent of a crystal ball) with a gothic-looking castle inside. Surrounding the ball are a white wolf, young witches walking into the distance wearing black cloaks with the hoods up, and a tangle of twisty tree branches. The overall effect is spooky.

A Tale of Witchcraft (A Tale of Magic: Book 2) by Chris Colfer, Hachette Children, ISBN 9780316523547

Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.

Brystal is the fairy godmother, with responsibilities stacked as high as the sky. She finds that everything is falling apart and her friendships are spiralling out of control. How will she protect herself from the righteous brotherhood and put her friendships together again?  

I don’t know how Brystal found the courage to keep going everyday, it was inspiring. Brystal taught me how to keep going even in the darkest times and to never give up no matter what the circumstances. This was the best fantasy book I have ever read, it was so engaging and each page was like its own story. I can’t wait to read the next book!

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone who loves a good page-turner, especially if you love to read fantasy. I hope that everyone is as inspired as I am by Brystal.


Stephanie is a member of Iona Presentation College’s student reviewers’ team. This is her second review for Alphabet Soup. You can read her review of Girl of The Southern Sea here. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in poetry, Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: The Red Balloon

THE RED BALLOON by Charles, 8, NSW

It floated in my backyard yesterday,
It was red and shiny with a white string,
I held it tight
But it tugged with all its might. 
So, I have a sigh and let it go.
While it floated away I whispered
Go to the sky.

This is Charles’s first publication at Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. (We’re particularly keen to consider book reviews in November and December.)

Posted in authors, interviews

Kim Doherty on Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist: 2016–2020

MEET THE AUTHOR

Kim Doherty is an editor, storyteller, teacher, and a mum to two young children, who she hopes will be inspired by the amazing world of science and Alan’s story. Today we’re thrilled to chat to her about her new book, a biography in the Aussie STEM Stars series – Alan Finkel.

From the publisher:

As Australia’s Chief Scientest, our country turned to Alan Finkel for advice on everything from climate change to artificial intelligence, to the pandemic. But at a time when scientists have never been so important, Alan nearly didn’t become one at all!


How did you go about your research for writing about Alan Finkel? 

I did a LOT of reading. It’s lucky that I love reading as well as writing, as there is so much to read about Alan – he’s always busy doing something interesting. I read all the speeches he’s ever given (and that is no small feat – there are hundreds) and a lot of his scientific papers. I confess, some of the papers were a bit too complicated for me to understand, but I did my best. I spent a lot of time interviewing Alan of course, but I also chatted to his colleagues, his friends and his family (his sister had lots of funny stories to tell. It’s a good reason to always be nice to your sister – you never know who she’ll talk to about you in the future!)

Did you meet Alan Finkel while you were writing the book?

Alan and I had grand plans to have lunch together in Melbourne, where we both grew up. Then he was so busy that we changed it to Canberra, where his office was as Chief Scientist of Australia. Then he was due to give a speech in Sydney, where I now live … but then something got in the way: Covid-19. There was no way of travelling or meeting face to face during the pandemic, so we did all our chatting on zoom. Which I have to say was fun! It was like being teleported straight into his living room in Melbourne, without ever having to walk out my own front door in Sydney. (And once, I was still secretly wearing my slippers. Ssshh!).

As Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel worked in many different areas of science – technology, biology, science education, the pandemic, climate change – and in the book we learn that perhaps his greatest passion is taking care of our planet. Which area of STEM do you find most interesting?

Oh I love all of it, I wish I’d studied more science at school. Alan is always fascinating to talk to, but perhaps my favourite of the many STEM topics we chatted about was how science can help look after our planet. For example, Alan believes that clean hydrogen can power our vehicles instead of dirty fossil fuels, and it turns out that Australia is a great place to produce hydrogen. You can make hydrogen from water, and instead of emitting nasty greenhouse gases, its only byproduct is water vapour! It’s exciting to think that, thanks to our scientists, Australia could play an important role in looking after our beautiful planet.

In addition to this biography about Alan Finkel you’ve also written a book for children about Mt Everest. Do you have a tip for children who’d like to write nonfiction?

Hmm, I’m sure your clever readers would think of this themselves but my advice is this: find a topic you’re really interested in, because it’s a lot more fun to read and write about a subject you love. It doesn’t mean you have to know a lot about it when you start, but you need to be ready to read a lot first, and then talk to people who know a lot, before you even start to write yourself. If you’ve really worked hard on the research, the writing bit is easy and fun. Go on, give it a try!

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

To be honest, I am still trying to work it out. I love writing about amazing people, and there are so many of them in Australia – scientists of course, but also people from all walks of life who are doing wonderful, brave things. It’s an honour to tell those stories, so thank you for reading them. I hope they inspire you too.


Alan Finkel is out now! Ask for it at your favourite book store or local library.

Take a sneak peek inside the book

Image shows the cover of a biography about Alan Finkel written for children. The title is Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist: 2016 - 2020. Story told by Kim Doherty. Text at the top of the book's cover says Aussie STEM Stars. The cover is predominantly dark blue and shows an illustration of Alan Finkel. Alan has short grey hair and is wearing a pale blue collared-shirt with a maroon tie and a dark grey suit jacket. He has fair skin and dark blue eyes. Other symbols on the cover include sketches of a human brain, a computer chip, and a lightbulb (the last of which is shining brightly, yellow).