Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Gabriel, Book reviews by kids

Book review – Munjed Al Muderis: from Refugee to Surgical Inventor

REVIEWED BY GABRIEL, 10, NSW

Munjed Al Muderis: from refugee to surgical inventor, story told by Dianne Wolfer

Munjed Al Muderis: From refugee to surgical inventor by Dianne Wolfer, Wild Dingo Press, ISBN 9781925893373

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

Obsessed with S.T.E.M. and mechanics, Munjed Al Muderis had a longing to be an osseointegration specialist since he watched the movie Terminator. Soon his dream was coming to reality. He was about to go to America to study. But when he was about to go to Iraq, Iraq stopped the border crossing between America and Iraq. Nevertheless, he found himself training as an orthopedic surgeon in Iraq. Later on, he was forced to flee his homeland of Iraq in 1999 after he refused to cut off the ears of army deserters as a young trainee doctor in Baghdad Hospital. If the government finds him they will kill him for not cutting off their ears.

What will he do? How would he escape the government? Where would he go? Could and would he return home? How will he fulfil his dream to be an osseointegration specialist?

This true and stunning book about Munjed Al Muderis for me is five-star rated because it is an amazing book about how a refugee tries to advance his way up to be an osseointegration specialist. This book will also show you how refugees were treated back then and what would happen to them.

This book would be for ages eight-plus to read. Go grab a copy of this outstanding book either online ebook, kindle or hard copy.

Read a sample chapter of this book

Read our interview with Dianne Wolfer, the author of this book


Read another book review by Gabriel for The Theory of Hummingbirds. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in info

Shirley Marr and Little Jiang

MEET THE AUTHOR

Shirley Marr is a first-generation Chinese Australian, living in Perth, Western Australia. Shirley describes herself as having a Western Mind and an Eastern Heart and writes in the middle where both collide. She writes books for children and teenagers and today we’re thrilled to chat to her about Little Jiang, illustrated by Katy Jiang.

Little Jiang by Shirley Marr and illustrated by Katy Jiang (book cover)

From the publisher:

Mei Ling Pang was born at an inauspicious time on an inauspicious day, so wherever she goes, misfortune follows. When Little Jiang hops out of his grave and into Mei’s life, fangs and all, her luck goes from bad to worse. But in trying to help Little Jiang, Mei might just make her own future brighter.

We have to ask – is your favourite food Kung Pow chicken?

Yes it actually is! I believe in putting bits of myself in my writing. The best meal I ever had was Kung Pow chicken at a restaurant called Augusta Moon (as opposed to The August Moon restaurant in the novel). It wasn’t a fancy restaurant and it wasn’t a fancy dish, but it was special. So that memory made itself into my writing!

Katy Jiang’s grayscale illustrations are sprinkled throughout Little Jiang. Did you meet the illustrator during the book’s production?

My editor Cate from Fremantle Press acted as the coordinator during the illustration process. She started by asking me questions about what my characters looked like and which scenes I wanted illustrated and passed this information along to Katy. I would then receive the initial draft sketches back from Katy for my opinion. I didn’t want to interfere too much with Katy’s process, I wanted her to be free to be as creative as she liked! I wanted her to feel like she had the space. It was after all the beautiful illustrations were complete that I really wanted to know more about the wonderful artist! That is when I met Katy for lunch and coffee and we have been friends since! 

Your previous novels have been for young adult readers. How did you come to write Little Jiang, a novel for younger readers?

After I had my son (he’s six years old now), I really had a think about what type of stories I was writing. Books for young adults can be a little serious and angsty at times! I really wanted to write something adventurous and funny that I could read to him. And at the same time I wanted to honour the Chinese folk stories my own mum told me when I was little. I had never written a book for younger readers before, but I put my heart and my mind to it. Little Jiang was the result. It was so much fun!

Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to try writing their own spooky tales?

I would like to see writers take an old spooky creature (vampires, zombies, ghosts) and give them a funny and modern-day twist! See how creative they can be!

Can you tell us something about your next writing project?

I have another middle grade book out this month called A Glasshouse of Stars. It is my heart story, based on my immigration experience to Australia as a child. This one might make you cry instead of laugh. Right now, I am writing another book for younger readers based on my family history. I am always onto my next project!

Little Jiang is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookstore or local library, or buy it direct from the publisher.


AWESOME EXTRAS

Read a sample chapter of Little Jiang

Read a review of the book by Kobe, age 9

Download the Teachers’ Notes

Visit Shirley Marr’s website for more about her and her books

Little Jiang by Shirley Marr and illustrated by Katy Jiang (book cover)
Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Kobe

Book review: Little Jiang

Reviewed by Kobe, 9, WA

Little Jiang by Shirley Marr and illustrated by Katy Jiang (book cover)

Little Jiang by Shirley Marr, illustrated by Katy Jiang, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925816471

The publisher provided a review copy of this book. 

This great novel is a wonderful joy to read. It is about a girl named Mei Ling Pang. Somehow, wherever she goes misfortune is dragged along. An example is when Little Jiang jumps out of his grave right into Mei’s life. Her neighbours have also turned into Chi-sucking jiangshi, which is even worse. This makes this story unbelievably interesting and the opposite of boring. This book is a playground for young readers who will be keen on wondering what will happen next.

This book has happy, exciting and disgusting events – for instance, eating very weird things. The characters in this book are thoroughly described and are beautifully drawn as well. The events are extremely clear and make you feel like you are actually in the book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who I know. In conclusion, this book is a perfect book for young readers who love adventure, climax and emotion.

Read a sample chapter from Little Jiang.


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 book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Treehouse Joke Book 2

REVIEWED BY REUBEN, 7, WA

Book cover: The Treehouse Joke Book 2 by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

The Treehouse Joke Book 2 by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan Macmillan Australia, ISBN 9781760980511

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

This book is hilarious. My favourite thing about the book was being able to tell jokes to people around me.  I love telling these jokes to my friend next door because he always laughs.

The pictures in the book are hilarious – they match the art style so well. Some of the pictures are both funny and weird – like an elephant on a scooter being chased by a mouse!

Take a sneak peek inside the book!


Reuben is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. Check out his earlier reviews here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in authors, interviews

Emily Gale on Gisela Kaplan: Bird and Primate Scientist

Today’s visitor is author Emily Gale, author of books for children and teenagers. You might have read her the Eliza Bloom’s Diaries series, or the novel The Other Side of Summer. Emily Gale’s latest book is Gisela Kaplan: Bird and Primate Scientist, part of the Aussie STEM Stars series.

From the publisher:

Gisela Kaplan’s story begins in post-World War II Germany. Despite incredible challenges as a child, she retained a profound curiosity, care and compassion for all living things. Her captivating, ground-breaking scientific research on Australian magpies, tawny frogmouths and other iconic bird species, as well as primates, make Prof. Kaplan a world-leading expert in animal behaviour, especially of Australian birds. Professor Kaplan is on a mission to spread the word about how intelligent and surprising birds are, before time runs out for many of them.

How did you go about your research for writing about Gisela Kaplan? 

I love research and all the different pathways it can take you down. The first thing I did was to listen to a radio interview in which Gisela Kaplan talks about how she became so interested in Australian birds that it changed her life (Conversations, ABC: Talking magpies, grieving tawny frogmouths and canny galahs). She’s written several books on birds and animals so I got those out of the library and made plenty of notes. I searched the internet for research articles that she’s written, and I also found a clip from a documentary about her work rehabilitating birds (google Compass: Paws For Thought if you want to see some clips of Gisela with a tawny frogmouth and some juvenile magpies). To immerse myself in what Gisela’s early life might have been like, I watched documentaries and movies about Germany in the 1940s to 1960s, and I spent hours and hours walking by the river near where I live so that I could observe to birds, listen to their sounds, and make notes on their behaviour. Most importantly, I had lots of phone calls with Gisela. I asked her dozens of questions about her life and work. All the research helped me to know which questions to ask.

Have you meet Gisela Kaplan in real life? (And Pumpkin?)

I’m very sad to say that I have not met Gisela, or Pumpkin the sulphur-crested cockatoo, or the lovely tawny frogmouth who has lived with Gisela for over twenty years. I wrote this book during lockdown in Victoria when we weren’t even allowed to go more than 5km from our homes, whereas Gisela lives in NSW. While I was writing the book we spoke for two hours at a time over several sessions. The time would go so quickly because Gisela is a wonderful storyteller and has had such an interesting life. We also emailed each other regularly throughout the process, and we still keep in touch.

When you’re writing an autobiography about someone like Gisela (who’s had such a broad range of experiences and achievements), how do you choose what to put into the book and what to leave out?  

As the book is for children aged 10 and over I wanted to include plenty of information about what Gisela was like at around that age. She was born during the Second World War, in Germany, and had a challenging childhood in many ways involving poverty, hunger and bullying, so I wanted to spend time showing how she overcame those struggles. 

You can’t always guess what career a person will go into, or what twists and turns there will be along the way, and I wanted to show young people that even if the journey to being a great scientist doesn’t start when you’re very young, or if it gets off-track, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to get there in the end. Gisela’s career path has gone from opera singing to teaching to roaming the jungle in search of orang-utans, and that’s all before we get to her world-famous research into Australian birds. So my aim was to write about those life-changing decisions. 

Of course, life also contains boring bits, or sad times like losing loved ones and suffering illness. In science there can be long periods of time when your research is frustrating or slow. I skipped all of that and focussed on the highlights and plot twists.

You also write fiction for young readers and teenagers. Did you find it a faster or slower process to write a nonfiction book?

I wrote the book quickly for two reasons: first of all, I had a tight deadline, and there is nothing like a deadline to make me get on with it! Second, when you’re writing fiction the possibilities are endless. In one way this is an incredible freedom and something I enjoy, but it also means you can go down all sorts of wrong pathways or tie yourself in knots finding the story (you have a sense of what that is, but it’s like playing hide n seek without knowing what you’re looking for). But when you’re writing about someone’s life, the possibilities are limited and you have to work with the facts. So it’s a case of collecting the facts, looking at them and shaping them into a narrative that people will enjoy reading just as much as they’d enjoy a made-up story.

What are you working on next?  

I’m working on another middle-grade novel similar to the one I’ve just written with Nova Weetman (Elsewhere Girls) in the sense that it takes place now but also has a strong connection to the past. The story is about a girl in Year 6. It starts during 2020 and the setting is a Melbourne school, so I’m writing about lockdown and all the upheaval of remote school, and how strange our lives were during that time. And then come the ghosts . . . I’ve written novels with ghost-like characters before and it’s something I keep coming back to because I loved stories like that when I was roughly 10–14: this one is a little bit more creepy and mysterious than The Other Side of Summer, but there are three lovely dogs, two cats and an eccentric grandmother to balance out the haunting. Since writing about Gisela Kaplan, I decided that the novel also needed a bird or two.


AWESOME EXTRAS:

Take a sneak peek inside the book

Hear Emily Gale talking about the launch of the book (YouTube)

Listen to the call of a tawny frogmouth (Wild Ambience YouTube)

Visit Emily Gale’s website for more about her and her books

Gisela Kaplan Bird and primate scientist, story told by Emily Gale (book cover)
Bi
Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: In Too Deep

Photo courtesy Kijal at Pexels

IN TOO DEEP

by Analia, 10, USA

The waves splash calmly against the small cruiser. The salty sea air tickled Erica’s nose as she leaned closer to the water. Dolphins splashed in and out of the water in glee, swimming next to and under the boat. Oohs and ahhs rose from her mother’s mouth as she fell in love with the dolphins. Erica’s sister stood off to the side recording the energetic creatures. Erica and her father stood silently watching the dolphins and leaned over the railing, smiles showing on their mesmerised faces. The driver of the boat often glanced to the sides at the dolphins around the boat. After a while, they left the pod and were consumed again by the endless water. The world seemed to come to a pause as they drifted. Erica only heard the occasional cry of a bird or the lapping waves against the boat. All land around them faded out of view and seemed to be swallowed up by the clouds. The sun beat down on them as it continued to shine.

As the driver once again glanced off to the side, Erica felt a bump. Then another. Everyone suddenly tipped left and right, dangerously leaning over. Her sister’s phone slipped from her grasp and into the ocean. Her sister groaned at her loss. Erica gulped in fear at her possible future.

“I hope we don’t end up that way.”

For once the driver spoke up. “I hope not. I wasn’t paying attention to the course we’re headed in. There is a bunch of sharp rocks in this area. As soon as the sharpest one hits, down goes the boat. We can try to abandon ship and swim to a small island we passed.”

Guilt passed in Erica’s eyes. “I don’t know how to swim. Maybe we can use life preservers.”

The driver’s face brightened at the idea then darkened again. He chose his next words carefully.

“There is a slight chance that would work BUT since we can’t swim, a boat would have to come to our rescue. There would be no boat out here in these rocks. There’s no way for me to turn around because the rocks would hit us for sure. We do seem to be reaching the end so maybe if we can just wait until then, we’ll have a fighting chance.”

Suddenly a bump hit the boat. Water started to seep in through various holes. It wrapped around their feet until the water was up to their thighs.

“We’ll never make it to the end like this.”

Another bump threw Erica over the railing. She reached her hands out for the rail but couldn’t grab onto it. With a splash, she fell into the water, clear of the rocks. The light above her faded away. She was consumed by the darkness. Erica didn’t know how to swim but she had seen her father do it when he attempted to teach her. She started moving her legs in a quick, swift, kick and batted her arms back and forth to escape the force of the waves. In a slow steady movement, she fought her way back to the surface. Lungs bursting, she felt like she would fall into the sea all over again but she didn’t. Determined, she slowly fought her way to the surface until she broke the water. Turning her head left and right, she spotted the boat with four little specks on it. Realizing that she could only stay on top of the water for so long, she waved her arms back and forth before starting to sink back into the water. Luckily, Erica’s message was caught and they charged ahead to her. Reaching down, they helped her up. Erica coughed up water and then looked around in confusion at the floating boat.

“How did the boat not sink?”

The driver gave a narrow smile. “We used goggles and your sweater to plug up the holes. It won’t last for long. We need to head back!”

“I’m game, as long as I don’t get knocked back into the water again!”


Analia is a frequent contributor to 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

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: