Alphabet Soup – for kids who love books and creative writing
Author: Alphabet Soup
This post was added by Rebecca Newman. Rebecca is a children's writer and poet, and the editor of the Australian children's literary blog, Alphabet Soup.
For more about Rebecca visit: rebeccanewman.net.au.
Tom Jellett is a Sydney based illustrator. For over twenty years he has illustrated a number of books for children including My Dad Thinks He’s Funny by Katrina Germein, Why I Love Footy by Michael Wagner, Whale in the Bath by Kylie Westaway and the Besties series with Sporty Kids author Felice Arena. His latest picture book is Shoo You Crocodile! (with text by Katrina Germein).
From the publisher:
Shoo You Crocodile! is a fun, raucous tale for imaginative young readers and small, brave adventurers. The story offers space for play, real and imagined stories, and families can use the book to play their own make-believe monster games and learn about rhyming words.
On with the questions!
What’s your favourite illustration tool when illustrating picture books?
It has to be pencil. Prismacolor ones are my favourites … I go through a lot of them, though I found sharpening them by hand slowed me down quite a bit. I only recently bought an electric pencil sharpener ($10 from Officeworks! Insane!). It has changed my life.
When you agreed to illustrate Shoo You Crocodile! what was your first step when you sat down to get to work?
The first step, after having read the manuscript a few hundred times is to start figuring out the story within the story, for example, where the story is set, who is being chased … is it a real crocodile or is it a game? Is it set in a zoo? In a jungle? I was pretty certain early on I wanted a ‘real’ crocodile in there so I started with that and ended up with museum … once these things are decided then I can start drawing.
Did you like to play monster games yourself as a child?
I’m not sure about games, but I used to like old scary movies when I was younger. When they were in black and white they were even scarier. I was probably a bit of a scaredy cat … even Doctor Who used to scare me … still does, actually …
Do you have a tip for children who would like to try drawing ‘monster-type characters?
SHARP TEETH BIG CLAWS. The other good tip I find helpful is to start with real animals, and take bits from here and there. I think I stole this tip from Sendak’s drawings in Where the Wild Things Are. If you look at the wild things they are all sorts of bits and pieces … I think one had a parrot’s head, another looked like a bull … all mixed up!
Can you tell us a bit about your next project?
It’s not out for a little while yet, but I just finished a book which has no story at all, but is all about funny sounding words. (Some rude ones possibly … )
Minecraft: Master Builder,Mega Metropolis by Anne Rooney, Welbeck Publishing Group, ISBN 9781787393899
Kobe reviewed her own copy of this book.
For master Minecraft builders, you will know how to build, mine and craft. This book will make it much easier for you. It includes building tips, cool facts and more! Inside you’ll build road systems, housing, parks water slides and even more than before!
My favourite thing about this book is that it tells you all the steps and shows you the steps in the pictures super clearly so that it’s easier to follow. I also think it can improve by explaining what the materials are a bit more. Apart from that I think it was all pretty good.
If I would do building without this book, I would have been hopeless at building, but now this book has taught me how to build properly and beautifully. If you have any trouble building, here’s the key to it!
I hope you’ll be honoured to read this amazing book and enjoy building amazing structures in Minecraft. Try doing all of the structures in the book altogether in a single world and then it’ll look like a real city in real life! Then spawn some villagers to make the city look like it’s full of life!
Bren MacDibble is an award-winning author of books for children and young adults. She grew up in New Zealand, and then heaved on a backpack and spent a couple of years exploring the world. Bren has lived in Whanganui, Hawkes Bay, Waikato, Tauranga, Frankfurt, London, Auckland and Sydney before finally stopping off in Melbourne for 20 years, where she raised two children. She now lives in Kalbarri on the insanely gorgeous mid west coast of Australia. Across the Risen Sea is her 2020 novel for children and hit the Aus, NZ and UK shelves in August.
From the publisher:
Neoma and Jag and their small community are ‘living gentle lives’ on high ground surrounded by the risen sea that has caused widespread devastation. When strangers from the Valley of the Sun arrive unannounced, the friends find themselves drawn into a web of secrecy and lies that endangers the way of life of their entire community. Soon daring, loyal Neoma must set off on a solo mission across the risen sea, determined to rescue her best friend and find the truth that will save her village.
Across the Risen Sea is an action-packed, compelling and heartfelt middle-fiction adventure, set in a post-climate change landscape, from the multi-award winning author of How to Bee and The Dog Runner.
On with the questions!
In Across the Risen Sea your main character, Neoma bravely sails off on her own to rescue her best friend. Had you done much sailing yourself before writing the novel?
Have I done much sailing? A little. Not enough to feel completely safe on the water, but enough to understand how the sails and rigging work. When I was in my 20s I went out a couple of times on hire yachts in the Bay of Islands NZ with friends. The last time I did that I got hit by a swinging boom and went flying across the deck and landed on a stanchion and I still have a scar on my spine! My advice: when someone yells tack, duck! This person didn’t yell tack. I’m still angry at them. I sometimes go out when I’m in Auckland, the city of the sails. Last time I went out on Auckland harbour, the skipper went to take a phone call and left me in charge and a ship was coming in. So I was whispering, I have to tack! I have to tack! And he was waving his hand for me to wait. And then the ship sounded its fog horn! Those things are so loud! We had plenty of room to tack, but it was still terrifying! That noise goes right into your chest and stops your heart!
Your characters’ names all seem to match their characters perfectly. How do you come up with names for characters?
I love how the fashion for names change constantly. Names in Western Australia are fun and modern, names in Melbourne are traditional, and so I try to think about future people. What might they name their children? What’s important to them? It was easy in How to Bee, fruit and flowers. In Across the Risen Sea it was a little harder. Fish and boats are important but they are everyday so I thought about what was exotic, big cats may well become extinct if people are forced up into high country so Jaguar was easy. The moon and tides are important and so is new beginnings in this story. Neoma means new moon. Sometimes I just use names I grew up with. Saleesi was one of those.
The consequences of climate change is a recurring element in all three of your recent children’s novels. Can you tell us why you write climate change into your fiction?
I mainly write about post climate changed worlds to keep the conversation about climate change going. I realise it’s scary and when humans are scared we turn away from the thing that scares us, so by writing about children surviving in these worlds, I’m hoping to keep people looking at climate change instead of looking away. We can only solve problems we face. I’m hoping it also gives a safe fictional space for people to talk about these issues. ‘What would I do if I were Neoma?’ is easier to talk about than, ‘What would I do if my family was threatened?’. Fictional problem-solving is always easier than real life problem-solving but it uses the same brain muscles and I think everyone needs to develop more problem-solving muscles.
Do you have a tip for young writers who might like to write their own dystopian adventure stories?
Leap a little bit into the future. Change something and then write a list of all the things affected. You’ll be surprised how much everything is connected. As we’ve seen, warming temperatures lead to sea level rise, leads to coastal erosion, relocation of cities, building of dykes and sea walls, and fresh water issues. Felling forests leads to invading wild animals habitats, their extinction, excess fresh water runoff, new deserts, new diseases. You decide which ones you want to use in your story, it’ll be too hard to use them all. In truth our planet is small and EVERYTHING is connected, but as humans we can only examine a few ideas at a time, and this is a story not a text book. Ask yourself, how do people live now? What’s important to them? It will always still be family, friends, water, food, shelter, peace and safety. Can they find these things in this ruined world? Make sure they do, at least by the end, or your story may be too scary!
Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
I am working on two projects right now. One with Zana Fraillon, so that’s like half a project because she is a very good team member and has made it so easy. We are writing a children’s novel together which combines an ancient myth with the present and brings a boy (Zana’s character) to the future, where he meets a girl (my character) living in a sparse kind of Utopia, where humans care for the planet. I’m also working on a story alone set in the desert where strange new humans are being born and the main character is fiercely protective of their little toddler sibling who is one of these strange new humans. I like writing this one, now I practically live in the desert! Red sand will be pouring out every time readers turn a page!
Across the Risen Sea is out now. Look for it at your favourite bookstores and libraries!
Survivors: a Hidden Enemy by Erin Hunter, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 9780062102607
Kobe reviewed her own copy of this book.
A mysterious book prowls through the tall grass. It pounces on a startled reader. The reader screams with surprise. After the reader had a cool down from the fright, the reader had a look at the cover. It couldn’t be, it was the book! Survivors: A Hidden Enemy, written by Erin Hunter the famous author. The reader started to read. Then after the reader finished, she wrote a review of what she thought of the book.
Survivors: A Hidden Enemy is written by Erin Hunter, the writer of the series Warriors and Seekers. This story is about dogs and about wolves. It is suitable for young readers because it doesn’t include a lot of violence and a lot of death. It is a brilliant book and it has a lot of exciting things in it too! It is so good I don’t know how good I should say it is! It has lots of climaxes in it as well as lots of problems.
My favourite part was when Squeak wanted to outsmart a wolf and then Mother Dog told Squeak not to try, because it was funny how Squeak and Mother Dog had opposite thoughts! I thought it was funny because it reminded me of when I had an argument with my friend about flipping a bottle and whether having it land on its bottom was skill or luck.
I hope you will read this book and enjoy it because I loved it a lot.
Now the reader had finished the review and she made lots of people read the book she read. Enjoy an epic journey by the side of a scruffy little dog and see amazing sights no one else will ever see in their life!
I am from the cozy, soft, white chair in my room
From sports fields and good books
I am from climbing, swinging, and running everywhere
And from “We need to sign Liora up for this sports class”
And “Stop putting your leg up everywhere.”
I am from the sweet, juicy pineapple that I love
Whose tingling sensation makes me feel warm on the inside
I am from the gymnastics mats where I’ll do Acro for hours
And dancing and stretching lots of places I go
I am from Ari (who’s always optimistic)
And Brigitte (who loves to walk)
I am from my mom’s banana chocolate chip muffins
And my dad’s famous, creamy Wacky Mac
I am from these moments when it’s all laughter and smiles.
The publisher provided a review copy of this book.
Smart children will like this book! This is a true story about a famous scientist named Fiona Wood. This book will tell you how Fiona became a great scientist. This story talks about the childhood of Fiona. Like all people, she didn’t get to be a scientist straight away. She had to work hard to be one.
In this fabulous story, Fiona defends the weak ones and fixes the broken ones to fight for her chance to study medicine. The story of the plastic surgeon and spray on-skin inventor, Fiona Wood shows us the value of dreams, hard work and having the courage to do what’s right. This is the inspiring story of spirit and stamina, generosity and courage.
My favourite part about this story is that Fiona works hard on a study and she doesn’t give up because it reminds me that even if I have a bit of trouble with my sport in school, I don’t start giving up. I still haven’t given up yet!
I hope you will read this marvellous book and that you’ll enjoy it! If you think this book is marvellous, have a try book reviewing too! Now what are you waiting for? Go read this outstanding book! I hope you enjoy this book!
The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson, illustrations by Elisa Paganelli, cover illustration by Melissa Castrillón, Usborne, ISBN 9781474940665
Sadie reviewed her own copy of this book.
Mariska lives with her grandmother, a guardian known as a Yaga, who’s job is to guide the dead through the gate. She knows that one day she will be the next guardian, but she doesn’t want to be a Yaga. She dreams of being with the living and does not like listening to the dead or helping them on their journey.
Mariska’s house has a personality of its own and cares for her and her grandma, Baba Yaga. The house has chicken legs, and like all Yaga houses it gets up and walks somewhere new, whenever it feels like it.
12-year-old Mariska wants nothing more than to have a friend, a friend that isn’t the house. She may be able to play fun games with the house, but she can’t talk to the house about her thoughts and problems or share secrets. So when Mariska meets Benjamin all she wants to do is be his friend. She knows not to cross the fence, but to be with a human is what she has wanted her whole life. But the house ruins it all.
I think my favourite part would be when Mariska gets startled by the sight of a girl her age sitting on the front porch. She said to Mariska that, she doesn’t want to go through the gate and wants to get back home.
Can’t find a book that’s full of love and happiness? Why not jump into a cozy little nook and read this one! Finding François is a brilliant book for everyone to enjoy, you can’t doubt that! A little peek inside this book will lead to you being stuck to this book for a long time.
To give a tiny clue on what this unbelievable book has inside, this might help a bit: Alice wishes she had someone her own size to talk with. Then one day her wish comes true … Through hope and chance, love and loss, two little ones who need each other, find each other.
Gus Gordon is an award winning author from Sydney, Australia who has written many books like Herman and Rosie, Wendy and many more! In total, he’s written 70 books! That’s amazing!
My favourite part about Finding François was that there was a sad moment where Alice loses something really important, but later meets François. I liked it because it reminded me of when my favourite fish died, until we got a new fish that I loved as much as my old one.
Now you’ve got a brief idea about the book, you can read it! Next, you’ll probably share it with everyone! Have fun sailing a boat with Alice, exploring a lighthouse with François and, finally: reading with your beloved family! Enjoy!