Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: WORSE THINGS


Worse Things by Sally Murphy with illustrations by Sarah Davis

Worse Things by Sally Murphy, illustrations by Sarah Davis, Walker Books Australia, ISBN 9781760651657

Joshua received a review copy of this book. 

Sally Murphy is the imaginative author of the book, Worse Things. Based in Australia, this non-rhyming book depicts three different views Amed, Blake and Jolene. Amed is new to the school and watches the two other children from a distance – Blake, the Footy Boy and Jolene, the Hockey Girl. Meanwhile, Blake breaks his arm and now observes his football mates play without him. Jolene hates playing hockey because her other teammates dislike her and think that she is too selfish. Her mother urges her on anyway. All Jolene wants is for her dad to come back from saving people and save her from being forced to play hockey. ’How do these three characters’ different situations become one story?’ you may ask yourself …

This is a touching book, which anyone older than the age of 9 would enjoy reading. I appreciate this book because the author uses different techniques, such as if she wants to emphasise a word she would use a short poem to describe it like it is from a dictionary.

In my opinion, Worse Things is rated 4.5 out of 5. I loved reading this highly engaging, captivating and also heart-felt book! 

Read our interview with the author of Worse Things, Sally Murphy. 

This is Joshua’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 authors, interviews

Kitty Black on writing A Crocodile in the Family


Kitty Black

Kitty Black is a Western Australian author of picture books and children’s novels. Kitty currently lives in Perth with her husband, two children, two cats and a puppy, but she has also lived in Melbourne, Hong Kong and Mt Isa. Kitty’s first picture book was Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf? (illustrated by Laura Wood), and her latest picture book is A Crocodile in the Family, illustrated by Daron Parton.

From the publisher:

A family of birds stumble across an egg in the bush and take it home with them. The family are thrilled when a little crocodile hatches from the egg, but the other animals are a little confused.

‘Why do you keep him?’ they ask. ‘Is it because he’s helpful?’

‘He is helpful,’ replies the family, ‘but that’s not why we keep him.’

A crocodile in the Family by Kitty Black and Daron Parton

When you’re writing a new story – pen & paper? or computer?
Always pen and paper for a picture book. I have a few writing books and while they’re meant to be used for different things if a story shows up then I grab whichever one is closest. My last picture book idea was written in the margins of a middle grade novel writing book. Never underestimate the audacity of ideas, they don’t care what you’re meant to be working on!

I swap between laptop and paper for the novel, just because typing is faster and there’s a lot of words. But if I get stuck on what happens next I always swap to paper. Paper just feels friendlier. Plus it doesn’t run out of battery and if you leave it in the garden overnight it’s probably okay.

Both of your picture books include animal characters who don’t seem to fit in – at first glance. Is this a theme that’s common in your writing?
Definitely. Growing up with undiagnosed ADHD meant that at school I always felt a bit different and I couldn’t figure out why. I have an affinity for the different kids, the ones who don’t pay attention to the ‘right’ things or get rowdy or spend loads of time day-dreaming. I want them to know there’s a place for them, just as they are. I’ve realised in hindsight that I also chose tough/creepy animals? Wolves and crocodiles! My next picture book in 2021 is about a bat. I guess I like different animals too!

Did you communicate with the illustrator of A Crocodile in the Family? Or did you each work separately?
We worked separately. I’ve never spoken directly to him! However, my commissioning editor at Hachette would tell me nice things he said, and also pass on nice things I said to him. So we knew we liked each other’s work. Despite the not talking directly we were both involved in all the choices and I think we worked really well together.

Do you have a tip for kids who love to write?
A tip that I’m using at the moment is to think about what my main character doesn’t want to happen – and then do that.

Can you tell us a bit about your next project?
I was lucky enough to receive an Arts Grant to develop a middle grade novel, so I am deep in a fantasy world with witches and magic and talking bears and monsters. It’s fun! Although not for my main character at the moment because that thing they didn’t want to happen, just happened.

I’m also working with the illustrator from Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf? on our next book – Mr Bat Wants A Hat. She likes creepy animals too.


Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Theory of Hummingbirds

The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle KadarusmanREVIEWED BY GABRIEL, 9, NSW

The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle Kadarusman, UQP, ISBN 9780702262920

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

The Theory Of Hummingbirds is written by Michelle Kadarusam. The book is about a determined girl called Alba who wants to run a two kilometre annual cross-country race. But Cleo is holding her back. Cleo is what she calls her turned-in left foot that she has had since her birth. It had always been in a brace but it recently got changed to a cast. Alba is over-excited because soon the cast will be taken off. She only has two weeks to strengthen her skinny weak left foot before the race is on. Will she be able to run the race? Meanwhile, her best friend Levi who loves science and hides in the library because he has asthma and is afraid of air, thinks the school librarian has a wormhole in her office. Is there truly a wormhole? Alba is not sure whether to believe her friend or not.

I liked the book because I learned a lot about hummingbirds such as how far they migrate. I also learnt how difficult it must have been for someone like Alba who was physically-challenged. I like this book because I am in some ways similar to Levi.

This touching book is great for ages 8+ and for people who love science. I rate this book 10 out of 10. I recommend that you read this book!

Read our interview with the author of The Theory of Hummingbirds.

This is Gabriel’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, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Lost Stone of SkyCity


The Lost Stone of SkyCity by HM WaughThe Lost Stone of SkyCity by HM Waugh, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925815948

Eva received a review copy of this book.

The Lost Stone of Skycity is written from the main character, Sunaya’s, point of view. Sunaya and her friend Danam discover the land of where the ice people live. In the beginning of the book they think it is just a legend but they discover that the ice people are real! The ice people find Danam and he gets taken away to take the dragon tests. The dragon tests are tests to see if he is strong and powerful enough to defend the Queen from anything bad, and if he passes the tests, he would become the cloud dragon. There is a really cool twist, that you won’t see coming!

This book is awesome because it was exciting! I’ve got a favourite part of the book but I can’t tell you about it as it will spoil it for you – but believe me you have to read this book!

I think the author is very talented. I liked imagining the pictures in my head. It had lots of action in it which was exhilarating! My favourite character was Sunaya. It was a joy to read!

I think other people should read it because there is no other book like it. It is really unique – I like the gotals. The book encourages people to be strong, never give up, and to trust their instincts.

I hope there is a second book soon! I loved the book so much I might dress up as the character, Sunaya, for book week at school!

Read a sample chapter from The Lost Stone of SkyCity.

Read Alphabet Soup’s interview with the author.

This is Eva’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in authors, interviews

Katrina Germein: Tell ‘Em!

Katrina GermeinToday’s visitor is Katrina Germein: an award-winning picture book author. Her books have been published all around the world and even read during story-time on television for Play School. You might have read some of her books already, like Big Rain Coming, My Dad Thinks He’s Funny, or Thunderstorm Dancing. Today we’re talking to Katrina about a new picture book called Tell ‘Em!, a collaboration with the children of Manyallaluk School, Rosemary Sullivan, and illustrator Karen Briggs.

Tell 'Em by Katrina Germein, the children of Manyallaluk School, and illustrator Karen Briggs

From the publisher:

A joyous and exuberant picture book about life in a remote community Tell ’em how us kids like to play. We got bikes and give each other rides. Tell ’em about the dancing and singing, and all the stories the old people know. In this book, written in conjunction with children from Manyallaluk School in the Roper River region in the NT, the voices of Indigenous children sing out across the land to tell us about their life in a remote community.

Time for some questions!

You wrote Tell ‘Em! in collaboration with Rosemary Sullivan, the children of Manyallaluk School, and illustrator Karen Briggs. How did the collaboration come about?
I met co-author Rosemary Sullivan when I was living in a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. I was working as a teacher and Rosemary was also teaching at a nearby school. We quickly became friends. After returning to my hometown of Adelaide I drafted an early version of Tell ’em! So when Rosemary mentioned an idea to create a book with the children of Manyallaluk School we decided to work together.

How did everyone communicate with each other during the book’s creation?
Rosemary used the early draft of Tell ’em! to workshop story ideas with the children of Manyallaluk. The students shared their ideas with Rosemary while they were at school and then they emailed the ideas to me. The story went back and forth like this for several months until it felt finished. The children held the final say on what was included in the text. The book is their story. It’s about them and 100% of author royalties go directly to Manyallaluk School.

A sneak peek inside Tell 'Em
A sneak peek inside Tell ‘Em

From initial idea to published book, how long did the process take?
Once the story was accepted by a publisher, Indigenous artist Karen Briggs joined the team and completed the stunning artwork for the illustrations. The whole project took over five years, and it’s exciting to now see the book in libraries, shops, schools and homes. (Picture books often take a long time!)

Can you tell us something about your next book?
My latest book (illustrated by Tom Jellett) is called Shoo, You Crocodile! It’s for young children and is a zany story about a crocodile on the loose in a museum! I’m always working on new stories. One I’m writing at the moment is about some little piggies who have the job of washing dishes in a busy restaurant. The fourth book in the My Dad Thinks He’s Funny series, My Dad Thinks He’s Super Funny, is coming out in 2021.

Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to collaborate with other creators on creative projects?
Hmm. Good questions. Every book I make is a collaboration. I can’t illustrate my own stories so I’m used to working with people. I think  it’s fun seeing what ideas other creators have but some people might find it difficult not to be in control the whole time. My advice is to remember that the project is ‘shared’; it’s not ‘yours’. The people you’re working with deserve the chance to make decisions about how the project will turn out. I think it helps if you really appreciate their talents. Think about how they’re making the project better.

Tell 'Em by Katrina Germein, the children of Manyallaluk School, and illustrator Karen BriggsAWESOME EXTRAS:

Check out previous interviews with Katrina Germein.

Click here for Teachers’ Notes.

Visit Katrina Germein’s website for more about her and her books.

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

Book review: The Poison Jungle


Wings of Fire: The Poison Jungle by Tui T Sutherland, Scholastic Inc, ISBN 9781743835241

Kobe reviewed her own copy of this book.

This month I review a really funny book by Tui T. Sutherland, the New York Times best-selling author and famous writer of the Wings of Fire series. This book may look a bit too fat for young children to read! But NO, this book is completely fine for keen readers like me to read. Also, by the way, this book doesn’t contain loads of violence or anything, so it’s completely OK!

I smartly chose this outstanding book because the characters are all extremely hilarious like the little HiveWing dragonet, Bumblebee, who always shouts “SNUDOO!” Instead of “SUNDEW!” who is a LeafWing that lives in the only bit of trees on the lost continent Pantala, The Poison Jungle. The SilkWing, Blue is a flamesilk, which means he produces silk from his silk glands, but it produces silk to look like flame, like his sister Luna. Cricket, the HiveWing, is like me and always tries to ask lots and lots of questions.

I really hope you’ll take my word and read this magical adventure and be sucked in with the characters and fight the evil of Pantala off the surface of this mysterious lost continent, join the Chrysalis, a group of SilkWings who want to stop the evil HiveWing queen, Queen Wasp from taking over and remember that the power of Wings of Fire is always with you no matter what.

Now come on! Lets go into that book and go save the fantastic world!

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

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Meet Eve in the Outback

Meet Eve in the Outback (book cover)REVIEWED BY ELIZABETH, 7, NSW

Meet Eve in the Outback by Raewyn Caisley, illustrated by Karen Blair, Puffin, ISBN 9781760894108

Elizabeth received a review copy of this book.

Aussie Kids: Meet Eve in the Outback is a book written by Raewyn Caisley and illustrated by Karen Blair. The book is about Eve who lives in Western Australia at Nowhere Roadhouse in the Nullarbor Plain. Last year Nan came to visit Eve. But this year her cousin Will will come. Eve feels happy but she is afraid that Will won’t have fun. Will might think blue-tongue lizards and mudlarks are less exciting than dolphins.

The thing I like about the book is that the author mentioned a lot of ‘bush magic’. I also learnt about Western Australia including the camels and gum leaf tea. I like the pictures because it is interesting and helps me to understand.
I give this book 5 stars and I think 6 years old and up should read it!

This is Elizabeth’s first book review for Alphabet Soup and she is a regular contributor of creative writing pieces. You can read her most recent story here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!
Posted in authors, interviews

Kaye Baillie on writing The Friendly Games


Kaye Baillie holding her book THE FRIENDLY GAMES

Kaye Baillie writes picture books, novels and short stories. Her latest book is a nonfiction picture book The Friendly Games (illustrated by Fiona Burrows.)

From the publisher:

John Ian Wing couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming Melbourne Olympic Games. It’s 1956 and from his parents’ Bourke Street restaurant, John swells with pride watching the hive of activity as the city prepares to welcome its guests. But when world tensions threaten to overshadow the good nature of the Games, John knows he must do something to remind everyone of the meaning of friendship and peace.

Based on a true story, The Friendly Games is a fascinating tale of one boy’s role  in one of Australia’s most significant sporting events.

The Friendly Games by Kaye Baillie and Fiona Burrows

How did you first hear about John Wing?
I was researching the introduction of television in Australia. My idea was to write a story about a fictional family getting their first TV. I found out that television was introduced to Australia in 1956 in time to televise the  Melbourne Olympic Games. And of course the internet brings up stories related to what you’re searching for, so John Wing’s story came up. I read about a boy who wrote a letter to the Melbourne Organising Committee suggesting how the closing ceremony for the Olympic Games should break with tradition and allow all athletes to march as a mixed group behind one Olympic flag — as a kind of peace march. I was amazed by what he did and that his letter worked — all within three days of the closing ceremony. I gave up on the introduction-of-television story and began working on John’s story instead.

How did you go about gathering research for writing the book?
I researched old newspaper clippings on the government website called Trove. I also trawled through microfilms at the State Library in Melbourne.

I watched the official Olympic promotional video made for the 1956 games.

I read sections of the official Olympic report which detailed every part of the Games from its preparation to its final moments.

I purchased a CD from the National Library in Canberra containing an interview with John. This was great because I could hear his voice and listen to how he spoke.

On the City of Kingston’s website there was information and photos detailing John’s early years at a Children’s home.

I tried to find John by emailing his last known email address and I also wrote a letter to his last known home address but I didn’t receive any response.

I visited John’s address where much of the story took place. His bedroom window in Bourke Street, Melbourne is still the same today as it was in 1956. It’s important to get a feel for your subject and their surroundings through first-hand experience.

Did you have any interaction with the illustrator (Fiona Burrows) while the book was being created?
Not in the beginning. Fiona was chosen by the publisher as Fiona had already illustrated one book with MidnightSun. When Fiona was about to begin work on the illustrations, the publisher put us in touch so if we had any questions, we were free to talk to each other. We often emailed each other and Fiona invited feedback from me. Because the story is non-fiction we had to make sure the illustrations were a true reflection of the era, 1956 and the location, Melbourne. Usually illustrators and authors do not have any contact with each other during the book’s process. This is because the illustrator must have freedom to interpret the text how they see it.

Do you have any tips for children who would like to write about real events from history?
Make sure your subject is something you are really interested in. Research can take a long time so it’s important to enjoy the process.

Gather as much research as you can. The more information you have, the more interesting facts you will have to choose from.

Your story will be much better if you can show that you have a good understanding of the facts.

Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project? 
I’m currently researching another non-fiction story. This one is set in America so it’s a little less familiar than researching in Australia. But I have found lots of information and the best part is that I am regularly talking to the daughter of the woman I am writing about. This makes the project very special. I am planning to finish the story within 2-3 months. It takes a long time to do the research and then to write the best story possible.

The Friendly Games is out in bookstores and libraries now!


The Friendly Games by Kaye Baillie and Fiona Burrows

Look inside some of the pages from The Friendly Games

Read a review of the book (review by Anishka, age 10)

Click here for Teachers’ Notes

Visit Kaye Baillie’s website for more about her and her books

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

Book review: The Friendly Games


The Friendly Games by Kaye Baillie, illustrated by Fiona Burrows, MidnightSun Publishing, ISBN 9781925227642

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

Have you ever wondered why the Olympic traditions are like the way they are now? The Friendly Games, by Kaye Baillie and Fiona Burrows, explains it all! The Friendly Games was published in 2020 by MidnightSun Publishing. It is a great way to make a point to young readers about how a young student changed the original tradition of the Olympics (lowering of the Olympic flag, a small speech then the extinguishing of the of the flame) to what it is now!

I would recommend this to young readers, where the colours and pictures and young characters will catch their attention. The amazing figurative language and words, immediately transported me to 1956 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I would give it nine out of ten. The words were placed on the pictures, that made it hard to read. But, overall I think this is a marvellous book that would be enjoyable to young children.

Anishka is a regular contributor to Alphabet Soup, you can read an earlier book review (I Would Dangle the Moon) hereIf YOU would like to send us a story, drawing, poem, or book review, check out our submission guidelines. 

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

Book review: Littlelight

Littlelight by Kelly CanbyREVIEWED BY KOBE, 9, WA

Littlelight by Kelly Canby, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925815764 

Kobe received a review copy of this book.

Littlelight is a very enjoyable book for everyone to read. Although it’s a picture book, it’s still good to read because it has a valuable lesson in it. This book is also a great way to teach kids to use their imagination, like you don’t have to be scared of being yourself because you are yourself, and this book shows exactly that.

The story is about town that is called Littlelight that lost some bricks from the walls, which the mayor was really mad about. So Littlelight’s people started looking for the culprit. After that, all the towns people lived together happily. The rest of the details are in the unique book.

In my opinion, the moral of this story is that different people have different opinions. (A moral is something in a book that teaches you a lesson or good tip.) In the story, the Littlelight  people agreed with the mayor’s choices until the end, where they disagreed.

Some people may think that picture books are just for babies, but they can be for anyone. Even for adults. So please read this absolutely charming book.

Take a sneak peek inside Littlelight.

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