Posted in Book reviews by Gabriel, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Last Light Horse

The image shows the cover of a non fiction book: The Last light Horse by Dianne Wolfer and illustrated by Brian Simmonds. The cover is predominantly purple and includes a sepia photographic style illustration at the centre of the cover with a soldier from WWI leaning against a brown horse with a white spot on its forehead.

REVIEWED BY GABRIEL, 11, NSW

The Last Light Horse by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781760991302

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

This exceptional book by Dianne Wolfer is about the only horse survivor from the First World War – Sandy. Sandy was only one out of 136,000 horses sent from Australia to aid the British and Australian officers. The horses were in a new climate and weren’t used to the war. How would Sandy cope with all the fighting?  

The book takes you on a journey going back to WWI to show you what happened in those days. It also has different newspaper clips from that time and pictures to help you visualize the text. The newspaper clips also tell the opinions that were circulating around in Australia concerning the war such as the Declaration of War which was reported on  Friday 7 August 1914 and the deaths of important generals.

I rated this book five stars out of five because it shows Australia’s perspective of the war and has beautiful illustrations. It should be for people interested in history to read.

Read an excerpt from book.

Listen to the author Dianne Wolfer reading from the book.


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

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: Lord of the Fleas

Image shows the cover of a children's graphic novel: Dog Man, Lord of the Fleas by Dav Pilkey. The cover illustration shows a cartoon-style illustration of a dog in a blue shirt and trousers standing in front of a giant cat-head cave, holding the hand of a small kitten.

REVIEWED BY NATE, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas by Dav Pilkey, Graphix, ISBN 9781338741070

Have you ever read a book that’s hilarious? Then I think you should read Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas because it is so hilarious. It started when Lil Petey and 80-HD were working and making a clubhouse and Dogman came downstairs. Lil Petey is a kitten and 80-HD is a robot. Dogman is a dog who is half man. Lil Petey told Dogman that they were going to be in a club. Lil Petey said, “We will call ourselves the Super Buddies.”

One reason I like this book is because Lil Petey is so funny. In the story Lil Petey says, “Hi, bad guys.” Two of the bad guys say, “Hi” and the boss of the bad guys does not. Another reason I like this book is because Dogman and Lil Petey work together. For example when Dogman is huge, Lil Petey wakes him up. A third reason I like this book is because Petey is sneaky. In the story the guard asks Petey if he was building a giant robot. Petey said, “no” when he actually was. These are some of the reasons why you should read this book.

I hope you get this book and read it right away! Do you want to find out more about this book? Visit your local library.

I recommend this book for kids ages 5 and up. I give this book 10 out of 10 stars.


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: Back to School, Splat!

Image shows the cover of a children's book: Splat the Cat, Back to School, Splat! by Rob Scotton. The cover illustration shows a black cat with a pink tummy. He's wearing scuba goggles, a snorkel, a colander for a hat, and carrying a soccer ball, & a wooden sword. There is a small grey mouse sitting atop the ball. Behind him is a small white cat in a pink top and wearing a pink bow on her head.

REVIEWED BY CALLIE, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

Splat the Cat: Back to School, Splat! by Rob Scotton, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 9780061978517

Callie reviewed her school’s copy of this book.

Do you like books with cats that act like humans? Then I think you should read Splat the Cat: Back to School, Splat! In this book, Splat the Cat goes to school looking happy and comes back from school looking sad because he already has homework.

I think you should read this book because Splat the Cat is so funny. In this story he has homework on the first day of school and his tail dragged behind him as he walked home. The second reason you should read this book is because his little sister is so sweet and cute, for example she gives him a new soccer ball and gives him cupcakes. The third reason you should read this book is because he goes to CAT SCHOOL! These are some of the reasons you should read this book.

I hope you read this book right away. Do you want to find out more about this book? Visit your local library. I recommend this book for kids ages 7, 8 and 9. I give this book 8 out of 10 stars.


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: The Dragonet Prophecy

Image shows the cover of a children's book, Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T Sutherland. The cover illustration shows a brown coloured dragon flying over the sea.

REVIEWED BY KJ, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T Sutherland, Scholastic Inc, ISBN 9780545349239

KJ reviewed the school’s copy of this book.

Do you like books with dragons and adventure? Well, I’ve got the right book for you. It’s called Wings of Fire. It’s about fire and water and changing color dragons.

I think you should read this book because it has adventures. Clay and his mom are dragons who have training on how to fight an evil dragon named Queen Scarlet who kidnapped all of Clay’s friends. Tsunami can fight anything and will fight anything. She can see in the dark and breathe underwater.

One reason I like this book is because Clay and his friends are always kind to other dragons. The second reason I like the book is because it has lots of detail. For example, the dragons have lots of detail. The third reason that I like this book is because my favourite part is when they meet a bunch of dragons. It’s my favourite part because the dragons all become friends. These are some reasons why you should read this book.

I recommend this book for ages 6 to 12. I give this book 10 out of 10 stars.


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: Action Presidents series

Image shows the cover of a children's book: Action Presidents by Fred Van Lente and Stan Dunlavey. The cover shows a comic-book-style illustration of George Washington with short white hair, a square jaw and a blue jacket with gold buttons and shoulder epaulettes. George Washington is holding a fist up close to the viewer and gazing off into the distance. Behind him is a sun glow.

REVIEWED BY NATHAN, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

Action Presidents series by Fred Van Lente Ryan Dunlavey, HarperCollins Publishers, Book 1 ISBN 9780062891181

Nathan read his school’s copies of this series.

Do you like books with true history and fake jokes? Well, you are going to like the Action Presidents series. My name is Nathan and I live in the USA. I think you should read Action Presidents because they have PT boats, and on PT 109 – Kennedy and his crew sank in Japanese-held territory.

It’s got cool presidents, true history and fake jokes such as in the fourth book when Kennedy says, “Never mind about Laos, what did Caroline do today?”

One reason you should read about Action Presidents is because the presidents are very good decision makers. Another reason that I like this book is because the pictures are very cool.They are the coolest comic pictures I have ever seen. The last reason I like this book is because it tells which presidents are some kind of Christian.

These are some of the reasons why you should read this book. I recommend this book for ages 7 and up. I give this book 10 out of 10 stars.


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: The Bad Guys

Image shows the cover of a children's graphic novel: The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey. The cover's background is bright orange. At the bottom of the book's cover are cartoon illustrations in black and white and grey showing a snake, a wolf wearing a suit and tie, a shark wearing a suit and tie and a piranha.

REVIEWED BY CHIAGOZIEM, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey, Scholastic Inc, ISBN 9780545912402

Chiagoziem reviewed the school’s copy of this book.

Do you like books with talking animals? Then you should read The Bad Guys! because it is silly and funny. The characters’ names are Mr Wolf, Mr Shark, Mr Piranha, and Mr Snake. Mr Shark and Mr Piranha don’t need water to survive. Also Mr Piranha is Hispanic. There is a Guinea pig named Marmalade. Marmalade has a mum and dad.

One reason I like this book is because of the silly parts. For example, one time Mr Shark dressed up as an old lady. The bad guys aren’t bad, they’re good guys, in fact. The second reason I like this book is because sometimes what they say is funny. For example, Mr Piranha always says “Chico’s”. A third reason I like this book is because the characters are hilarious. In the story, they act like they’re mad all the time.

I think you should read this book because it has funny characters. I recommend this book for kids aged eight. I’ll give this book 10 out of 10 stars.


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: Bo the Brave

Image shows the cover of a children's book: Bo the Brave by Rebecca Elliott. The cover illustration shows a unicorn with a rainbow horn holding up a shield in its hoof. A dragonfly hovers behind it.

REVIEWED BY SLOANE, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

Unicorn Diaries: Bo the Brave by Rebecca Elliott, Scholastic, ISBN 9781338323436

Sloane reviewed her own copy of this book.

Do you like books about unicorns? Then I think you should read Unicorn Diaries: Bo the Brave because it’s magical.

In this story, Bo’s class of unicorn friends goes camping. They heard noises and got scared. The unicorns found out that the noises were coming from the pixies. The pixies were having a party. The pixies were afraid of the beasts and Bo the Brave must save the day.

One reason I like this book is because it’s entertaining to all students. In this story there are lots and lots of unicorns. Another reason I like this book is because there’s lots of magic. Everyone has magical powers. The most powerful magic is flying. The third reason I like this book is because the pictures are wonderful. For example, the book has colorful pictures like orange and pink and yellow.

I hope you go get this book and read it right away. Do you want to find out more about this book? Visit your local library.

I recommend this book for kids ages nine and eight and seven. I’ll give this book a 10 out of 10!


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in authors, interviews

Jeanette Stampone on Shadow and the Girl

Jeanette Stampone was born and raised in a spooky three-hundred-year-old English house. Jeanette now lives in a small country town in Western Australia with her husband and two boys. Shadow and the Girl is her debut picture book, illustrated by Demelsa Haughton.

From the publisher:

A giant girl towers over Shadow. Driven by fear, Shadow runs. And so does the girl. But can they really run from each other?


How long did it take to write Shadow and the Girl?

Nearly five years!

I first had the idea back in 2017. It was about a monster living under a child’s bed. I decided to change the monster to a shadow, but still had lots of trouble getting the story to flow.

So, I then completely changed the scene and took Shadow outside to a park. That’s when it really began to work. I sent the manuscript to a few publishers, but not many because I was worried the story was a bit too different. I eventually put it away and worked on new ideas.

But then in 2019, I saw Red Paper Kite were open for submissions. They were looking for quirky and unusual stories. I sent it in and … YAY! It got accepted. I feel like my story was just waiting for the right publisher.

Shortly after I signed the contract, coronavirus hit and the book release got delayed, which meant more waiting. But finally, in 2022, it was ready for print! It’s taken a long time but every stage has been exciting.

Did you have contact with the illustrator, Demelsa Haughton, while the book was being illustrated?

We really only made a few comments on each other’s social media posts. But other than that, no direct contact. My publisher worked closely with Demelsa and occasionally I was asked my opinion on her work, but that was very rare. I actually loved having no contact with her because it meant she was free to use her own creativity without me influencing it too much. She ended up making the book even better than I imagined!

How do you go about writing the first picture book draft?

So this is what normally happens:

  1. Random idea pops into my head.
  2. Idea swirls around my head, getting in the way of anything else I am trying to do!
  3. Get out my notepad and write a summary of the idea.
  4. If I am happy with the summary, I hop onto the computer and ‘grow’ the idea. I add more sentences and not worry too much about it being perfect. I just want to get the basic story down at this stage.
  5. Read through my story and chop, change, and polish until I’m reasonably happy.
  6. Finally, take the story to my critique group for feedback!

Do you have a tip for kids whod like to write their own picture book?

Imagine the illustrations as you write but try not to describe exactly what would be happening in the drawings. Let the illustrations tell one story and your writing tell another story.

So instead of saying something like, It was sunny and Ella smiled, you could describe her physical and emotional feelings like this: The sun warmed Ella’s face and her heart sang with joy.

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

I have a book coming out with Wombat Books, The Dragon Guest Handbook. It’s a fun but meaningful story and I’m really looking forward to seeing it in print. I have been so busy with the release of Shadow and the Girl that I haven’t had a lot of time to work on new stories, but I do have a big list of ideas. Hopefully I can start working on a few of those soon because they’re all in the swirling around my head stage!

Shadow and the Girl is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.


AWESOME EXTRAS

Shadow and the Girl by Jeanette Stampone and Demelsa Haughton. The cover illustration shows a girl with plaits, wearing a white dress and a red cap, sitting back to back with a shadowy figure. They both have their feet in water. Behind them are alpine-looking mountains with snow on their peaks.

Peek inside the pages of Shadow and the Girl on the publisher’s website.

Watch an animation by Jana Kaminski (this is a video on the publisher’s Facebook page)

Visit Jeanette Stampone’s website for more about her and her writing.

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: The Dragon of Fortune

Image shows the cover of a children's book: The Dragon of Fortune in the Geronimo Stilton series. The cover illustration shows a cartoon-style mouse dressed in armour astride a blue dragon. the mouse is holding up a gold key which is nearly as big as the mouse.

REVIEWED BY AKSHAY, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

Geronimo Stilton: The Dragon of Fortune, Scholastic Inc, ISBN 9781338159394

Akshay reviewed his own copy of this book.

Do you like dragons, wizards, and talking lizards? Then you should read Geronimo Stilton: Dragon of Fortune. It is very funny. It is so interesting you want to read more!

In the story Geronimo goes with his friends to find the winged ring but people try to stop him. All the witches and also the cat tried to stop him. She disguised herself to go to the witch council in the Kingdom of Fantasy. Geronimo is scared of the cat but the wizard comes with him. Also in the story they call him Sir Geronimo of Stilton. Isn’t that funny?

One reason I like this book is because it has lots of adventures. What happens in the story is there is an enchanted book they use to fly to the witch castle. Pretty adventurous, huh? The second reason I like this book is because, for example, it has lots of pages. If you finish a hundred pages you have a lot more! My last reason I love this book is because the characters from the other books stay in the new book. For example, Geronimo, Scribblehopper, Blue Rider and others are in this book and different books in the series too.

I hope you get this book and read it right away! I recommend this book for ages 8 and above. I give this book 10 stars.


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: Cirque

CIRQUE by Elizabeth, 9, NSW

Photo shows the ladder-like framework with long colourful circus silks tied to the top of the framework and hanging loose for circus performers to climb and swing on. There's a girl twisting herself into the silks, upside down. She has red hair in pigtails, a pink leotard and white leggings. Photo by Paulo Henrique Macedo Dias at pexels.com.

Silks! Purple and red awaited me to climb! It was my first class of cirque and I was so delighted. The teacher’s assistant was there but the teacher was late.

My teacher was called Miss Maria. She was thoughtful, kind and generous. She had an assistant called Emily, who was sixteen. I love when they helped me.

Next, we did stretching and I practised planks. Emily helped me when I did a plank. We carried the blocks and I practised the splits. Then the teacher called me to climb the silks. I felt joyful and thrilled. I made a knot on my foot with the silks to stand on. Our teacher said a saying, “Outside, inside, pull up, and around,” to teach us how to do a knot for us to stand on. It was hard to climb the silks because it had a difficult technique.

At my class I met two new friends. Their names are Scarlet and Sienna. They are younger than me but they are good at the knot for the silks.

Excited for my next class because this class was so enjoyable and fun, I ran to my mum and hugged her. I was so glad to do cirque because it was so fun to go on the silks and play with my new friends.


Elizabeth is a regular contributor to Alphabet Soup. You can read her earlier writing and book reviews here. To send us your writing or book review, check out our submission guidelines.