Posted in activities, book reviews, school holidays

Book Review: The Holiday Creativity Book

The Holiday Creativity Book by Mandy Archer, ill. Jennie Poh & Elle Ward, ISBN 9781922077394, Walker Books Australia

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher

Holiday Creativity Book (cover)

It’s the second week of the school holidays here in WA.**  Picture this: you’ve used up all your screen time. You’ve finished all the books you borrowed from the library and you’re taking a break from all that story-writing …

When you’re looking around for something to do, this spiral-bound book is bursting with ideas to keep your fingers busy and your brain entertained.

Activities include old favourites like ‘spot the difference’, and ‘spot what’s wrong’, plus there are mazes, stencils, art and craft projects, games and stickers. (We really love the map challenge.)

Grab some scissors, glue and a pencil and get started. Happy holidays!**

** If you don’t live in WA and you’re already into term 2, we’re sure this book would be just as entertaining after school, or on weekends — or, of course, there’s always the next school holidays …

© April 2013 “Review of The Holiday Creativity Book” by Rebecca Newman (
Posted in activities

Perth writing workshops for kids with Cristy Burne

Takeshita Demons (cover)Do you like reading fantasy, adventure, action or horror stories? Cristy Burne has a writing workshop for kids who want to write their own! The workshops start on Monday 7 May and run for 6 weeks at the Victoria Park Centre for the Arts.

(If you know a grownup who likes writing, there are workshops for grownups, too!)

Check out Cristy Burne’s blog for all the details or email her with your questions. Get writing!

Posted in activities, Events, Writers' Festivals

2012 Perth Writers Festival

Other people wandering about at the Perth Writers FestivalYesterday was Family Day at the Perth Writers Festival and we had a brilliant time wandering about the grounds of UWA listening to free talks and bumping into authors and illustrators of our favourite books.

Here’s a photo of other people who were also wandering about enjoying the literary goodness of the day.  ———————————————————————->

We started the day in the tropical grove listening to Cristy Burne talking about school camping trips and Japanese horror stories (it turns out there’s not much difference). James Roy was giving out some good writing tips to keen young writers in his audience. Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac had their audience roaring with laughter, stamping feet … and throwing plastic fruit … as they performed the story of The Greatest Liar on Earth—their new picture book. There were also baby animals to help launch Karen Blair‘s book Baby Animal Farm (and cupcakes, too). And heaps of other author and illustrators talks which we didn’t get to because we were so interested in each session we kept forgetting to duck out halfway through to check out the others that were running at the same time. (OOPS—did you go to any others? Let us know what you thought in the comments!)

Here’s a photo of Briony Stewart, author of the Kumiko and the Dragon series.

Briony Stewart, Perth Writers Festival 2012

(She looks like she’s singing opera in this shot, but actually she’s talking about the bravery of the characters in her story.)

And a shot of author and comedian Oliver Phommavanh signing a copy of Thai-riffic! for us.

Oliver Phommavanh at Perth Writers Festival

And we just had to take a photo of this art installation by Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa. It is called Breathing Flower and it was floating on the reflection pond at Whitfield Court. It’s HUGE and amazing to look at. And it’s there for the Festival of Perth (not just the Writers Festival) but we reckon it makes a good writing prompt for a story or poem …

Breathing Flower (art installation by Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa)

If you’re in Perth, did you go to Family Day this year? Who were your favourite speakers? (Was there anyone else you wish was a speaker?)

Posted in activities, info

Activities (Issue 14)

For each issue of the magazine (going back to issue 7), we will add activities and a themed listening list to the ACTIVITIES tab—you’ll find the tab at the top of the blog.

The theme for this issue is PAPER. Enjoy!


Alphabet Soup issue 14 cover


for Issue 14—PAPER

1. DECORATE a greeting card using mosaics in paper.

You will need:
Coloured paper and/or unwanted magazine and newspaper pages
White runny glue
A blank card (or fold a piece of paper or card in half to create your own)

What to do:
Cut the coloured paper, magazine pages and newspaper pages into little pieces. Sort them into piles of similar colours.
Draw a simple picture on your blank card. Then glue on the little pieces of paper to ‘colour in’ the picture. Overlapping pieces is OK. Or you might like to leave a tiny white border around each piece you glue on, like tiles on a mosaic.

When all the coloured paper is glued on, paint a thin layer of glue over the pieces, to seal it. Set it aside to dry.

Now you have a home-made card for the next friend or family member with a birthday!

2. MAKE PAPER DOLL CHAINS (or gingerbread men chains).

Make paper doll chains (or gingerbread men chains): You could use your paper doll chains to decorate a card or wrapped present, or you could swap chains with a friend.  If you’ve never made paper doll chains before, check out this website for some instructions.

3. PLAY Rock Paper Scissors

This is a very old game and a fun way of deciding something like who will have the first turn on the trampoline today. You need two people to play. The players sit opposite each other and hold their hands closed (make a fist). Together they count ‘one, two, three’ and then each extends a hand in front of the other player, showing a rock, paper, or scissors shape.

Rock—hand remains as a fist
Paper—hand is held flat with the fingers all together
Scissors— thumb, ring finger and pinky fold under and the pointer and middle finger stretch out like scissors cutting

If the players both have the same shape, it’s a tie, and you’ll have to go again! But if they have different shapes, here are the rules:

Rock can beat scissors. (Rock makes scissors blunt)
Paper can beat rock. (It can wrap it up)
Scissors can beat paper. (It can cut it)


You probably already know about Noughts and Crosses. But there are HEAPS of other games you can play with only a pencil and paper. Check out this website for instructions—the next time you’re waiting for your sister to finish hockey training or your brother to finish band practise, grab a pencil (and another player) and the time will fly!

5. WRITE a letter to someone far away.
Then post it. Everyone loves to get a letter in the mail, and they might even write back to you.

6. ENTER our Autumn writing competition.

All you have to do is come up with a fabulous newspaper headline! Find all the details on how to enter here.


Our listening list is compiled by Danielle Joynt, from Cantaris. Danielle has also included comments for some of these pieces. (Tip: Ask about CDs at your public library—libraries often have a good collection of CDs for loan if you prefer not to buy.)


The Lost Art Of Letter Writing is a four-movement concerto for violin and orchestra written by the Australian composer Brett Dean.

Each movement in the concerto begins with an excerpt from a 19th-century letter, with a violin evoking the mood of each letter as it plays the alternate roles of writer and recipient.
Authors of the letters include composers Jonahes Brahms and Hugo Wolf, artist Vincent Van Gogh and outlaw Ned Kelly. Hear a really short extract of the music here. You can also download a sample page of the score from the same website.


Origami is the name of a ballet written by the Australian composer David Chisolm. It was choreographed by Philip Adams and first performed by the dance group BalletLab and the musicians of the Silo String Quartet in Melbourne in 2006. You can view a short excerpt of the performance (and hear the music!) on BalletLab’s website.
The structure of the music is built as if opening one giant fold, like a reverse origami, flattening out the memory of the paper, not to erase it, but to create a place from whence it is possible to begin again.


Duo Diorama is the name of  the music duo comprising Chinese violinist MingHuan Xu and her husband, Canadian pianist Winston Choi.
They have named themselves after the Diorama, as it captures their artistic ideals. You can listen to them play on their website.
In the 19th-century Paris, the Diorama was a popular theatre entertainment.
It comprised marvelous landscape scenes—with one depicting a mythic event—painted on to linen and brought to life using dramatic effects.
These included Diorama lighting—sunlight redirected by a series of mirrors. Such was the skill of the virtuoso light artists, that the diorama’s scenes would appear to take on dimensions and motion—to come alive.

Activities and listening list for issue 13 (summer 2011) unavailable

See the activities and themed listening list for issue 12 (spring 2011)

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 11 (winter 2011)

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 10 (autumn 2011)

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 9 (summer 2010).

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 8 (spring 2010).


Posted in activities, competitions

Writing Classes for Kids online

Australian author Dee White has started a new website called Writing Classes for Kids (& adults). You’ll find info about writing, writing tips, links to useful websites, writing competitions, and writing classes for kids and grownups (available as $5 downloads).

Check out the info about the first competition on the Writing Classes for Kids website. There’s a category for 8 to 12s and there are book prizes—the competition is free and entries close 30 November 2011. Good luck!

Posted in activities, info, teachers' resources

Activities and music list for issue 12


For each issue of the magazine (starting with issue 7), we will add activities and a themed listening list to this page. Enjoy!


Alphabet Soup magazine, spring 2011


for Issue 12—SAIL AWAY!

1. MAKE a pirate’s treasure map. Hide something in your garden (or in your house if it’s raining). Then on a large piece of paper, draw a map so someone else can find the treasure. Use footsteps and arrows to show the way to go. Include some landmarks (like the tree with the tyre swing, or the kitchen table). Mark the hiding place with a red X. Give the map to a fellow pirate—can they find the treasure using your map? (Tip: make your pirate map look old and authentic by using a damp tea-bag to stamp all over it. When it is dry, roll up your map and tie it with a piece of string. Arrr!)

2. PLAY Ship to Shore (sometimes called Captain’s Coming!). One person becomes the captain and shouts out commands to the group—like ‘Ship!’ (everyone must run to the side of the room designated as the ship), ‘Shore!’ (run the other way), ‘Captain’s Coming’ (stand still and salute), ‘Shark!’ (lie on stomach and swish tail). Anyone who fails to follow a command correctly is ‘out.’ For a list of commands (and some more detailed instructions) visit the myplaygroundgames blog.

3. MAKE an origami boat: Using paper-folding techniques, make some paper boats to sail. Here are some instructions. 

4. EXPERIMENT—float or sink?: Grab a variety of objects from around your house or garden (check with a parent that it’s OK) e.g. a feather, an apple, a pumpkin, a plate, a paperclip, a coin. Try to predict which objects will float and which will sink. Were you right?


Our listening list is compiled by Danielle Joynt, from Cantaris. Danielle has also included comments for some of these pieces. (Tip: Ask about CDs at your public library—libraries often have a good collection of CDs for loan if you prefer not to buy.)


1. Sea Pictures is a song cycle by the English composer Sir Edward Elgar, consisting of five songs written by various poets.

The songs and poets are—

A. Sea Slumber Song by Roden Noel
B. In Haven (Capri) by Caroline Alice Edgar (the composer’s wife)
C. Sabbath Morning At Sea by  Elizabeth Barrett Browning
D. Where Corals Lie by Richard Garrett
E. The Swimmer by Adam Lindsay Gordon

Adam Lindsay Gordon, although born in the Azores and educated in England, lived most of his life in Australia. His collection—Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes—is regarded as one of the most important pieces of Australian literature.

Sea Pictures was composed in 1899 and premiered the same year with the famous contralto Dame Clara Butt singing, dressed as a mermaid! Two weeks later Dame Clara performed the cycle for Queen Victoria at Balmoral.


The music for Drunken Sailor was taken from a traditional Irish dance and march tune Oró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile (“Oró, you are welcome home”).

First appearing in print as a sea shanty (shipboard working song) in 1824, the song was widely sung when hand-over-hand hauling on ships. It was also known as “Early In The Morning”.

The Australian composer Percy Grainger used the song and lyrics in his work Scotch Strathspey And Reel.

The main theme from the first movement of Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major by Shostakovich mimics Drunken Sailor.

The melody of Drunken Sailor is often used in SpongeBob Squarepants!


La Mer (The Sea) by the French composer Claude Debussy is a shimmering musical sketch inspired by the sea.  Debussy’s use of  instruments to create soundscapes and moods was groundbreaking for the time.

Movement 1 “From dawn to noon on the sea” is an instrumental mixture of floating colours. The music seems to wander around, never settling in to any form. The composer Erik Satie joked that he liked the part at 11.15am!

Movement 2  “Play of the waves” is much livelier, with orchestral swells imitating the waves.

Movement 3 “Dialogue of the wind and the sea” is very dramatic, illustrating the clashing forces of the wind and the ocean.

Although La Mer was not initially well-received when it premiered in France in 1905— due to lack of rehearsal—it soon became a great favourite of audiences at subsequent performances.

One American critic wasn’t so impressed however; he thought a better title would have been “Mal de Mer” which means seasick!


Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is the name given to two much-loved pieces of music—a 1815 cantata by Beethoven and an 1828 concert overture by Mendelssohn—both set to poems by the German writer Goethe. Beethoven’s piece is dedicated to Goethe.

The poems are not synonymous; however, in the days before steam, a totally calm sea was cause for alarm—it is only when the wind rises that the ship can continue its voyage.

The first half of Beethoven’s cantata depicts a ship becalmed, the second half, its success in resuming its voyage.

Mendelssohn’s overture (inspired by Beethoven’s work—and in the same key, D Major) finishes with a fanfare of trumpets, suggesting the ship’s safe arrival at its final destination.

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 11 (winter 2011)

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 10 (autumn 2011)

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 9 (summer 2010).

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 8 (spring 2010).