Posted in Anzac Day, book reviews, Book reviews by Rebecca, teachers' resources

Book Review: Light Horse Boy

Light Horse Boy by Dianne Wolfer, ill. Brian Simmonds, ISBN 9781922089137, Fremantle Press

A review copy of this book was provided by Fremantle Press

Light Horse Boy (cover)

Lighthouse Girl (cover)This new picture book was recently launched in time for Anzac Day — Light Horse Boy is a companion book to Lighthouse Girl and both are worth buying (or borrowing — ask for them at your library).

When war is declared on Germany in 1914, Jim and his best mate, Charlie, decide to sign up for the war. Jim is not quite old enough to sign up but he lies about his age. When he resigns from his job to go to war, Jim’s boss gives him a horse called Breaker, instead of his wages. Jim and Charlie think joining the Light Horse Regiment is a bit of an adventure and that the war will be over in a few months. But they quickly discover how terrible life on the frontline really is.

Light Horse Boy is based on historical events, though the characters are fictional. (On the first page, the author explains that the characters were created “after researching the records and diaries of Australian and New Zealand soldiers who served in the ‘Great War'”.)

Jim’s story is told as a narrative with charcoal illustrations, and the book includes copies of his letters and telegrams to his sister Alice. Readers are taken back in time with old photographs, maps, and newspaper clippings.

Reading Jim’s letters is like reading letters from someone you know (your own brother, or a friend).  Through Jim’s eyes we see how war affected young Australian soldiers and their horses serving in World War I, and how hard it was for friends and family left behind.

Highly recommended.

© April 2013 “Review of Light Horse Boy” by Rebecca Newman (


Read other Anzac-themed posts on Soup blog

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Rebecca

Book Review: The Poison Plot – Sword Girl Book 2

Sword Girl: The Poison Plot by Frances Watts, ill. Gregory Rogers, ISBN 9781742377926, Allen & Unwin

A review copy of this book was provided by Allen & Unwin.

The poison plot (cover)

Thomasina (Tommy) is the Keeper of the Swords at Flamant Castle. Preparations are underway for a banquet at the castle but when Tommy is sent to town on an errand, she discovers a plot to poison Sir Walter. If she can’t foil the plot, Flamant will be at war. And there’s not much time …

This is the second book in the Sword Girl series. (Read a review of the first Sword Girl bookThe Secret of the Swords.)

The Poison Plot is an action-packed medieval adventure. There are black and white illustrations every few pages and they add to the fun—you might recognise Gregory Rogers’ style from his books The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, The Bard and The Hero of Little Street. Tommy is a brave, clever character who outsmarts bullies and makes friends with the castle’s animals. We love the poor crocodiddle with the cold, and, of course, the castle cat from the first book in the series.

A funny, fast-paced early chapter book.

© March 2013 “Review of Sword Girl: The Poison Plot” by Rebecca Newman (
Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Rebecca

Book review: Sophie Scott Goes South

Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester, ISBN 9780670880683, Penguin Group Australia

The reviewer borrowed this book from the library.  

Sophie Scott Goes South (cover)

Sophie Scott is nine, and she’s going to Antarctica with her dad—the captain of the Aurora Australis. It will take two weeks to get there, and they will be staying at Mawson Station for a week before coming home.

This is Sophie’s diary of her trip. But it’s sort of a scrapbook about Antarctica—as well as her diary entries, Sophie includes a detailed map of the ship, and photos of it, too. She describes (and draws) the special cold-weather clothes she has to wear and talks about the strange sounds and sights she sees from the ship. I love the drawings of the people on the ship and at the crew at Mawson Station and also the drawings of the animals and the environment in Antarctica. Many of the pages also feature snippets of information about the history of Antarctic explorers, and facts about the continent and the creatures that live there. (Did you know that an iceberg that sits just under the surface of the water is called a growler? Or that Roald Amundsen from Norway was the first to the South Pole?)

You’ll find a glossary at the end of the book and the endpapers show a map of the world showing Sophie’s journey to Antarctica, and a map of Antarctica from above.

On every page there are interesting things to look at, amazing photos and Sophie’s observations. One of my favourite photos shows a Weddell Seal scratching his nose. I also love the gallery of photos showing the colours of Antarctica. It’s not just white!) Sophie’s journey is based on the author’s own trip to Antarctica and many of ‘Sophie’s’ drawings in the book were co-created with children who read Alison Lester’s online diary entries during her trip. (Children sent the author artwork inspired by the online diary entries.)

This book grabs your attention from the first page. Gallop as quickly as you can to a library or bookshop if you love strange adventures, explorers, sea creatures, ships or Antarctica. Or all of them together!

© March 2013 “Review of Sophie Scott Goes South” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)
Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Rebecca

Book review – Saurus Street 2: A Pterodactyl Stole my Homework

A Pterodactyl Stole my Homework by Nick Falk, ill. Tony Flowers, ISBN 9781742756561, Random House Australia

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

a pterodactyl stole my homework (cover)

Sam and his older brother, Nathan, are Team Dinosaur. Nathan is the Captain and he knows everything about dinosaurs. Sam is Second-in-Charge.

But Team Dinosaur might be broken up—Sam’s mum is so mad when his fifth lot of homework goes missing (stolen by a pterodactyl, but she doesn’t believe that) that she threatens to send Sam to a school for naughty boys instead.

Sam and Nathan have to find a way to get that homework back. They have to find a way to get up Saurus Hill to find the homework-stealing pterodactyl.

This is a funny chapter book for younger readers who love dinosaurs—and who doesn’t love dinosaurs? There are also cool black and white illustrations on almost every page and the adventures are chock-a-block full of pterosaur facts.

You can download the first few pages of the book for free on the Random House Australia website. And best of all, this is book two in the Saurus Street series—there are more Saurus Street adventures to read. Excellent!

© January 2013 “Review of A Pterodactyl Stole my Homework by Nick Falk & Tony Flowers” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)
Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Rebecca

Book review: Once There Was a Boy

Once There Was a Boy written & illustrated by Dub Leffler. Published by Magabala Books, ISBN 978 1 921248 37 5.

A review copy of this book was sent to us by the publisher.

Once there was a boy (cover)

A boy lives all alone in a boat, on an island. One day, suddenly, there is someone else on the island. She eats all his sapotes. She sleeps in the hammock. He asks her not to look under the bed while he is away collecting more sapotes—but she is too curious and she does look under the bed …

This is a picture book about friendship and sharing, and how strange it is that friendship can mean happiness and also disappointments sometimes.

The illustrations really show the beauty of the island, and the stillness and sadness of the boy. I especially love the colours of the ocean and the way shadows appear in many of the illustrations. There is sense of peace at the end—and a feeling of hope.

Dub Leffler says:

“I wrote Once There Was a Boy to show kids that boys have feelings too … ”

© July 2012 “Review of Once There Was a Boy by Dub Leffler” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)
Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Rebecca

Book Review: Jake’s Concert Horror

Jake’s Concert Horror by Ken Spillman and illustrated Chris Nixon. Published by Fremantle Press ISBN 9781921888755.

A review copy of this book was sent to us by the publisher.

Jake's Concert Horror (cover)

When Mrs Paul announces that the class will be putting on a musical play, Jake imagines himself in all sorts of cool roles—a pirate, a monkey, a robot with a silver-painted box over his head.

But when he hears what the play will be, he’s not impressed.


Yuk, Jake thought. Why couldn’t she choose something about pirates?


But it’s even worse when he finds out what his part is in the play. As the date of the performance gets closer he gets more and more worried.

This is another book in the Jake series—and, as usual, you’ll find Chris Nixon’s fun illustrations on every page. These books are great for kids who are just starting to read chapter books. If you’re already a fan, you’ll love this next book in the series (but you don’t have to read the other books in the series before reading this one. It’s great on its own.)

Everyone worries about something. Jake’s Concert Horror is a book about overcoming your fears.

© May 2012 “Review of Jake’s Concert Horror by Ken Spillman & Chris Nixon” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)

Look here for a review of an earlier Jake book, Jake’s Great Game.

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Rebecca, National Year of Reading

Featured Book: Lightning Jack

Lightning Jack by Glenda Millard and illustrated Patricia Mullins. Published by Scholastic Australia, ISBN 9781741693911.
(A review copy of this book was sent to us by the publisher.)

Lightning Jack by Glenda Millard and Patricia Mullins

Sam Tully dares to ride the midnight horse, Lightning Jack—a stockman’s horse, a flying horse, a daring horse, a dancing horse. On the back of such a horse, magnificent feats are accomplished.

This tale is a modern-day bush ballad. The rhythm of the words keep the story moving along, like the galloping horse and—along with the poetic language—this makes Lightning Jack a fantastic book for reading out loud.

The illustrations feature the colours and scenes of the outback and capture the adventurous spirit of horse and rider. (The imprint page states that the illustrations are ‘created entirely from paper, meticulously blending coloured tissue, Japanese and Indian papers.’ Perhaps you could have a go at creating your own outback scene using torn papers.)

Like many good bush ballads, this tale has an unexpected ending. A great Australian picture book—add this one to your ‘must read’ list!

© March 2012 “Review of Lightning Jack by Glenda Millard & Patricia Mullins” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)