Book reviews by Rebecca, Indigenous Literacy Day

Good books: Barlay! by Cheryl Kickett-Tucker

This is a new title in the Waarda series (Waarda is Noongar for talking and sharing stories and information).

"Barlay! by Cheryl Kickett-Tucker"Barlay! is an early chapter book (it’s only 45 pages, you’ll finish it in no time!). It starts with Nan telling Sarah, Jay and Rene a story about the woordatj.

‘One of his jobs is to make sure children behave themselves and listen to the wise things their Elders tell them. If you don’t … ’

Jay and Rene think it’s just a fairy tale. But when they go on a family outing to Rocky Pool, they’re suddenly not so sure. Could Nan’s story about the woordatj be true?

Barlay! has short chapters and the story zips along. There are black and white illustrations by Tracey Gibbs scattered through the book and it’s fun to learn some Indigenous words like koolbardi (magpie) and “Barlay!” (“Look out!”). At the back of the book, there’s some information about the author and a map showing you where Noongar country is.

This is the sixth book in the Waarda series, so if you like this one, you’ll want to read the other five, too!

(See a photo of the author, Cheryl Kickett-Tucker, reading a chapter of Barlay! to students on Indigenous Literacy Day when her book was launched)

~ Rebecca Newman, Editor, Alphabet Soup

Book reviews by Rebecca

Good books: Kumiko and the Dragon by Briony Stewart

Kumiko and the Dragon, by Briony Stewart, University of Queensland Press, ISBN 9798 0 7022 3619 8

Kumiko is afraid of going to bed. She is afraid because of the dragon who waits outside her bedroom window every night. One day, she decides to write the dragon a letter asking him to go away. But even this doesn’t make her feel braver.

She says:

“And when I am supposed to be doing my schoolwork all that fills my head is: Oh I am to be eaten for sure!

What happens to Kumiko next is thrilling—in one night she learns a great deal more about dragons, her family, and being brave. Will the dragon eat her, or is this the beginning of a great adventure?

This book was an exciting read, and I loved Briony Stewart’s illustrations scattered throughout the chapters.

If you like stories about dragons and courage and magic, you will love Kumiko and the Dragon. (There will be a second book in the series—Kumiko and the Dragon’s Secret, out in August 2010. I can’t wait to read that, too!)

Review by Rebecca Newman, Editor, Alphabet Soup

Rebecca borrowed this book from her local library. Ask if they have it at yours, too!
Book reviews by Rebecca, poetry, teachers' resources

Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids

Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids cover

This book is so much fun! The Editor, Jim Haynes, has collected over SIX HUNDRED poems in it, including a mix of old favourites (see if your parents and grandparents know them!) and more modern verse including games and chants, limericks, nonsense verse, poems about animals and birds, gross and gruesome poems … and more!

Here are a few of our favourites (but with over 600 poems, there are many more to choose from):

Fancy Dress (Anonymous)

There once was a fellow named Paul
Who went to a fancy dress ball.
He thought he would risk it
And go as a biscuit,
And a dog ate him up in the hall.

The Drovers by CJ Dennis

Out across the spinifex, out across the sand,
Out across the saltbush to Never Never land
That’s the way the drovers go, jogging down the track,
That’s the way the drovers go. But how do they come back?
Back across the saltbush from Never Never land.
Back across the spinifex, back across the sand.

Why? (Anonymous)

Why does a clock face not have a nose?
Why do foothills not have toes?
Do all-day laundries close at night?
Will the teeth on a garden rake ever bite?
Why can’t a needle wink its eye?
Why can’t the wings of a building fly?
What is the sound of a gum tree’s bark?
Can you leave your car in a national park?

I’m pretending not to notice the poem by Hilaire Belloc on page 334 called ‘Rebecca (Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably)’. Do you know it?

Tell us your favourite poem, and we can celebrate [Inter]national Poetry Month together!

~ Rebecca, Editor, Alphabet Soup magazine

Big Book of Verse for Aussie Kids, edited by Jim Haynes, Allen & Unwin, 2009

Our review copy was sent to us by Allen & Unwin
Book reviews by Rebecca

The Battle for Rondo by Emily Rodda

The evil Blue Queen’s power seems to be growing and Leo and Mimi Langlander return to the world of Rondo for the last time to join with their Rondo friends to try to stop her. They come up with a plan to defeat the queen, but it’s risky. And they have to face dragons, ogres and numerous other evil inhabitants as they prepare. Can they save Rondo, or will the Blue Queen triumph and have Rondo under her spell forever?

This is the third book in the Rondo series and full of thrilling adventures. Mimi and Leo have changed a lot since The Key to Rondo (when they first entered Rondo) and seem more accepting of their roles in the survival of Rondo. You really want their plans to work, but even heroes are frightened, tired, and make bad decisions sometimes …

You don’t have to read the first two books to enjoy this one, but the first two are also fantastic – so I recommend starting back at the beginning with The Key to Rondo, and then read The Wizard of Rondo before moving onto this book. And you’ve got school holidays ahead of you, so you’ll have heaps of time to read!

The Battle for Rondo, by Emily Rodda, Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia, ISBN 9781862918306
A review copy of The Battle for Rondo was sent to us by Omnibus Books (for Scholastic Australia)
Book reviews by Rebecca, Christmas, teachers' resources

The Sugar-Plum Christmas Book

Visit your local library and find this book in the lead-up to Christmas. Elsewhere on Soup Blog I have talked about Pancakes and Painted Eggs (a book for Easter), and Haunts and Taunts (for Hallowe’en). This is another book for Aussie kids put together by Jean Chapman.

It’s an old book – I first read it when I was in primary school. But sometimes the old books are the best! (And the old editors too *cough cough*)

Here’s a taste of what you will find inside The Sugar-Plum Christmas Book:

  • The Christmas story – the birth of Jesus.
  • What are Twelfth Night and Epiphany all about? And how does the nursery rhyme, Sing a Song of Sixpence fit into Christmas celebrations?
  • Stories retold, like The Nutcracker, and The Day After Christmas (the story behind the carol, ‘Good King Wenceslas’).
  • Christmas stories and traditions from other countries.
  • Traditional childhood Christmas games (and some non-Christmassy ones too – they’re all good fun!).
  • Craft activities (my favourites are making your own snowflakes, Christmas cards, bonbons (Christmas crackers), and walnut-shell boats.
  • Recipes and instructions so you can make your own Christmas party food like shortbread, a cold pudding that doesn’t need baking, and Christmas decorations that do need baking. (OK, so you don’t eat these Christmas decorations, but they add to the festivities!)
  • Traditional and modern rhymes, chants and songs for the Christmas season.

The sad news is that this book is out of print. But I have seen it in several public libraries, so ask your favourite librarian if there is a copy at your local library or whether they can get it in for you from another library. (Or perhaps if someone asks what you’d like for Christmas you could add this to your wishlist. I bought my copy secondhand, and it’s as good as a new book!)

The Sugar-Plum Christmas Book, (A book for Christmas and all the days of the year), by Jean Chapman. Illustrated by Deborah Niland. Song settings by Margaret Moore. Hodder and Stoughton (Australia) Pty Ltd. ISBN 0 340 22049 x

This book was selected for review from the Editor’s own collection.

Book reviews by Rebecca

Book review: The Hottest Boy Who Ever Lived, by Anna Fienberg and Kim Gamble

The first time Minton the salamander saw Hector, he was shooting out of a volcano! The Hottest Boy Who Ever Lived: coverHector is the hottest boy who ever lived.

Inside he burned like a bonfire.
When he sighed, the grass turned brown.

He lives near a volcano, with Minton for a pet. He eats mangoes and pineapples and there’s nobody to tell him when to go to bed! But he is very lonely.

One day there is a terrible storm and Hector and Minton are swept out to sea, still clinging to a tree. They drift until they arrive in a country of Vikings and freezing weather. The Vikings are afraid of Hector’s unusual heat (and red hair!), and start to blame him for the bad luck they have. Hector has to find a way to reach out to them so he can make a new home for himself.

The Hottest Boy Who Ever Lived is illustrated by Kim Gamble (Anna Fienberg and Kim Gamble work together on the Tashi books). The illustrations really help you to imagine how Hector feels as you read the story of his journey. (My favourite illustration is one of Hector holding a child who fell into the ice – you can see that he really cares, and just looking at it makes you feel warm!)

This is a good winter read!

The Hottest Boy Who Ever Lived, by Anna Fienberg, illustrated by Kim Gamble, Allen & Unwin, 2009 (first published 1993)

Our review copy was sent to us by Allen & Unwin
Book reviews by Rebecca

Book review: The Princess Plot, by Kirsten Boie

Will suit older readers (upper primary).The Princess Plot by Kirsten Boie

Jenna attends an audition to star as a princess in a movie (without her mother’s permission), and is amazed to be chosen for the role over her friends. Even more amazingly, Jenna’s normally strict mother gives permission for her to fly to Scandia for the movie shoot, where Jenna discovers her own resemblance to the Princess of Scandia, Malena. And Malena has gone missing …

This is an exciting mystery – you might find yourself staying up late to finish reading it! The story had unexpected twists  and is told from several different perspectives. Nothing will be the same for Jenna by the end of the book. If you like a story with royalty, a kidnapping, a chase, mistaken identities, and an everyday girl (turned heroine), then you’ll love The Princess Plot!

The Princess Plot, by Kirsten Boie, Chicken House, May 2009

Our review copy was sent to us by Chicken House
Book reviews by Rebecca

Book review: The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers

This is a graphic novel – it has no words and tells the story in a kind of comic-book The Hero of Little Street style.  It’s action-packed and fun to read!

The boy in the story (our future hero) is out for a walk and is surprised when a ball hits him on the head – and he kicks it into a fountain. The ball owners are a gang of bullies, and (not being pleased about the wet ball) they chase him, until he escapes by hiding in an art gallery. The boy wanders through the gallery until a dog in one of paintings comes to life and leads him into a famous painting by Vermeer.

Inside the painting, he finds he has gone back in time to 17th century Holland (in fact, to Little Street, in Delft). The dog runs off , and the boy has to rescue his doggy friend and avoid being caught himself. Delft is a dangerous place!

There’s a surprise ending to this story. The pictures are fun, there’s lots of action and you get to see what it would have been like to live in Holland back in the 17th century. (It involved a lot of fast running if you were a dog on the streets of Delft!)

This is the third adventure in the ‘Boy Bear’ series but you don’t need to read the others to enjoy this book. (You might want to read them though! Look for The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard, and Midsummer Knight.)


The Hero of Little Street, by Gregory Rogers, Allen & Unwin, 2009

Our review copy was sent to us by Allen & Unwin
Book reviews by Rebecca

Book review: How to Write Stories by Celia Warren

Do you want to write your own stories but you need a bit of help to get How to Write Stories coverstarted? Or perhaps you want some tips to make your stories even better. How to Write Stories is a very helpful guide for any story writer!

Make sure your story has an attention-grabbing beginning, an entertaining middle and a satisfying ending (so your readers want to read right to the end). There’s also information about what sort of story to write (the ‘genre’), how to gather ideas for your stories, and tips about the setting and characters.

Have you ever had writer’s block? I really liked the use of a ‘never-never’ list to start your creative ideas flowing again – like ‘Never go through the green gate’ and ‘Never touch the red button.’ You decide what happens if someone does what they should never never do, and you’re sure to be off and writing again!

At the back of the book you’ll find a glossary where you can look up any ‘writer’s’ words you might not know.

How to Write Stories is one book in a set of ‘How to … ‘ writing-themed books. Other books in the series include How to Write Letters & Emails, How to Write Reports and How to Write Poems.

We found How to Write Stories at our local library – ask for it at your closest library or school library. Then get writing, and enter our current competition, or send your story to us and it might be published in Alphabet Soup magazine!

How to Write Stories by Celia Warren, QED Publishing, London, ISBN 978 1 84538 740 2

This book was selected for review from the Editor’s own collection.
Book reviews by Rebecca

Pancakes and Painted Eggs (Jean Chapman)

Pancakes and Painted Eggs
Pancakes and Painted Eggs

This book is an old favourite of mine. It may not be in print now (correct me if I’m wrong, and I’d love to be wrong), but still seems to be available from many libraries and you could try finding second-hand copies through Amazon (or perhaps ebay).

Pancakes and Painted Eggs is a book for Lent and the Easter Season. It has stories, poems, songs (even sheet music, arranged by Margaret Moore), explanations of customs and festivals from a variety of cultures, recipes, craft activities, and fun illustrations by Kilmeny Niland. There’s something for everyone!

So get yourself down to your local library!

This book was selected for review from the Editor’s own collection.