Posted in Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Mel and Shell

REVIEWED BY KATE, 11, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

The image shows the cover of a children's novel: Mel and Shell by Julia Lawrinson. The cover has a 70s vibe. In the centre of the book are two girls with the backs to the viewer. They are both wearing jeans and bright coloured tshirts, one has long blonde hair and one has shoulder-length brown hair. They are dancing, with hands above their heads. The remaining ilustrations make an oval 'frame' around the girls. Crammed into these illustrations are orange and pink flowers, a pair of yellow roller skate boots, a grey horse, and a bike.

Mel and Shell by Julia Lawrinson, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781760990725

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

Mel and Shell is a book about friendship, laughter, friendship problems and of course ABBA. This book is set 40 years ago when the world was obsessed with the sensational band ABBA.

In this book Shell and her classmates are writing to a pen-pal from 1829 about their day, what they would be surprised about and what they would like. 

Another character in this book is Sharon the girl who can’t get enough of herself. She is a mean person but gets people to think that she is nice.

There were many surprises in this book but one of my favourites was that they went on school camp and Sharon forced Shell to push her and some boys out to an island and something happens to one of them.

The cover of this book is amazing and tells a lot, and I love the characters; Shell is just so outgoing, kind and funny and Mel is adventurous and nice. I recommend this book for kids aged 10 and up and for anyone who needs a good book to laugh.

I give this book 5 stars for the creativity and the good plot.

Read our interview with the author and read an excerpt from the book.


Iona Presentation College students are members of Alphabet Soup’s review team. This is Kate’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 by Joshua, Book reviews by kids

Book review: A Glasshouse of Stars

REVIEWED BY JOSHUA, 12, NSW

The image shows the cover of a children's book: A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr. The cover illustration shows a girl with black plaits and a green tunic shirt walking into a glasshouse that looks lit-up from inside and packed full of colourful and marvellous plants, flowers and trees. Above the glasshouse it appears to be night/a dark sky.

A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr, Penguin Australia, ISBN 9781760899547

Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.

‘The hardest part is over. You made it.’ 

You find yourself in a new country, in a big city, in a big house. It’s all new and scary. You, Meixing, have been told you need to go to school as well. Everything is strange to you – the language, the people, the culture and the school. This is Australia. 

Your home, Big Scary, is your friend and looks out for you. Big Scary keeps you safe and protected. Everything is ok.

But everything goes wrong when Ah Ma’s wedding ring, your grandma’s wedding ring, is lent to you for good luck at school. The problem is that your supposed friend tricks you and steals the ring. You don’t know how to get it back as you can’t speak the language fluently and your now ex-friend lies and says that her parents got it for her. Distraught, you go home.

What are you going to do? What other problems will you face?

Shirley Marr’s book, A Glasshouse of Stars, expresses big, strong emotions and feelings such as when Meixing loses someone close to her and is very torn apart. Later she finds the glasshouse’s secret and is exuberant upon her findings. Marr mixes Meixing’s imagination and brings it to life, causing the reader to visualise the scene before them. The way Marr uses second person helps the reader to understand and empathise with Meixing. 

As an avid reader, I really enjoyed reading this book and every time I see the coloured cover of the book, I am compelled to pick it up and fly back to Meixing’s world. This book is very creative through the metaphors and images that connect the story together. It is also relatable as I have also faced some of the problems Meixing met. I encourage you thoroughly to pick up this book and find yourself in the shoes of a migrant girl.

I loved this book deeply and rate it a well-deserved 5 out of 5. Come read this exceptional book!

Take a sneak peek at the first chapter of the book.

Read our earlier interview with the author.


Joshua is a regular contributor to Alphabet Soup. Read his earlier review of Eddie Woo, Superstar Maths Teacher here.  If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: A Tale of Witchcraft

REVIEWED BY STEPHANIE, 11, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

The image shows the cover of a children's fantasy novel: A Tale of Witchcraft. The title is at the top of the book. At the bottom are the words "Bestselling author of The Land of Stories, Chris Colfer". The cover is predominantly in purples. At the centre of the cover is a circle (reminiscent of a crystal ball) with a gothic-looking castle inside. Surrounding the ball are a white wolf, young witches walking into the distance wearing black cloaks with the hoods up, and a tangle of twisty tree branches. The overall effect is spooky.

A Tale of Witchcraft (A Tale of Magic: Book 2) by Chris Colfer, Hachette Children, ISBN 9780316523547

Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.

Brystal is the fairy godmother, with responsibilities stacked as high as the sky. She finds that everything is falling apart and her friendships are spiralling out of control. How will she protect herself from the righteous brotherhood and put her friendships together again?  

I don’t know how Brystal found the courage to keep going everyday, it was inspiring. Brystal taught me how to keep going even in the darkest times and to never give up no matter what the circumstances. This was the best fantasy book I have ever read, it was so engaging and each page was like its own story. I can’t wait to read the next book!

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone who loves a good page-turner, especially if you love to read fantasy. I hope that everyone is as inspired as I am by Brystal.


Stephanie is a member of Iona Presentation College’s student reviewers’ team. This is her second review for Alphabet Soup. You can read her review of Girl of The Southern Sea here. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Rory

Book review: Stellarphant

REVIEWED BY RORY, 9, WA

Stellarphant by James Foley, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781760990732

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

Stellarphant is an inspiring story to teach young children about persisting. Stella the elephant wants to become an astronaut but there are many things that hold her back such as she needs a spacesuit, a rocket, space education and crew!

It’s an ordinary Monday at 9am when suddenly an elephant bursts into Space Command asking to be an astronaut! Stella doesn’t understand when the recruiter says she can’t. Stella then sets to work trying to become an astronaut but along the way she faces many challenges. Once again, she asks the recruiter one more time to get his response …

My favourite part in Stellarphant is when Stella is determined to become an astronaut by working hard because if you work hard, you can get anything! Also, I liked the timeline at the end of the book listing all the animal things that have been into space. Did you know that in my birthyear (2011) a bobtail squid was sent into space! Also, the weirdest one I read was in 1989 fertilised chicken eggs were sent into space!

Overall, I’d rate Stellarphant ten out of ten because it’s inspiring, funny and reaching for the stars!

Take a sneak peek inside Stellarphant!

Read our interview with the author-illustrator, James Foley


Rory is a regular reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read more of his reviews here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Indi, Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: My Brother Ben

My Brother Ben by Peter Carnavas

REVIEWED BY INDI, 9, WA, IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE

My Brother Ben by Peter Carnavas, University of Queensland Press, ISBN 9780702263330

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

My Brother Ben is a timeless story of two brothers and a magpie.

Luke is a quiet boy who loves and is very knowledgeable about birds. Ben is starting high school, is adventurous, and both brothers share a dream about exploring Cabbage Tree Creek in a boat of their very own. When Ben starts sneaking out at night, Luke decides to follow him.

This book is a tale of brotherly love, birds and boats. I would recommend this beautiful book to 10 to 110-year-olds who enjoy a book about the bond of family and a tiny bit of mystery.

Read our interview with the author, Peter Carnavas.


Indi is a member of Iona Presentation College’s student reviewers’ team. Read her earlier review of The Wizard in My Shed. To send us YOUR own book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by kids

Book review: A Wind in the Door

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle

REVIEWED BY JON, 10, CALIFORNIA, USA

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle, St Martins Press, ISBN 9780312368548

Jon reviewed his own copy of this book.

This is an adventure-fantasy novel where a child named Charles Wallace is sick, because he is infected with the Echthroi, who are the antagonists of the book. The Echthroi are evil beings trying to erase creation. A teacher by the name of Blajeny comes to Meg and Calvin. Meg is the main character and Calvin is her best friend. The teacher says that Meg’s brother Charles Wallace is sick and that Meg, Calvin, and Progo will try to save him. The book has the adventure you would want to read because they travel to other dimensions.

I like adventure-fantasy novels. I enjoyed the book because the impossible was real. I liked that the book had no pictures so the reader can imagine the characters. I wonder if they will make a movie?

Kids who love adventure fantasy will love this book. 

Visit the publisher’s website to read an excerpt from A Wind in the Door


This is Jon’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Gabriel, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Boy Who Stepped Through Time

The Boy Who Stepped Through Time by Anna Ciddor

REVIEWED BY GABRIEL, 10, NSW

The Boy Who Stepped Through Time by Anna Ciddor, Allen and Unwin, ISBN 9781760526443

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

This fantastic book is about Perry, a boy who travels back through time to Ancient Rome. Perry learns many interesting things about the Romans such as they drizzle honey over all their meals. He learns to like different things and makes many friends. However, some of his new friends question where he came from. What should he answer? 

After a while, Perry wants to return to the modern days. But Perry knows something about his new Roman mistress and friend that she doesn’t know. He obtained this piece of knowledge from the future. Should he try to help her with the risk of never going back to his time? 

I rate this book nine out of ten because the author based it on actual facts to show how the lives of the Romans’ masters and their slaves’ lives played out. I like it a lot because there is good character development. Anna Ciddor also must have done a lot of research on Ancient Roman facts and buildings.

Read our interview with the author of The Boy Who Stepped Through Time.


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

Posted in Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Rory

Book review: Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus

REVIEWED BY RORY, 9, WA

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus by Steven Herrick, University of Queensland Press, ISBN 9780702263002

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus is a book written in different people’s points of view as well as it’s written in verse

which means the writing
is like a big poem
that goes for the entire book. 

It's like the writing above. 

 Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus is a book about eight kids and one teacher (and also a crossing guard, but he doesn’t ride his bike to school) who all love to ride their bikes to school, but each day when they ride to school the cars on the side of the road get closer and closer to the bike lane they all ride in. Can they all stop the cars getting closer in time or is it too late?

My favourite part in the book is when they decide to ride their bikes to school, rather than a car, because cars can pollute the environment.

My favourite character is actually all of them since they work together all the time! Overall, I’d recommend this book to anyone age 9+. I’d rate it nine out of ten, just because with 10 people it’s a bit hard to keep track of the characters!

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus is a funny and inspiring story that I strongly recommend.


Rory is a regular reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read more of his reviews here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Ayaan, Book reviews by kids

Book review: George’s Secret Key to the Universe

George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy and Stephen Hawking

REVIEWED BY AYAAN, 10, VIC

George’s Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy & Stephen Hawking, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 9781416985846

Ayaan reviewed his own copy of this book

George’s Secret Key to the Universe is the first of six books in the George’s Secret Key to the Universe series.

The series is written by Stephen Hawking and his daughter, Lucy Hawking. The first three books are written by both of them but then Stephen Hawking died. Lucy Hawking wrote the last three books in the series and used lots more of her father’s ideas.

The story features George who meets Annie and her father named Eric through a pig investigation. They have a supercomputer named Cosmos and he can open a portal that can take you anywhere in the universe. But before George can view or work with Cosmos, he has to take the Oath of the Scientist.

The next day, George goes to school and Eric’s enemy, Dr Reeper, tries to take Cosmos by leading Eric into a black hole. George goes to Annie and they track down Cosmos. But can they get to Eric in time?

I would rate this book five stars. It is action-packed and is full of amazing science facts. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves science, just like me!

Note about Stephen Hawking: He was a world-famous cosmologist and physicist who has written many famous books. He was diagnosed motor neurone disease when in his early 20s and was told that he would only live for a few more years but he lived until he was 75 through pure determination to live!    


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

Posted in Book reviews by Aashi, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre retold by Mary Sebag-Montefiore and illustrated by Alan Marks

REVIEWED BY AASHI, 7, VIC

Jane Eyre (Usborne Young Reading series), retold by Mary Sebag-Montefiore, illustrated by Alan Marks, Usborne, ISBN 9781409539643

Aashi reviewed her own copy of this book.

Jane Eyre is a classic book about love and friendship. The original book was written by Charlotte Bronte, who was a teacher who loved writing along with her siblings. When Charlotte Bronte died her house was turned into a museum.

She wrote Jane Eyre in 1847. The copy I read was written by Mary Sebag-Montefiore and illustrated by Alan Marks.

Like Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre was a teacher. She became a teacher after abandoning her supposed husband. Jane Eyre’s life flipped and wobbled as kind Jane moved around her home country and all this time she read lots of her favourite books.

Jane was an orphan who lived with her stubborn aunty and her mean cousin. Her aunty always punished her without a reason and not one hour was spent without punishments. One day Jane’s stubborn aunty sent her to a boarding school that made the pupils (students) shiver and whacked canes and rods on their necks and chests. Until one winter day most kids caught bad diseases and most kids in the school died.

This all sounds very sad but the book has a happy ending with lots of kindness. I would encourage reading this book as this gives a view of olden days.

I would rate this book 4 out of 5 stars as it is sometimes scary. I would recommend this book for 7-9 year olds. 


This is Aashi’s second book review for Alphabet Soup. Check out her earlier review of Tom Gates: Ten Tremendous Tales. To send us YOUR book review, read our submission guidelines. Happy reading!