Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Hannah, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Cryptosight

Cryptosight by Nean McKenzieREVIEWED BY HANNAH, 13, QLD

Cryptosight by Nean McKenzie, MidnightSun Publishing, ISBN 9781925227536

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

Cryptosight’, by Nean McKenzie is a wonder-filled adventure that will keep you hooked until the very end. It captures you into a world unlike any other, a world of magical creatures and escapades.

The story starts right in the action where we meet our loveable main characters. Rafferty Kaminski is 13 years old and believes in facts. Unlike his Cryptozoologist father Max, who searches for creatures not proven to exist? Raff’s younger sister Zara is stubborn and determined, aspiring to be a Crypto zoologist, willing to follow in her father’s footsteps.

When Raff’s father decides to take them on a trip to the Flinders Ranges hoping to assist them in their ‘Crypto zoology training’ he disappears and strange things start happening to Raff and his sister Zara. They learn that their father belongs to a secret organisation and that he is in great danger. Raff is reluctantly drawn into the weird world of Cryptozoology as he and Zara follow ‘sightings’ of mysterious creatures around country Victoria. Will they find their father?

Nean McKenzie has outdone herself with this enthralling novel that draws you in with every word. The book moves at a good pace which is perfect for readers of all levels. This book has so many little details and it is so interesting to see the story develop, it almost feels like you are on a detective case yourself. The story really captivates you, making you feel like you are in a whole other world.

I would recommend this book to ages 10-13. Overall a really fantastic read and great for the upcoming holiday reading!

Hannah is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read all her reviews hereIf YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, St Thomas' Primary School

Book review: Cicada

Cicada by Shaun TanREVIEWED BY ADITI, YEAR 6, WA

Cicada by Shaun Tan, Hachette Australia,
ISBN 9780734418630

Aditi reviewed her own copy of this book.

Cicada is a picture book written by Shaun Tan, an Australian author. It is not a very long book, and it has about 30 pages in it. I think the reason we chose this book to read in class is because it is both fanciful and realistic, and you can make connections to the reality that jumps up unexpectedly in our faces every day.

Cicada works in an office. The colours are bland and grey, similar to the other books Shaun Tan has written. The only colours are Cicada’s head and a small green leaf that Cicada eats in the office wall space. He’s isolated and is forced to be controlled by his boss. This setting is important because it shows how quiet and boring the workplace is for Cicada. But, at the end of the book, one page is drowned in vibrant colours to show the effervescence Cicada is feeling when he joins forces with his own kind. Cicada says, “can’t stop laughing.” (Cicada, Shaun Tan.)

The main character, who is also the protagonist, is Cicada. Cicada doesn’t have a name, and is constantly treated terribly by his work colleagues. For example, Cicada says “Human coworker no like Cicada. Say things, do things. Think Cicada stupid.” (Cicada, Shaun Tan) Cicada does not have much self-confidence at the start of the book, and he is just submitting to the loneliness of the workplace. But at the end of the book he starts to gain the control and the courage to leave and escape to the colourful place on the last page, where he meets other cicadas and finally belongs.

The antagonist, on the other hand is more than one person, like in The Lost Thing. In Cicada, the people Cicada work with are the antagonist. They are the reason Cicada feels miserable and he is not moving forward. For example, Cicada says, “17 year. No promotion. Human resources say Cicada not human.” (Cicada, Shaun Tan) And in the book, one of the pictures shows when someone is stepping on Cicada. You cannot see any human’s face in the pictures every time there is a picture of a human. You can only see Cicada. When Cicada left, they will probably never think of him. But Cicada will remember them, even when they’ve been completely awful.

The main conflict of this story is Cicada vs solitude. Cicada is just letting his coworkers control him, because Cicada does not have much self confidence. But Cicada knows he has to find courage if he wants to escape. So when he finally does find that courage, he retires, ready to step into the outside world. Cicada says, “time to say goodbye.” (Cicada, Shaun Tan) But he does not mean saying goodbye to the world, he is staying goodbye to the loneliness and blandness of the workplace.

Cicada has many themes. Such as submission to control (giving in to someone controlling you), resistance to control (not letting someone control you), solitude and loneliness, differences and prejudice. The message of this story is that you should always have patience and wait, because there is something better on the opposite side of the solitude you are facing. For example, Aditi says, “stick to your pride, because there is always something better on the other side.” (‘Work and Pride’, poem by Aditi). And if there is a chance that there is something worth waiting on, take those odds.

I would rate Cicada 4.5 stars because it is very relatable and is not too fanciful, yet it does have a twist of fiction and fantasy. I think the audience towards this book is years 3 and upwards. Even though this book is a picture book, the mood is rather dark, so I wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers. In conclusion, Cicada is a great book with many memorable themes and pictures.

This is Aditi’s second review for Alphabet Soup. You can read earlier work by St Thomas’ Primary students here. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Little Wave

The Little Wave by Pip Harry


The Little Wave by Pip Harry, UQP,
ISBN 9780702260476

Kobe received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

This story is about three very different friends: Noah, Lottie and Jack meet in a beach visit.

NOAH is  fearless in the surf. So where does his courage go when his best mate pushes him around? You’ll have to read the fabulous book to find out.

LOTTIE loves to explore and collect facts about bugs, but she doesn’t know what to do about her dad filling her lonely house with junk.

JACK wishes to be a cricket star, but how does he improve on school if he is to see the ocean for the first time? Does he improve? Well, if you wanted to know, the next paragraph tells you the answer.

The author leaves a message that you should always remember which is falling down doesn’t mean you never get up. Well she is totally right because you can read what Jack did to prove it. This book is the right book to buy if you want to learn something or teach someone. So that’s why I really recommend for you to buy this book!

PIP HARRY is the author of young adult novels I’ll Tell You Mine, Head of the River and Because of You, which was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards; the Children’s Book Council of Australia — Book of the Year, Older Readers; and the Queensland Literary Awards. She currently lives and writes in Singapore.

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

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, St Thomas' Primary School

Book review: Catch a Falling Star

Image: Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlay

Students from St Thomas’ Primary (WA) recently read Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlay. We are very pleased to share a book report by one of the students, and a selection of other students’ comments.

Catch a Falling Star by
Meg McKinlay,
Walker Books Australia
ISBN 9781925381207

Students reviewed their own copies of this book. 

Over to you, St Thomas’ Primary!

After I read the book, I felt really happy and relieved, it made me feel comforted, but in the middle of the book I felt excitement because there was lots of adventure. I think one of the morals of the story is that your family will always be there for you and even if someone has passed away they will always be there by your side when you are struggling, because it says, ‘It’s cloudy tonight when we go up the hill, the three of us. The four of us, in a way’. (p.234).
– Genevieve

Overall Catch a Falling Star is a great book for readers 10 years and above. It focuses around family, friends, discovery and coming of age. It has themes such as astronomy and space. I believe that this is a must read book.
– Annabel

It is a heart warming and good read for people who like sad, heart warming and confusing books. I really enjoyed reading and experiencing the book. It is a twisty and turning book that people who like adventure would enjoy. Overall, I really liked the book and wish there could be more books like this in the future!
– Ruby

Most of the time when I am reading, I lose myself and imagine that I am Frankie and with the use of a variety of words I start to feel the emotions that the characters are experiencing, and I forget that it is just a fictional story. The dialogue that Frankie uses is faultlessly executed in this book.
– Poppy

The story seems real, and really relatable. The reason why this is true is because this story is based off a historical event. People can relate to this story because if we lose someone we love, some people don’t really like the flashbacks that they keep having, like Frankie. For example, Frankie says, ‘Memories. I don’t say it, but sometimes they seem like the most dangerous thing of all.’  In this story, the theme is that you need to know when to hold on and when to let go when the time is right. And there are other themes and messages as well that are worth taking to heart.
– Aditi

Frankie is a bright person with an amazing future she has a special connection with a space station and her father. She gets constant flash backs about her father and Skylab, but when something happens it’s emotional for Frankie’s family. Overall I give this book 3.5 stars, it was a complex story that showed many sides of a protagonist.
– Lucas

From this novel you can learn what it was like for people during the tragedy of NASA’s SkyLab. You could also learn what it’s like to lose your father at such a young age. You could maybe fall for Frankie and learn what it is like to go home to your best friend’s house every day after school. Finally, you could learn how to deal with your brainiac brother.
– Aidan

Image: Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlayBook report by Isabel:

Catch a Falling Star is award winning author Meg McKinlay’s most recent book to hit the shelves. It is her latest junior fiction novel since A Single Stone in 2015. The main character is an observant twelve-year-old girl named Frankie. After losing her dad she becomes less and less like the bright and bubbly girl she was beforehand and makes it her mission to recover the person she was and the ambitions she had before the tragedy that turned her world upside down.

Frankie lives with her little brother Newt and her extremely busy mum in the country part of a remote town on the south coast of Western Australia. She knows her mum doesn’t want to work late, but the thing is that Frankie feels like she is way down the list of her mum’s priorities.

It’s just another usual afternoon at her school when one of her classmates Jeremy explains to the class that America’s first space station, Skylab, is falling.
“Skylab. It’s a massive satellite or something. It was supposed to stay up in space but there was some kind of problem.” (Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlay pg. 10)
Frankie’s head starts to catapult back to a night several years ago, one that she remembers particularly faintly, but it’s enough. It’s enough to make her ask questions, remember even more moments and discover things she never knew could even be remotely possible.

Throughout the novel she starts to uncover secrets, things she never even knew about her own self. It all gets too much when her brother Newt starts acting strange. “There’s no way Newt could think that, not even for a second.” (Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlay pg. 173.) Because Frankie couldn’t bear to lose her beloved brother after everything she’s been through, she becomes determined to figure out what he’s up to before anything worse happens.

I would recommend this book for 10-15 year olds. The book would still be suitable for younger ages but older children would get more out of this novel because they would be able to understand the hidden meanings and morals in the story. If you enjoy books by Michael Morpurgo or Jacqueline Wilson then this would be a valuable read for you, as all three authors write their books in similar styles.

This book is written in First Person which is why we are able to find out so much about Frankie and how she’s thinking and feeling throughout the book. Something that makes this novel unique is that there is a very balanced mixture of facts and fiction. The author carefully studied documentaries, newspapers and other historical documents to find out reliable information about Skylab that she could include when writing the novel. She also used her personal experiences as inspiration, and with the combination of Meg McKinlay’s imagination, this book makes for a truly magical read.

I believe that everyone can learn something from this novel. The two main messages in the story are: ‘the bad times don’t last forever’ and ‘you don’t always have to see the stars. Sometimes it’s enough to know that they’re there.’ (Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlay pg. 236) Frankie learns that she shouldn’t be afraid to share her emotions with others and that once you do, everything can take a turn for the better. ‘Now we’re two people hugging doing all of those things and I’m crying so hard I wonder if I’ll ever be able to stop but at the same time, I feel better than I have in forever.’ (Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlay pg. 219.) The book teaches us several important lessons that can help us improve how we live our lives. The morals in the book are ones that everyone can relate to, even if you haven’t been through what Frankie has.

Catch a Falling Star is a magnificent novel that pre-teens and teenagers can enjoy. Personally, I’d give the book five stars because the mixture of factual and fictional information was something that I’d never seen before. Plus, the storyline and plot were cleverly thought out and it was clear that the author had put lots of effort into the construction of this book. Because of the amount of awards Meg McKinlay’s other novels had won, I was hoping Catch a Falling Star would live up to its expectations and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

You can read earlier work by St Thomas’ Primary students here. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Albie, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Wombat, Mudlark & Other Stories

Wombat, Mudlark and Other Stories by Helen MilroyREVIEWED BY ALBIE, 7, NSW

Wombat, Mudlark & Other Stories by Helen Milroy, Fremantle Press,
ISBN 9781925815818

Albie received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

The video below is approximately four minutes long. A text version of this book review is also provided if you scroll to the end of this post.

Albie (age 7) reviews Wombat Mudlark book, May 2019

Text version:

Hello, my name is Albie May and this is my review of Wombat, Mudlark & Other Stories by Helen Milroy.

This is my favourite line from the book – and by the way Helen Milroy is an Aboriginal Australian woman who works at the university in Perth and did study Medicine in university when she was in university and this is her first children’s book. This is my favourite line, as I said:

‘From fallen star to a lonely whale, from an entertaining lizard to an enterprising penguin, these stories are full of wonderful adventure and enduring friendships.’

Talking about illustrators – the illustrations in this book are wonderful. They help to create the whole book and I’m very … impressed with them.

My favourite story is ‘Gecko and Big Rock’ because it is a really lovely story about a really brave gecko that has a lot of friends, including Big Rock, and he has a lot of kindness and generosity in his heart.

I would like to show you this picture of Gecko [holds up book to show a black and white illustration of Gecko]. I think I’ll tell you a bit about the story. He … Gecko … is a really advention [adventurous] type and loves to tell stories about his adventures when he comes back, and all the other animals are getting kind of sick of it. So … and then the cold weather comes and they get frostbite on their toes when they’re walking outside and they have an idea to build a giant pile of rocks to pierce the clouds and someone … and Gecko … goes to collect the rocks and when he’s collected enough rocks, he goes back, climbs the gigantic mountain of rock, catches hold of the sky, pulls it down, and saves everybody from the extreme coldness.

And thank you for watching my book review of Wombat, Mudlark & Other Stories. Thank you.

Read a sample chapter from the publisher.

This is Albie’s second book review for Alphabet Soup. You can read her earlier review here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines.

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Hannah, Book reviews by kids

Book review: SICK BAY


Sick Bay by Nova WeetmanREVIEWED BY HANNAH, 12, QLD

Sick Bay by Nova Weetman, UQP,
ISBN 9780702260322

Hannah received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Meg uses the Sick Bay to hide from other kids. New girl Riley is a type 1 diabetic with an over-protective mother. They think they’ve worked each other out, but what if they’ve got it all wrong?

Sick Bay by Nova Weetman enfolds you into the world of Meg and Riley who are both working out and living through their own issues and yet somehow they are helping each other out even more.

Riley runs with the ‘popular’ clique. She’s well respected, praised even, although her peers don’t understand her diabetes. Her friends think that it’s something that they can just wish away or make fit into their life. Her mother is manic and controlling. Riley just wishes that she could be a normal teenager with a normal body, a normal mother and a normal life.

Meg is completely different. Her current best friend is a tattered, brown, paper bag that she keeps in her front pocket. She hides in sick bay to avoid other kids and PE. Her father died six months ago and ever since this tragic event, her life has changed dramatically. Meg wears slippers to school and begs for food from the office lady Sarah. There is a rumour going around about how poor she is.

They both meet in sick bay one day, and are oblivious as to how much their lives are going to change as a result.

Nova Weetman has kept the action moving and exciting while still managing to keep the storyline relaxing. She executed the emotions of the characters beautifully and I found myself siding with them and feeling their sorrow as well as their excitement.

I would recommend this book to ages 10 to 14. If you enjoyed The Endsister by Penni Russon or Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham, you are sure to love this one as well!

Hannah is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read all her reviews hereIf YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Hannah, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Annabel, Again


Annabel, Again by Meg McKinlayAnnabel, Again by Meg McKinlay, Walker Books Australia, ISBN 9781925381542

Hannah received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

‘Seven bags of pistachio nuts, twenty packets of flower bulbs, and every single book in the house, all 782.5 of them, in alphabetical order is what it takes.’

After her best friend Annabel moves to Queensland permanently Olivia sets off on a mission to ‘forget’ her. That is until she walks right back into class like it never happened after just one year. It’s Annabel, again, but this time … it’s a whole lot different!

Meg McKinlay, author of the award-winning A Single Stone, initially wrote this story in 2003. She believes that ‘language reflects the world’ so she made changes to address the advancement of technology over the years. Meg only wanted readers to focus on the heart of the story.

The book is written from the perspective of Olivia, showing her frustration over her once-best-friend Annabel, returning but now getting close to her once-enemy-Summer. This novel took quite a while to progress into the action. I felt myself neglecting to read it until I had reached the real core of the events, then I couldn’t put it down! I read most of the book in only one night (a new record for me!). I absolutely loved the way the emotions of Olivia were portrayed. I actually found myself feeling the energy of jealousy and resentment in favour of the main character. I wanted to jump into the book, be in the action, stand alongside the characters and resolve the conflict myself.

The whole storyline really is about such a simple yet understated aspect of life. As a tween, this type of thing isn’t new to me. People talking behind other’s backs, excluding friends and hating on people are all regular occurrences. To read about exactly this was quite thrilling and definitely entertaining!

I would recommend this book mostly to children aged 10 to 13 who like a quick read. It would also be great for holiday reading – which is coming up very soon!

Get excited for this new release of Annabel, Again.

Hannah is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read all her reviews hereIf YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!