Archive for the ‘National Year of Reading’ Category

Thank you to everyone who entered our picture book + CD giveaway.

We put all the names in a basket and drew the winner this morning. And the winner is … spog 777. We’ve emailed you, so please check your inbox and email us a postal address so we can post your prize!

Merry Christmas everyone! We’ll be back in 2013. (In the meantime, if you know any young writers or artists who would like work published in the kids’ work section of the magazine, you can download the guidelines from our website.)

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If you were about to write a mystery story, what would your first line be? Send us only the first line of your story—make it irresistible!

You can send us as many first lines as you like. You can write your first line(s) on the back of your entry form. An entry form may be printed from the website (see competition rules), photocopied, or contact us to have one emailed or posted to you. (If you send us an entry and a few days later you send us some more first lines, you will need to include another entry form to go with your extra lines. We get quite a few entries and we can’t always match up stray writings with their entry forms!)

Your entry can be handwritten or typed. Make a copy of your entry as we cannot return entries.

A $20 book voucher is awarded to the winner in three age categories: Under 7s, Under 9s, and Under 12s.

Find more writing and art comps on the Comps for Kids page.

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Today we have 7-year-old Lucinda stopping by as our guest reviewer. Welcome, Lucinda!

Sword Girl: The Secret of the Swords by Frances Watts, ill. Gregory Rogers, ISBN 9781742377285, Allen & Unwin

Reviewed by Lucinda, 7, WA

sword girl (cover)

The Secret of the Swords is a story with a lot of unexpected surprises. For example, lots of things talked. I really enjoyed it because it felt like I was in the story.

The book was about a little girl named Tommy who wanted to be a knight. My favourite character was Tommy because she liked knights and I do too. I really liked the ending because it has lots of action in it. Girls would like this book, but boys would too. People who are 7 or 8 would like this book. The part I didn’t like was the start because it had no action at all. I really liked the illustrations because the illustrations were full of action too!
"Undercover Readers Club logo"* Lucinda is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. (Download information about the club on the magazine’s website.) A review copy of Sword Girl: The Secret of the Swords was provided by Allen & Unwin.

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Welcome to Sophie, who is a member of our Undercover Readers Club and our guest reviewer today!

Ghost Club: The Haunted School by Deborah Abela, ISBN 9781742750835, Random House Australia

Reviewed by Sophie, 10, WA

Ghost Club: The Haunted School (cover)

Ghost Club: The Haunted School is a ghost story where you never know what will come around the corner. This is one of the few stories that will get you down on your knees pleading for more. If you were to read this, you will come to accept that people make some big mistakes in life, some so big you can never make up for them.

I love this book. I might have read more complicated books, but this one is right up there on my list of fabulous books. It does not go on for so long that you find yourself asking mum if you can tidy up the whole house. I love this book because it has a ghostly theme, it explains the characters’ emotions and it gives you a real picture of what the characters look like.

This book does not have illustrations. It does not need them. It tells the story extremely well without them. I personally think that a book with illustrations spoils your imagination as you don’t give yourself a picture of what YOU think that particular character looks like.

I think that this wonderful book would suit both girls and boys. Ghosts are not just for boys!

This would suit anyone between ages 5 and 100! (I am 100 minus 90!)

"Undercover Readers Club logo"* Sophie is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. (Download information about the club on the magazine’s website.) A review copy of Ghost Club: The Haunted School was provided by Random House Australia.

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Mark WilsonIn every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine, you’ll meet an Australian writer or illustrator. In the summer issue we talk to Mark Wilson who is an author AND an illustrator. It’s hard to fit the whole conversation in the magazine, so we’ve posted the whole interview here on the blog. Read on!

Where do you live?

I live in Frankston with Ros, my wife and our two dogs—Toby and Couta. (Silky terrier and a Shitsu Cross.) We have 7 fish in our pond, and lots of native birds visit as well. We live near the beach where I go for long walks when I get the chance.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I have so many stories in my head! At the moment, I am obsessed with trying to save sea turtles and whales, and will be doing that forever. All are endangered thanks to plastic bags and coastal developments, amongst many other things. Also anything about Australian history inspires me. The explorers and pioneers were so brave and determined to do what they did!

An idea can come from a photograph, an article in a newspaper, or something someone said. I write everything down and then it might pop up as a part of a story

Stranded (cover)

How did you come to be a writer and illustrator?

All I ever wanted to be was an artist, or a fighter pilot or an architect. I was terrible at maths, so the last two were out! I loved telling stories in pictures when I was little, and still do. Always loved just drawing things!

Was it easy to get your first book published?

It was very good luck! I had a weird collection of surrealistic black and white drawings and applied for an illustrator’s job on Pursuit Magazine in Melbourne. I got it—my first illustrations were pretty strange too!

Does the story influence your choice of materials?

Never. I use everything from a pencil to house paint, including derwents, ink sand, dirt, feathers etc. Lots of pencil drawing go straight into my books.

When you are creating your own books, which comes first—the artwork or the story text?

Usually the pictures, then I make up a story around them. Lately I have been writing stories first, which is strange for me. An idea can also come from a photograph, an article in a newspaper, or something someone said. I write everything down and then it might pop up as a part of a story.

A Day to Remember (cover)When you are illustrating a book written by someone else, do you discuss the story and illustrations with them?

Always. I love to hear an author’s ideas and they often see things that I wouldn’t see. Gary Crew was great for illustration ideas, and Jackie French had some wonderful ideas for A Day to Remember, and I used them in the illustrations too!

Are you working on a book at the moment? 

Angel of Kokoda (cover)I am working on a book about the Vietnam War that is the 3rd book in the Children in War Trilogy. (The other books in the series are My Mother’s Eyes and Angel of Kokoda). It will be out early next year. There is also a new Ben and Gracie’s Art Adventure book underway!

Do you have any advice for young writers and artists?

Write everything down. Keep a journal and make notes for your stories in it.

Observations, quotes, discussions, interesting things—write them all down.

Writing takes practise, so keep writing; stories, poems, song lyrics, anything and everything. Talk to your grandma and grandpa—discover the stories in your own family, there are so many!

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I love singing in my blues band, playing drums and reading books about the Romans, Vikings and history in general.

Is your writing influenced by any writers in particular?

The Australian Impressionist painters Frederick McCubbin and Arthur Streeton are my favoutites. I am also inspired by the French Impressionist Monet, and Australian Illustrators Robert Ingpen and Shaun Tan. You can tell I’m a bit of a melting pot, but the Australian Impressionists painters mainly. I particularly love children’s paintings. They use really fresh colours and simple shapes. I am trying to get back to doing that myself!

Ben and Gracie's Art Adventure (cover)

Check out Mark Wilson’s website to learn more about him and his books.

© November 2012 “Interview with Mark Wilson” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)

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Here’s the cover of issue 17, featuring the artwork of 11-year-old Clarissa, winner of our 2012 Design-a-cover comp. Packing it into envelopes has really put us in a holiday mood!

issue 17 (cover)

What will you find inside this issue?

Look out for your copy in the mail this week. (Or subscribe now – Alphabet Soup is the perfect Christmas gift for young writers and keen readers!)

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This week we are pleased to be featuring book reviews from students at Duncraig Primary School* in WA. Welcome to today’s guest reviewer, Zak.

Then by Morris Gleitzman, ISBN 9780670072781, Viking (Penguin Australia)

Reviewed by Zak, 10, WA

then (cover)

This type of historical fiction fascinates me. I love to learn about Nazi times.

A boy and a girl named Felix and Zelda have to get away from Nazis and they find a German woman, her name is Genia. She looks after Felix and Zelda who are Jewish and keeps them safe from the Nazis.

My favourite part of the book is when Felix goes into a Nazi camp with a boy named Dove he met through Genia, and together they blow up the Nazis.

I enjoyed this book because it draws you in from the start and it is about war and action and is awesomely cool. There is nothing I don’t like about it. This book would be suited for both boys and girls if they’re into war books and that sort of stuff. All of my friends read this book and said I should read it, so I did and now it’s my favourite book. There is more to the series—Once, Then, and Now. I have read Once and Then but I haven’t read Now yet. I can’t wait to start to read it. I would recommend this book for 9 years old and up.

This book was also an honour book in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards.

"Undercover Readers Club logo"* Duncraig Primary is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. (Download information about the club on the magazine’s website.) Zak reviewed his own copy of Then.

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