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!

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!

Book reviews by kids, St Thomas' Primary School

Book reviews: Fabish the horse that braved a bushfire

Today we have some excellent book reviews from the well-read year 2 students at St Thomas’ Primary School (Claremont, WA.) The class received a review copy of this picture book from the publishers.


Fabish the horse that braved a bushfire

Fabish the horse that braved a bushfire by Neridah McMullin, ill. Andrew McLean, Allen and Unwin, ISBN 9781925266863

We like all the characters — Fabish (the horse), seven yearlings, the horse trainer and the race horses.

The story is about a horse who saves seven yearlings from a bushfire and about a farmer who was afraid the horses would die. Fabish the horse that braved a bush fire is a true story.

We definitely enjoyed the book. It was an exciting story that scared us and made us happy. We recommend this book to people who are interested in bushfires and adventures and horses. For all ages.


This book is about a horse who saved the young horses from a bushfire. The wildfire reached the farm and the trainer told Fabrish to take the boys away from the bushfire. After the bushfire the farmer saw a rusty ute and drove off to the hill farm. Then the trainer heard rhythmic footsteps  and saw Fabish with the seven yearlings. The trainer and Fabish are the main characters. We liked the characters because Fabrish braved a bushfire and the trainer kept keeping his horses safe from the bushfire.


The characters were Fabish the horse, seven yearlings and the horse trainer. Fabish made us feel excited and brave, and we liked him because he saved the other horses. The trainer made us feel puffed out because he did so much work.

The book was about a bushfire on a farm that burned everything and a horse called Fabish (who saved seven yearlings by leading them away from the fire). The trainer went looking for Fabish after the fire and was very happy to find him with the seven yearlings. The book was fun to read, but it was a bit scary as well.

We liked the book because it was interesting and exciting and it was a true story. Our favourite parts were the bushfire and when Fabish and the yearlings came back. We learnt that you can die in a bushfire and that you should never go close to a bushfire.

We would recommend this book to Year 1 — Year 6 age students because it was a good adventure and had a good illustrator. The story also had lots of descriptive words, which we liked. We think people who like bushfires and horses would really enjoy this book a lot.


This story was a true story, because that was written in the blurb. The main characters are the farmer and Fabish the brave horse.

Fabish was our favourite character because he was brave and had a lovely heart and was beautiful-looking. He was a very smart horse because he led all the yearlings away from the bushfire.

The story starts off on a farm for race horses. Fabish was in charge of all the yearlings. Suddenly he was forced to lead the yearlings to safety because there was a frightening bushfire. The farmer stayed behind to protect the horses that were still in the stable.

We enjoyed the story because the author used interesting words! Neridah McMullin described the bushfire with good adjectives to show what it would feel like to be stuck in a bushfire.


This book is about a horse called Fabish and other horses caught in a bushfire.

There are two main characters in this story — Fabish and the farmer. Fabish is a big white horse. He is the farmer’s favourite horse and he is very brave. The farmer loved Fabish and he was a good farmer who looked after lots of horses. He trained the horses to race. He worried about Fabish.

It was very hot and a bushfire started. The trainer opened the gate and told Fabish to save the seven yearlings. Fabish ran off and the trainer was worried that he had been killed in the fire.

We liked the story because the bushfire was exciting but scary. Fabish was a lucky and brave horse. The story has lots of details and description.

We would recommend this book to all children and adults because it is a beautiful picture book.

Fabish the horse that braved a bushfire.

If you’d like to read more from St Thomas’ Primary students, you can click on ‘St Thomas Primary’ in the grey categories box in the right column of this blog. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!







poetry, St Thomas' Primary School

Celebrating Australia — with poetry!

We recently interviewed Lorraine Marwood about writing Celebrating Australia: A Year in Poetry. (You can WIN your very own copy of the book, too!)

celebrating australia: a year in poetry (cover)

To launch the book, Lorraine spent last week visiting bookish blogs. She also asked each blog host to write a poem based on a poem from her collection.

Here is Lorraine’s poem:


Autumn is loud crushing sounds
a foot scuffing rap-tapping shuffle.
One day a light dusting
of pathway obstruction
by week’s end a whole mound
of slip, slide, crunch, crackle.

Autumn is loud splashing colours
a yellow, rust, tangerine explosion.
One day a brightness in twos, threes
of pathway palette,
by week’s end a whole Monet mosaic
of buffs, shades, tints and silhouettes.

© Lorraine Marwood

Today the Year 5 students at St Thomas’ Primary School in Claremont (WA) take up the challenge. They worked in small groups to create their poems, either using the patterning of Lorraine’s poem (find the template here), or loosely inspired by the poem.

Sit back and enjoy a poetry feast!

Spring Poem
by Minerva and Abbey

Spring is the chirping of the bluebirds
the gentle buzzing of the bees,
one day lush blossoms bloom,
By week’s end parks full of floral outbreak
swish, sway, tweet, twirl

Spring is the soft pastel colours
peach, moss and baby blue
One day a lavender, honeysuckle eruption
blows over the garden’s greenery,
By week’s end the radiant colours have
created a glowing canvas

A Day of Winter
by Yasmin

Winter is twigs snapping,
The howling of the wind
And the roar of a blazing fire.

One day there is pelting rain,
Across the Australian plains.
The smell of the soft brown earth fills the air.

A pitter patter, a splish splash,
And a clash of the mighty thunder.

The crackling of the burning logs,
The sprinkle on the roof.
And the rage of the mighty storm.

A thick mist covers the land,
And onto the window panes,
As the smoke curls from the chimney tops.

A swish, a sway, a crackle,
And a snap, goes the icy bush.

Wing (winter and spring crossed)
By Sophie and Amy

Winter is a loud bang of lightning
A drip drop of rain from the pipes
One day a storm accrued
In the scrapers
A mud pit
Of slip slide crash!

A dark ash grey in the sky
A livid blue and a deep muddy brown
One day spring did come
In the big city
By week’s end a rainbow of colour
Of blues, greens and browns

Two Sides of Summer Poem!
By Jemima

Sizzling, crackling sausages on the barbecue,
Pop fizz the icy Coke explodes as it drizzles down the can,
One day in my backyard running under the sprinklers,
Splash splosh as I dive into the cold pool,
Mangoes, oranges, and watermelon as it drips down my face,
Split, chop, squeeze, chomp
Fresh fruit salad, enjoy it, it’s not a race!

The hot sand beneath my toes,
The mums having a cocktail under a shady umbrella,
One day dads fishing at the end of a jetty,
While the children are eating yummy strawberry ice-cream,
Bounce, crash, cheers, cling,
It’s the last day of summer!

By Joshua, Oscar, Euan and Patrick

Summer is a splash of joy, with the boom of the ball and the crack of the bat
of the back yard cricket game.
By the burning hot late night barbie.
A bright sunny yellow day.
A lush blue sky and the scorching hot sand.
Green grass swishing from side to side.
One day a boy named Kent decided to fly in the summer breeze, he jumped
and he flew like a boy in the hot summer wind.

Christmas in Australia
By Finn, Dylan and Gerry

Christmas in Australia is the crash of the ball hitting the wicket,
The sizzling of the sausages and
The crashing waves
Kookaburras are laughing and children are unwrapping presents
People eat turkey, lamb and pork at Christmas lunch
Christmas in Australia is full of blue sky and the yellow sun
Weeks after Christmas people are playing with their new toys,
and over on the other side of the world children are playing by the fire or in the snow
And back on Christmas Day people are swimming in the pool and having icy poles
Christmas in Australia is having lots of fun in the sun

Summer in Australia
By Ella, Emily and Charlotte

Summer is the sound of people bombing
into the pool,
the sizzle of the barbecue,
The crash of the waves,
Rays of sunlight burn your skin
On the beach playing cricket
Slurp, chirp, pop goes the weasel

Sunsets burn the sky with colour
a splash of colour on the ocean
The sea is emerald and sapphire blue,
sun shines on the Sydney Opera House

Things We Do in Summer
By Will and Tom

Waves crashing sun tanning
People surfing the world
Flip flops flapping sand crushing
Sun burning
Pool party’s water balloons
Pebble skimming and pineapple eating
Smoothie sipping water splashing
Movie watching boat riding

Fish catching
People diving
People baking under the sun
Ducks quacking
Seagulls squawking
Crabs crawling
Cuttlefish crunching
These are the things we do in summer

Sun rising
Sun setting
Going around the world
Sand castle building
Sausages sizzling
Sand boarding
Bicycle riding
These are the things we do in SUMMER!

This is the LAST STOP on Lorraine Marwood’s blog tour to launch Celebrating Australia: A Year in Verse. You can check out the rest of the tour (and the poems at each stop) here:

Blog tour dates and links:

2 March Jackie Hosking:  Topic: What makes a good poem ( according to LM)+ GIVEAWAY.

3 March Kathryn Apel:  Topic: Bringing a poetry collection together.

4 March Rebecca Newman: Topic: Research for poetry writers.

5 March Claire Saxby:  Topic: Inside this collection.

6 March Janeen Brian:  Topic: How you create for the creators: how you create ideas to excite children and adults to write poems of their own.

9 March Alphabet Soup:  Topic: Writing a class poem — the results! + GIVEAWAY. [You’re here!]