Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: My First Adventure

MY FIRST ADVENTURE by Elaine, 8, VIC

Curious bird. Photo by Donna Wu.

“My wings grew!” I thought as I looked at my fluffy feathers. I wanted to take flight so I went outside and tried. As I jumped I hovered in the air for a second, suddenly I started plummeting to the ground. I closed my eyes, ready for impact. I landed on a tall, black pole with a yellow top. I looked around hoping to be near my house. But instead of my house I was in front of a massive white wall with weird animals inside. One of them noticed me.

“ Oh no.” I thought. But instead of yelling at me it brought out a box and put me inside it. I chirped desperately hoping my mum would hear me. A second later another weird animal was standing near me. It stared at me fascinated by how I looked.

Bird and shoe. Photo by Donna Wu.

The weird animals were outside. They seemed kind though. My mum fed me some worms then she left. The smallest animal bent a blade of grass towards me. I nibbled at it then sniffed the smallest animal’s shoe. She seemed to like me. Then the animals left. They went up and away from me. I didn’t want to be left behind! I tried to fly up, higher and higher, and I landed on the edge of a big platform with a cover on top. They saw me again! I felt special with all these animals around me. One even sat down near me.

My mum came back and said it was time to go back home. I reluctantly flew back with my mum. What an adventure that was. I hope to see you again, weird animals.

Bird chirping. Photo by Donna Wu.

The photos in this post were provided by Donna Wu.

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!

Posted in illustrator, interviews

Cindy Lane and Great White Shark

MEET THE ILLUSTRATOR

Cindy Lane is an award-winning artist and illustrator who loves the ocean. She was born and grew up by the sea in Sydney, lived by the Great Barrier Reef in FNQ, and now has her studio by the Indian Ocean in Perth. Cindy loves to make her own paints with materials she finds in nature, and collects waters from all over the world to use in her paintings. Seawaters from across Australia were used in Great White Shark, her first picture book, written by Claire Saxby.

From the publisher:

In Great White Shark we follow a female shark on her way to warmer waters to give her pups the best chance of survival. Set in a stunning underwater world, Claire Saxby’s signature poetic prose and Cindy Lane’s sublime illustrations showcase the grace, majesty and power of one of the ocean’s top predators.


Can you tell us a bit about how you created the illustrations for Great White Shark?

It all starts with a sketch – pencil on paper. I like the scratchy feel of graphite on a surface, with sound and feel for feedback as you create. I do also draw digitally, but it can be quite a clinical process, not what I want at this stage. It can be all too easy to erase the less-than-perfect lines when drawing on a tablet­­­­­­­­­ – a double tap of your fingers and it’s gone! I like seeing the messy, roundabout road maps of initial sketches, the sparks of ideas, and where they led.

From pencils sketches to a pencil thumbnail sheet! Once this was approved by the art director I went on to do some sample colour illustrations from the text, just to determine a style that the publisher, author and I were all happy with. This was a combination of pastel on sanded paper and watercolours on cotton paper, both with digital sketching over the top.

Thumbnail sketches by Cindy Lane for her picture book Great White Shark
Thumbnail sketches by Cindy Lane for the picture book Great White Shark

Once these were approved, I was let loose on the double page spreads, cover, title, index pages and the endpapers. There was still lots of research to be done, and luckily the PLANET SHARK exhibition was visiting Fremantle. I got to see so many sharks, including multiple Great White models up close, the preserved body of the massive Megamouth shark, plus the HUGE Megalodon jaws!

Using sea waters from my collection, I started watercolour painting the backgrounds and creatures that feature in the book. They were then photographed or scanned individually, then collaged together digitally to create the scenes.

Did you discuss the story/illustrations with the author (Claire Saxby) while illustrating the book?

No, I had no direct contact with the author during the illustration process. Claire Saxby’s feedback was always via the editor and art director.

How long did it take you (from signing the contract to going to print) to illustrate Great White Shark?

14 months.

Were you already interested in sharks before you were asked to illustrate the book?

Definitely! I’ve always had a love for the ocean and all of its inhabitants. Even those that get bad press. Especially those ones!

Great White Shark is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookstore or local library.

Back and front covers of Great White Shark by Claire Saxby and Cindy Lane

AWESOME EXTRAS:

See Claire Saxby & Cindy Lane talking about Great White sharks. [YouTube]

Watch Cindy Lane painting pages from the book here and here. [Instagram videos]

Download the Teachers’ Notes from the publisher’s website.

Learn more about Cindy Lane’s art & illustrations on her Instagram account.

Great White Shark by Claire Saxby and Cindy Lane
Posted in Book reviews by Elizabeth, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Bella and the Voyaging House

Bella and the Voyaging House by Meg McKinlay illust. Nicholas Schafer

REVIEWED BY ELIZABETH, 8, NSW

Bella and the Voyaging House by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Nicholas Schafer, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781760990695

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

The book I am reviewing is Bella and the Voyaging House. The author is Meg McKinlay and the illustrator is Nicholas Schafer.

In the book, I love how Bella’s grandad made the house so it is like a boat. Merry Annie is a statue which the grandad moulded and polished. Then he tied it on the front of the  house boat but it fell off when they were sailing. So Bella decided to sail with the house and look for Merry Annie. Will they find Merry Annie? Will the house go back home? 

I recommend seven year olds and up to read this book because it is funny and emotional.

I give this 10 out of 10.

Read our interview with the author of Bella and the Voyaging House


Elizabeth is a regular reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read more of her 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 Reuben

Book review: Pow Pow Pig

Pow Pow Pig: An Unexpected Hero by Anh Do and Peter Cheong

REVIEWED BY REUBEN, 8, WA

Pow Pow Pig: An Unexpected Hero by Anh Do, illustrated by Peter Cheong, Allen and Unwin, ISBN 9781760526405

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

Pow Pow Pig is about a pig named Piccolo who joins an organisation called CHOC because he wants to help animals in need, but he ends up always on kitchen duty …

My favourite character is Piccolo. Books about pigs always seem like funny books. This is a hilarious book. I even love the cover. The size of the title makes me laugh. The illustrations suit the story and are also hilarious. There are also stickers inside, at the back of the book.

Pow Pow Pig is similar to the Captain Underpants books and The Bad Guys series. Kids who like pigs, funny books, exciting books and novels (there are nine chapters in this book) will love this too.

I think 7 to 10-year-olds would enjoy this book most. Kids older than 10 would still enjoy it though, and kids who are younger than 7 would enjoy it if someone reads it to them.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars!

Pow Pow Pig: An Unexpected Hero is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library!


Reuben is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. Check out his earlier reviews here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Fergus, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Shadowghast

REVIEWED BY FERGUS, 12, WA

Shadowghast by Thomas Taylor

Shadowghast by Thomas Taylor, Walker Books Ltd, ISBN 9781406386301

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

Get ready to join Herbie and Violet on another nail-biting adventure in the mysterious sea side town of Eerie-on-Sea. Shadowghast is the third book in the Eerie-on-Sea mysteries series by Thomas Taylor. With Autumn coming round, and the annual Shadowghast festival coming up, everyone is tense. So, no one really pays attention to the performers arriving for the festival. And still, no one notices when people start disappearing. Herbie and Violet are arguing but can they put their differences aside in time to solve what might be the most dangerous mystery yet?

            Shadowghast is the amazing sequel to Malamander and Gargantis. It is, I think, my favourite yet. Thomas Taylor has, like usual, created a fantastic story with lots of mystery and suspense. The plot and characters are great there are many great twists that no one would suspect. Shadowghast kept me on the edge of my seat the entire book. I would recommend this to anyone 9+ and I would rate it 10 out of 10.

I am sorry if I have left you hanging off a cliff but if you want to find out more then read it yourself and who knows … Maybe you recognise the flickering neon lights or the theatre on the end of the pier.    

Shadowghast is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.


Fergus is a regular reviewer for Alphabet Soup. Read read his earlier reviews of Malamander (Book 1 in this series) and Gargantis (Book 2 in this series). If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in authors, illustrator, interviews

Peter Carnavas and My Brother Ben

MEET THE AUTHOR

Peter Carnavas is an award-winning author-illustrator. You might have read some of his many picture books, such as The Children Who Loved BooksLast Tree in the City and A Quiet Girl. His novel The Elephant won a Queensland Literary Award and was shortlisted in four other national awards. Peter lives on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, with his wife, two daughters, a dog and a cat. Today we’re thrilled to have Peter Carnavas visiting to talk about his latest children’s novel, My Brother Ben.

From the publisher:

Luke and his big brother Ben spend the summer on the banks of Cabbage Tree Creek. Quiet Luke sketches birds, while Ben leaps off the Jumping Tree. The boys couldn’t be more different but they share the same dream: winning a boat so they can explore the creek properly. Then Ben starts high school and the boys drift apart. When Luke catches Ben sneaking out at night, he knows his brother’s up to something, but what?


When you were growing up did you have a big brother or sister?

I have two big brothers and one big sister. One of my brothers is just a few years older than me so we grew up doing everything together: playing backyard cricket and soccer, playing computer games and drawing silly pictures of each other.

In the book, Luke chooses soul birds for himself and considers soul birds for his various family members too. Which bird would you say was your soul bird?

I tend to do things slowly so I think I’d be a slow-moving water bird, like a white-faced heron.  I’m not a very good swimmer so it suits me that these herons only go ankle-deep into the water.

How long did it take you to write My Brother Ben – from the start of the first draft to the final draft?

It probably took me about year from start to finish.  Every time I thought I’d finished it, my editors pointed out ways to make the story even better, so I did many drafts. That’s the great thing about editors – it’s similar to the way teachers show you how to improve your stories. The illustrations didn’t take too long – probably only a few days to draw all the birds – because they are black and white pen drawings, and I didn’t have to paint them.

Do you have a tip for kids who might be interested in watching birds?

The main character, Luke, has an aunt who teaches him all about birdwatching.  She tells him to keep still and let the birds come to him, and this is something I’ve discovered when birdwatching myself.  I’ve found that if you walk through a bush track or a forest, you probably won’t see many birds straight away. But if you slow down and keep quiet for a while, you’ll notice small movements and sounds, and then you’ll notice more birds. Also, when you keep still, birds will be less afraid. Another tip is to start by looking for water birds in lagoons or ponds, as these birds keep quite still themselves, so they’re easier to watch and identify.

Could you nominate a children’s book you’ve recently read that you would recommend?

I have loved reading Sara Pennypacker’s books this year, particularly Pax and Here in the Real World. Pax is a wonderful story about a boy trying to reunite with the fox he once raised – great for upper primary students.

My Brother Ben is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookstore or local library.


AWESOME EXTRAS:

Watch Peter Carnavas talking about the book (YouTube)

Download the Teachers’ Notes for My Brother Ben

Read two more interviews with Peter Carnavas here and here

Visit Peter Carnavas’s website for more about him and his books

My Brother Ben by Peter Carnavas

Posted in Book reviews by Aashi, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Tom Gates Ten Tremendous Tales

REVIEWED BY AASHI, 7, VIC

Ten Tremendous Tales

Tom Gates: Ten Tremendous Tales by Liz Pichon, Scholastic UK, ISBN 9781760974282

Aashi reviewed her own copy of this book.

Ten Tremendous Tales is a book with ten stories, all of the different ten stories are written by Liz Pichon.

The main character of the book is Tom Gates who likes to doodle. You must be wondering what doodling is. Well, it is practically drawing!

I like the book because there is a whole range of stories to read. Each story is unique and has a different moral, like one of them is about always to have hope. I liked this moral because in Covid times having hope is so important!

After reading this book I feel like I could read many more books where Tom Gates is the main character. He is super-duper at doodling but always gets into trouble. I won’t say more about Tom to keep some surprises for you.

This book is also cool as it is the tenth book in Tom Gates series by the author. The Brilliant World of Tom Gates was the first book and sent out to stores in 2011.

I would rate this book 9/10 because I think that some of the stories could continue a little bit longer. It will be enjoyed by children who are ages 7-11.

I hope you would like to read Ten Tremendous Tales.


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