It’s the last day of the month, which means it’s time for book recommendations from our Top Reads team. We are pleased to welcome Stacey to the team.

Meet our 2017 team — read about them (including Stacey!) in an earlier post.

Here are their fabulous book selections for your school holiday reading pile:

You’ll find a recommended list from our Top Reads Team on the last day of every month (February to November). If you missed last month’s, don’t forget to check out the February Top Reads.

*All our Top Readers are kids aged 13 and under. No grownups allowed!


by Kate, 9, The Glennie School, QLD


To My Dear Family and Friends,

My name is Nina and I am in Australia, which I came to with the First Fleet by surprise. I hope that you can keep this letter for many years to come.

For the first 15 years of my life, it was very peaceful with my younger sister, Ava, who was 6 and my younger brother, Dillan, who was 2, as well as my mother, Queenie, and my father, Duncan. We had just the right amount of money to keep us going, but when I went out in the streets to buy bread while mother warmed the dripping from the roast, I encountered countless numbers of people sleeping on the streets and sometimes, a poor person stealing an apple from the grocer’s cart. The crime rates were high then, so there were police everywhere. You didn’t have to wait for long before dirt-stained white horses with the police on their backs came galloping after them and throwing them in Newgate Prison. I always was thankful that I wasn’t one of them!!!

Then, when I turned 16 on the 2nd of January, guards marched up to our small, wooden house door and delivered a letter. Dillan answered the door and when he saw the guards staring at him, he fell over backward onto the floor. Ava pushed past him and the guard gave her the letter. The guard said his thanks and shut the door behind him. She gave it immediately to father and he carefully opened it and took it out. This is what it said:

Dear Duncan Sinclair,

You have been appointed as Captain of the ship Alexander on the First Fleet to the Great South Land, which departs on the thirteenth day of May in the year 1787.

This expedition will be led by Admiral Arthur Phillip, who will be Governor of the Great South Land. There will be eleven ships and seven hundred and seventy-eight convicts.

I hope that you will be there.

Jeffery Amherst
Governor of England

We were very surprised at this letter (Dillan almost fell over again, but I caught him) and it also meant that we would never see him again. All of our family was so very sad and spent a lot of time with our father before he left. The 13th of May 1787 came so quickly, I don’t think I could even blink before it came!!!

When the day came, father said goodbye to us all and asked me to come to see him off. All of us cried as he went out the door and I stepped out with him in my blouse (and my handkerchief as well) as we walked out together.

Then, we lined up for a headcount, and surprisingly I went on the ship as well!
Before I knew it, I was going on the First Fleet to Australia!!!

It was very smelly and hurt my nose to go under into the cabins that the convicts were living in. The convicts were fighting all the time, (which was really quite horrid!)

Up on the deck, though, where the seamen, marines and I were, was fantastic with the air smelled of the salty ocean and father was captain, driving the ship.
I had a small go once, and it was fabulous!!
We stopped at Rio de Janeiro to fulfill supplies. I tried this fruit called ‘watermelon’ and the definition of it was a sweet-tasting, big, heavy, red, black seeded fruit. I was overjoyed as the juice trickled down my chin, and I giggled as I spat the pips into the blue sea. The black seeds looked like boats as they floated away and then sank down for these fearsome-looking animals with claws to eat.

The eleven ships sailed for another few months with the seamen, marines, 778 convicts, father and me until we got to this island in the French Polynesia called Tahiti. The convicts were so happy when we stopped again, but we didn’t stay for long, and Tahiti wasn’t nearly as good as Rio de Janiero, in my opinion.

One of the convicts was very bad: 12 year old Noah. He fought with their night guard and so, got put in the coalhole for three days. He came back a little more respectful of others, which was good. Serves him right to be punished, I think!!!

The next few months until we got to Australia were rather dull, because nothing much happened. I really was looking forward to landing in Australia, but I did miss mother, Ava and Dillan.

When the Alexander was near Australia, rumours went around that there were big rats in Australia with HUGE tails and that they could knock you over! Even though I didn’t think this was true, someone told the convicts and I don’t think they liked it!!!!

When we arrived in Australia, I was so excited that I practically jumped out of the ship. After that, I had to help round the convicts up to the factory to do their work. They had to work for seven years to gain their freedom, and then they could make their own homes and get their own servants like they had once been. However, since I was definitely NOT a convict, I was given some land straight away and so I hired some convicts to make a house.

Four years passed very quickly. I was having a great time in Australia because there were no crowded streets and there was no crime at all.

When I was 20, I married a man called Luke and we both lived a happy life together in our little house with chickens pecking around in our garden.

So, dear friends and relatives, I hope that you can come to Australia soon.

Yours Sincerely,
Nina Sinclair

This is Kate’s first piece published with Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a story, drawing, poem, or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy writing!

Historical Narrative: Diary Entry
By Amy, 9, The Glennie School, QLD

Dear Diary,

I used to hear the drunk people sing this song in England many, many, years ago: “We’re bound for Botany Bay.” I never knew what “Botany Bay” was, but now I certainly do. My childhood has been tough in many ways but I always sing that song.

On the 10th of May, 1787, my family was in need of food, and I was only 7 years old. So I crept out onto the dirty, polluted and unhygienic streets of London. I saw the butcher selling some cooked sausages. He was calling out: “Come and get your cooked sausages!” It made me so hungry that I came and snatched six sausages right before his eyes. I sprinted and sprinted and sprinted, but I was running so fast that I didn’t notice a big pebble right in front of me. I was caught right on the spot.

They threw me into Newgate Prison for three days. On the second day I was told I would be sentenced to transportation. I was also told that the fleet would be leaving tomorrow. I felt very apprehensive and panicky.

In chains early in the morning on the 13 May 1787, in iron, cold chains around my neck, ankles, and feet, I was loaded onto the convict ship Lady Penrhyn. There were around 101 women.

The life on the ship for the first week was very challenging until I met some friends, Rebecca, Isabella, Rose, Ambrose , Elizabeth, Sarah and Phebe. We played games and sang together. Then, a few weeks into the trip, people started getting illnesses such as scurvy. All of my friends and I were lucky and escaped from the diseases.

After a period of around one month, we arrived at Rio de Janeiro on the 6 August 1787,  to select supplies. This was my first time tasting a hairy, yellow fruit and a big, round, juicy red fruit, another juicy green and orange fruit as well.

After being there till 4 September 1787, we set sail again. The seas were very bumpy and nearly everyone got seasick and the sea and under the deck smelled disgusting. The hospital was full of people with other diseases as well. Luckily, again all my friends and I escaped with minor health issues.

Then our next stop, was The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

We finally arrived at the Cape Of Good Hope on October the 14th to get more supplies, get the ship serviced and buy some animals to start the new colony.

We left The Cape of Good Hope on the 12 November 1787, and all of my friends and I were healthy.

We finally spotted Van Diemen’s Land on the January 3, 1788. We were so excited.

About three weeks later, we anchored the ship at Botany Bay. We had our stupid chains on again. We were assigned jobs. Like making roads and looking after the animals. All my friends and I were lucky that we were all assigned the same jobs; making roads.

We had to work 6am to 6pm every single day for seven years. Once I turned 18, and all my friends turned 17, we all were pardoned. I married a man named Thomas who was a farmer. I worked making cream, butter and milk, and sold it to the villagers.

I hope someone will read my diary  in the future.

~ Blanche

This is Amy’s first piece published with Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a story, drawing, poem, or book review, check out our submission guideline

by Azuki, 9, NSW

Girl looking out window. Photo from pexels.comI got out of bed and I stared out the window, longing for a friend. Girls and boys were playing outside happily. It was 1902 in France. See, my sister had tuberculosis when I was four. Two years later she is forgotten. The memory of her is tossed away like an old newspaper.

Well, at least I remember her fondly. Camille, with her soft blond hair, bright blue eyes and dainty little dimples. Maman said she was belle.

“Il est temps pour petit-déjeuner!” Maman yelled.
“J’arrive!” I called back. Breakfast was ready. I could smell just-baked croissant. Okay. So I’ll tell you more about it later.

I haven’t been outside so I don’t have any friends. I haven’t met anyone except Maman, Camille and my imaginary friend Carlos. After Camille died, I got lonely. Carlos was my only hope.

Carlos was a jolly soul. But one day, we had a fight.
“C’est vrai, les licornes sont reélles (It’s true, unicorns are real)!” I told him.

“Non, non,” Carlos argued. ”C’est une idée stupide (That’s a stupid idea)!” That made me angry. Furious. My fingernails dug in to my palms because of my tight fists. No one messes with my unicorn theory. That’s when it all started.

The next crisp morning, I heard Maman’s horses clopping down Marseille, which meant she was going to work. Maman banned me from going outside because of “dangers.” Because I was an obedient little girl, I did what I was told. But that day was the day. I was going to go outside. No more Carlos! Well, at least that’s what I thought. He might follow me.

I went down to the bottom floor and the door was locked from the inside. Then I thought of an idea. I was on the bottom floor. Right? There are always windows in a house. I could climb outside the window! After putting aside some provisions, a picture of Maman and food in a bag, I set off.

It was a rough journey. People stared at me like I was a strangely dressed tourist. I walked and walked for ages until I reached a grassy field.

“C’est beau,” I sighed as I gazed at its beauty. Dandelions, roses and violets, purple and blue! It was amazing. That’s when I heard the explosion.

Suddenly the sky was filled with planes and I was choking on dust and ash. I didn’t understand what was happening. I was only five. All I remember was that I ran. I ran until I found a gathering of people. They were all speaking French. I was so excited to think that I could find Maman. I got out the picture of her and started asking people if they had seen her.

“Avez-vous vue cette personne?” I asked whoever would lend an ear. But all the feedback I got were shaking heads and shrugging shoulders.

Would I ever see Maman again? I ran to a corner and started crying. Then, I heard a familiar voice, “Anne, tu me manques tellement. Oú êtes-vous ma petite douse?” That was the distinctive sound of Maman’s voice! She was asking where I was!

“Maman?” I whispered, my voice hoarse from dehydration.
“Ma fille! Allez, nous devons trouver un abri! Je connais un ami (My daughter! We have to find shelter! I know a friend),” she cried. We ran through the warzone, barely missing bombs flying down from all the warplanes.

Finally, we found our destination. There was a pretty woman standing at the door, followed by two children. The woman was named Mila, Maman’s friend, a boy named Liam and a girl called Lola. They had a small house but I was excited that I could possibly live a normal life again.

The next day I went to school and I met nice people. I played with Lola and Juliet, a girl from our neighbourhood. A few weeks later, Maman came up to me and said that our home was safe from war now and we had to go home.

I got out of bed and stared out the window. I wasn’t longing for a friend. For once, I was one of those boys and girls playing happily. I was a normal girl.

This is Azuki’s first story published with Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a story, drawing, poem, or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy writing!





It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Kelly Canby

Today the book baton is passed to Kelly Canby. Kelly is an internationally published illustrator and author of picture books, early reader books, chapter books, and colouring books. She lives in Western Australia — you can see her above, busy drawing and painting.

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Lorraine Marwood asked:
Hello Kelly, I see you do illustrations for a range of children’s genres, as well as colouring books!  Can you tell us a bit about your illustrative journey and what you’d passionately love to draw in the future?

Kelly Canby answers:
Thanks for the question, Lorraine! My illustrative journey begins many years ago at university. I studied design at Curtin where I majored in Illustration and minored in Graphic Design and Advertising. When I graduated I freelanced for while as an illustrator for advertising agencies and eventually landed a full time graphic design job with the design studio of my dreams. From there I moved between working in design studios and advertising agencies until I became senior designer at a very wonderful, very creative and fun (really fun) design studio.

Then I needed to do something completely different so I bought a florist. And I made flower arrangements.

And once that was out of my system, I started to think about design and illustration again. Also, around this time, I was buying a lot of picture books for my son and I fell completely in love with them knew that’s what I had to do. I had to make children’s books for the rest of my life! So I hopped online and discovered SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators), I made myself a portfolio of work, got an agent and began. That was about 4 and half years ago and since then I have illustrated around 14 books, written and illustrated one picture book, with another picture book that I’ve written in the works with Fremantle Press as I type, and I’m having so much fun doing it all.

As for what I’d passionately love to draw in the future … Well, on the very top of my wish list for a long time was to illustrate a middle grade novel with lots and lots of detailed, full page, black and white drawings, which I happen to be doing right now with Allen & Unwin so I am one very happy illustrator, indeed!

Visit Kelly Canby’s website to find out more about her and her books: kellycanby.com

PlatypusAnd now Kelly Canby passes the baton to the next visitor — Sue Whiting.

Sue writes picture books, chapter books and novels for teens.

Kelly asks:
Hi Sue, my question for you is, when you’re in the planning stage of a new book, do you prefer to work in a quiet space where it’s just you and your thoughts or do you head out to cafes and parks where you’re surrounded by outside sources of inspiration – people/colour/activity – to help develop your ideas?
Pass the book baton is taking a break for the school holidays. The series will resume at the end of April.
See you then!






by Siddh, 6, QLD

There are lots of people in this world,
But everyone is still the same,
Some people could blame each other,
And others might do the same.

When it’s dark and late in the night and people in their beds,
some people could already be asleep and others would be awake.

So, there are lots of people in this world
And people might look different
But every single one of our souls
Is built exactly the same!

This is Siddh’s first poem published with Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a story, drawing, poem, or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy writing!

Review of Family Day at the Perth Writers Festival 2017
by Matilda, 11, WA

On Sunday 26 February 2017 it was Family Day at the Perth Writers Festival at UWA. This year there were kid curators who were interviewing authors and illustrators at the Tropical Grove. I thought all the kids did a very good job and asked some great questions.

Mechanica by Lance Balchin.

Mechanica by Lance Balchin.

I also really liked the creativity stand run by Remida.

They provided heaps of interesting recycled materials so we could make robot-ish animals like the animals in the fantastic picture book Mechanica: A beginner’s field guide by Lance Balchin.


Here’s a photo of me with the robot caterpillar creature I made:


Robot caterpillar junk construction


There was also a giant board with wings set up by the children’s author and illustrator Kylie Howarth. You could decorate a feather and write on it what you would do if you had wings. This is how I decorated my feather:

Feather: if I had wings I would live with the birds.

When Kylie Howarth had glued your feather to the wings, then you could get your photo taken as if you had wings yourself:

Photo of Matilda with wings


My favourite session at the Tropical Grove was the drawing duel, when James Foley and Donovan Bixley drew robotic cats with some suggestions from the audience. My favourite session at Writers Central was the Pandemonium event, which included swing dancers and a band.

Overall, it was a really great day and I recommend everyone to go next year!

I give this event 5  stars.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  The Silver Donkey. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!