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!

Posted in Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Amira’s Magpie

REVIEWED BY WILLIAM, 10, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

Amira's Magpie by Kate Gordon and Krista Brennan

Amira’s Magpie by Kate Gordon, illustrated by Krista Brennan, Wombat Books, ISBN 9781925563986

Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.

“He sings to her, too, and she knows his language.”

Amira’s Magpie is a slow-moving, gentle book of imagination and longing. Amira imagines her magpie flying across the world, to visit her homeland and the family she left behind. From this, and through both words and pictures, we are left to imagine her story.

This book isn’t very long, but it doesn’t need to be, because every thing you need to know comes from the beautiful illustrations and your imagination.

I would recommend this book for people who can read beyond the words, and feel that the character is their own self.

I rate this book: 5 stars.


Iona Presentation College students are members of Alphabet Soup’s review team. This is William’s first review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour

REVIEWED BY LILY, 11, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780734419163

Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour is about a 12-year-old girl named April, whose mother abandoned her when she was just an infant. The only thing April has from her past is a mysterious key on a chain. Years later, after moving around between many foster families, April arrives at the Winterborne Home for Orphans. At the Winterborne Home, she meets a group of children and together this group of misfits uncover deep and dark secrets which have been masked for a decade. As part of their journey of discovering mysterious secrets, this mismatched band of orphans come to rely on one another and ultimately become like the family they all longed for. 

Little does the group know, April holds the key to the Winterborne Legacy. It is sought out by one of the last living Winterborne’s, Evert Winterborne. Why does Evert desire this key? What does it unlock? Evert is willing to commit murder to get his hands on the Legacy, which he believes is rightfully his. However, his mission of unlocking his family’s Legacy is continually thwarted by the orphans, who are the only thing that stand between Evert and the Winterborne Home and Legacy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it captivated me and held my attention right until the end. I felt as if the characters were so real and relatable that they could jump right out of the page and I was in the Winterborne Home with them. I think this book was very interesting and for people who love mysteries and adventures this is the book for you! I would give this book an eight out of ten and would recommend it for older readers.

Read an excerpt from the book via the publisher’s website.


Iona Presentation College students are members of Alphabet Soup’s review team. This is Lily’s first review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in Book reviews by Charlotte, Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Mina and the Whole Wide World

REVIEWED BY CHARLOTTE, 11, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

Mina and the Whole Wide World by Sherryl Clark and illustrated by Briony Stewart

Mina and the Whole Wide World by Sherryl Clark, illustrated by Briony Stewart, University of Queensland Press, ISBN 9780702263231

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

This is the story of Mina, a young girl, and her parents one day decide to take in a refugee boy. At first, Mina is shocked and upset, but when the boy, Azzami, moves in, she starts to discover his full story …

This heart-warming and emotional story is wonderful and easy to read. I thought that using the idea of a refugee child was sure to make people think about refugees differently. After reading this book, I learned that there are more to refugees than just being poor and homeless. I felt sorry for Azzami, who was always picked on and teased at school, but as Mina soon learned, there was more to him than she thought.

I would definitely recommend this book to children. It certainly touched my heart and shared a powerful message. I would suggest that kids aged around Year 4 to 6 will enjoy this amazing story!

Read Alphabet Soup’s interview with the author of Mina and the Whole Wide World.


Iona Presentation College students are members of Alphabet Soup’s review team. This is Charlotte’s second review for Alphabet Soup. Read another review by Charlotte 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: The Bad Beginning

REVIEWED BY AYAAN, 10, VIC

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 9780064407663

Ayaan reviewed his own copy of this book.

This is a book written by Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler).

The Bad Beginning is the first book in the series: A Series of Unfortunate Events. The series, unsurprisingly, has thirteen books, and the thirteenth book ends on the thirteenth chapter! These books are about the misfortune of the Baudelaire children. 

This first book in the series is the start of the Baudlaire children’s misfortune and misery. The Baudelaire children are orphans after a fire that wiped out their parents. Violet, who is the oldest and a girl of fourteen, loves inventing. Klaus, a boy of twelve, is an avid reader. Sunny, an infant, has four sharp teeth and loves to bite things. Violet is to inherit the Baudelaire fortune when she is of age.

They are adopted by Count Olaf who is horrid and mean. But is he just mean or is something sinister going on? When they come over for dinner, his acting troupe look a bit suspicious. When the children are invited to perform in Count Olaf’s play, something seems amiss. What are Count Olaf and his troupe planning?

I would rate this book five stars as it is mysteriously interesting. This book is good for people who like mystery and are aged 9+.

Oh, by the way, the book is written in a way that not many books are written. Just something you ought to know.

(Take a sneak peek inside the book!)


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

Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: An Unpleasant Surprise

Cat peeking out a doorway. Photo by Henda Watani at pexels.com

AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE

by Audrey, 10, VIC

Sometimes people ask me, “Hey, if you were an animal, what would you be?”

I’d think, and then say, “A cat!”

I wonder what it would really be like…

I think cats are amazing creatures! If only I could stay up late exploring! I can’t think of anything bad about- oh wait, humans picking me up! I hate being picked up. I wonder if I should say anything else next time …

“If you were an animal, what would you be?” the new kid asks.

This time I don’t hesitate. “A cat! I love cats.”

After school, she comes up to me. “Are you sure you’d want to be a cat?” 

“Yes … why? What do you- OH!” I blink, and suddenly she’s like a giant! I close my eyes and rub them. Wait, why do I have paws? Oh no, she’s turned me into a cat!

“Turn me back into a human! I don’t want to be a cat!” I yell, but she just laughs. I must be meowing!

Suddenly, my friend Natalie appears out of nowhere! “Hey! I just saw you turn her into a cat!”

The new girl turns around quickly. “No, I didn’t! You’re going mad, Natalie.” She puts her hand on Nat’s forehead. Oh, that girl is infuriating!

Natalie moves away. “Then why is her bag there? Hair ties too! THERE’S CLEARLY A CAT IN FRONT OF YOU!” she yells.

“That’s MY bag, and I dropped my hair ties. That cat is a stray,” the new girl lies, turning red.

“I’d recognise Audrey’s bag anywhere. And those are her hair ties. I bought them for her birthday last year!” Natalie retorts, and leans forward to pick me up. “This is my friend, and you’re not going anywhere until you turn her back into a human!” I wave my paw and meow in approval.

Natalie boops my nose. “See? Even as a cat, she’s exactly the same person.”

The new girl sighs. “Fine. But it’s not going to wear off until tomorrow morning. She’ll have to stay this way until then.” 

“Drat! What will my parents say?” I meow.

As if she can understand me, Natalie strokes my head. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell your parents you came over for a sleepover. My parents will totally believe me. They believe anything I say!”

The new girl nods at us and runs off. 

The next morning, a bright sunny Saturday, I walk back home with Natalie. She waves at me goodbye. “Bye!” I yell.

Being a cat is pretty fun. I think. But I’d rather be a human.

Mum greets me at the front door. “Had a fun night? Lucky girl, I was worried you wouldn’t come home!” 

“I had a great night, thanks Mum!”

She winks at me like she knows a secret. “Staying at a friend’s house sure is the cat’s whiskers! I sure know what it’s like.”


Audrey is a frequent contributor to Alphabet Soup. Read another story by Audrey here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submissions guidelines.