Book reviews by Emily, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Red Pyramid

Image shows the cover of a children's novel, book 1 in The Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. The cover illustration shows a boy and a girl in silhouette facing a dangerous looking sphinx like creature which is glowing red and yellow.


The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, Penguin UK, ISBN 9780141325507

Emily reviewed her own copy of this book.

The Kane chronicles: The Red Pyramid Is a thrilling adventure book by Rick Riordan. It is about  siblings Carter and Sadie that look nothing alike. They must go on an action-packed adventure to save the world from the Egyptian God of Chaos, Set, before he takes over the world. It takes place throughout the world including the underworld, the Duat.

I really enjoyed these books because it taught me so many new things about Egyptian gods and pharaohs. I also think that this book is amazing because of all the adventure that takes place.

I think that this book would be suitable for ages 11-15 but could also be enjoyed by people older then 15 or younger than 11. If I had to rate this book I would give it 5 out of 5 stars because I like how in the first book Sadie and Carter have a massive adventure just to save their dad.

Emily is a regular reviewer for Alphabet Soup. Read Emily’s other reviews here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, read our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by Hannah, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Wreckers’ Revenge


TThe Wreckers' Revenge by Norman Jorgensen (book cover)he Wreckers’ Revenge by Norman Jorgensen, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925815450

Hannah received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

The Wreckers’ Revenge, by Norman Jorgensen, is a sequel to the very successful first book in the series The Smuggler’s Curse. The Wreckers Revenge was inspired by two boys from the Cocos Islands who, after hearing one of Jorgensen’s stories, attempted to find William Dampier’s missing treasure. It is not necessary to have read the first book to thoroughly enjoy The Wreckers Revenge, which is set in the early 20th century, beginning with the anticipation of whether Red Read (the main character) is to be expelled from Christian Brothers College. After a series of crazy events – involving the nasty acts of Brother Christian – the infamous Captain Black Bowen, Red’s Guardian, comes to change the day, whisking young Red off to once more become a loyal crew member of the mighty Black Dragon. But don’t get too comfortable on this ship as there is nothing but action and adventure to be had on these decks.

In my opinion, I thought that the book moved at a manageable pace for a wide range of readers and it wasn’t over-complicated. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters as the story developed and it was interesting as each character had their own lovable and different features. Every sentence had a drip of anticipation and I really did find it quite hard to put the book down.

It would be a perfect holiday read and even a great book for adults to read to children as well. I recommend this book to 10–13 year olds as there is quite a lot of violence in it and I believe that these ages would be able to manage that.

In conclusion, it’s a really great book and is worth checking out.

Read a sample chapter of The Wreckers’ Revenge at the publisher’s website.

Download Teachers’ notes for this book from the publisher’s website.

Hannah is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read all her reviews here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: The Sisters Grimm series

The Sisters Grimm (cover of book 1) by Michael Buckley, ill Peter FergusonREVIEWED BY MATILDA, 12, WA

The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson, Abrams Books.

Matilda borrowed this series from her school library.

Daphne and Sabrina Grimm are normal girls that live a normal life, until suddenly their parents disappear. After being in the foster care system for two years the girls are finally placed with their grandma, where they discover that fairytales are real …

I absolutely loved everything about this series and I couldn’t put it down. The plot is quirky but it is written in a wonderful way. These books are definitely my favourites so far this year. I was kept in suspense all through the books, and I really felt as though I was there.

I recommend this book for kids aged 10+, and for readers who love adventure stories and fairytales.

5 stars!

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. You can read Matilda’s other reviews here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: The Book of Secrets


The Book of Secrets by AL TaitThe Book of Secrets (The Ateban Cipher book #1) by A.L. Tait, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780734417671

A review copy of this book was provided by the author.

The Book of Secrets is the first in The Ateban Cipher series. It’s about a young monk who has been living in the abbey all his life, and has never been outside the abbey walls. Then he finds Brother Benedict bleeding and maybe dying, and Brother Benedict hands him a book. What is the secret of the book? Why is it in a code he can’t distinguish? And who is this Aidan he has to take it to?

I loved this book because at first it seems magical and absurd … but it could actually happen. My favourite character is Gwendolyn, because she is determined and independent, and does everything to help other people. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the next book in the series.

I would recommend this book for readers aged 9 and older who love fantasy and adventure.


Read the first chapter!

Teachers notes, available at the publisher’s website.

Read an interview with the author.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. You can read Matilda’s other reviews here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: To the Lighthouse

To the lighthouse (book cover)REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 11, WA

To the Lighthouse by Cristy Burne,
ill. Amanda Burnett, 
Fremantle Press,
ISBN 9781925164619

Matilda received a review copy of this book from the publisher. 

Isaac and Emmy are two very different kids. They meet on Rottnest Island when their families are on holiday. Isaac is a shy, nervous boy, but Emmy is an extravagant daredevil. Emmy wants Isaac to begin a game of Dare — involving jumping into icy cold water, riding all the way to the lighthouse, and riding there at night by themselves. It’s dark, and it’s miles and miles away. Isaac’s Mum is very overprotective and she worries a lot. Luckily she doesn’t know they’re planning to go to the lighthouse at night …

It’s great to read a book that is set in WA, instead of the usual places in kids’ books (like England or Sydney). The illustrations are in black and white and appear about once in every chapter. They suit the story — they’re a bit quirky, like the characters in the book.

To the Lighthouse would be a good book for 7 to 10 year olds.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. You can read Matilda’s other reviews here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Wendy Orr


It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week we’ve featured a book creator who answered one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.) This is our last Pass the Book Baton post for 2016 but — after a summer break — we’ll be continuing with the series in 2017.


Today the book baton is passed to author Wendy Orr. Wendy’s books have been published in 25 countries and languages and have won awards in Australia and overseas. Her Nim’s Island books were made into movies. Wendy Orr’s latest book is Dragonfly Song. (You can read an excerpt if you go to the publisher’s site.)

Here are some of Wendy Orr’s book covers:

Last week Anna Ciddor asked:
I love to find out how other authors work. There are two parts to my question. Firstly, do you plan the whole book, including the end, before you begin (like I do), or are you one of those authors who start writing without knowing the ending? And secondly, once you begin writing, do you slow yourself down with research and re-writing (like I do), or are you one of those amazing authors who can work fast?

Wendy answers:
I agree with Anna Ciddor that it’s fascinating to find out how other authors work! It always seems to bear out the Somerset Maugham quote that there are three rules for writing a novel, but nobody knows what they are. I’m also intrigued — or depressed, depending on the day — that as soon as I figure out my own rules, I start a new book and the rules change. However, I always need to know several things before I start the book — the first scene and first line, a climactic scene, and the ending. Details about the ending sometimes change, but I have to know where it’s heading. And in general, I seem to be planning more now than I used to. For Dragonfly Song, when my editor asked if the first deadline was achievable, I made a list of all the scenes from where I was till the end. It was amazingly helpful (who knew!). Of course there were still surprises and aha! moments of insight, but I stuck to it fairly closely. Admittedly the book had been freewheeling in my head for the previous year.

As for speed — how I envy those fast writers! I’m very slow. It’s true I’ve got a huge list of books, but I’ve been writing for 30 years, and many of my early books were small. Dragonfly Song took 22 months, (ignoring several false starts over the previous 5 years) without working on anything else. I rewrite obsessively — and oh yes, the research! The two main problems are that I don’t always know what I need till I find it, and conversely, sometimes some little fact really has to be clarified before I can continue with the story. Then down the rabbit hole I go … And then have to rewrite again because there was too much research showing, and sometimes obscure facts have to be bent to suit the story! But what a feeling when I work something out to suit the story, thinking I’ve purely made it up — and then find the research that says my theory is right!

But all I really care about once a book finished is that the reader enjoys it and believes in it while they’re reading.

Happy reading!


ERIC VALE OFF THE RAILSAnd now Wendy Orr passes the baton to the next visitor — Michael Gerard Bauer. Michael is an award-winning author who writes humorous books for children and young adults.

Wendy asks:
I’m curious whether, like me, you draw on different parts of yourself to create your characters (even if other people might not be able to see that ‘seed’   that started the process.) Do you use any techniques to find these beginnings, or does the character appear to grow spontaneously, and you only recognise later the bit that sparked its creation?

The series will be taking a break over the summer school holidays. We’ll leave Michael Gerard Bauer with some thinking music while he considers Wendy’s question …

And Pass the Book Baton will resume in 2017 with his answer.

See you next year! (While you’re waiting, you can check out all the book creators who have had the baton so far.)








authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: AL Tait


It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Alphabet Soup features a book creator every Friday 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.)

Today bestselling author AL Tait takes the baton. AL Tait is the author of The Mapmaker Chronicles — a series full of danger and adventure.

The Mapmaker Chronicles

Last week Paula Hayes posed a question (actually two questions!) for AL Tait. She asks:

Q. Which book in your Mapmaker Chronicles series have you enjoyed writing the most?

A. It’s funny, but kids always ask me which of the three books are my favourite, and I always give the same answer: I love them all. But then, I qualify that answer. I love the first book a little bit more because that’s where I met all of my characters for the first time. As someone who doesn’t plot very much, I’m really watching the story unfold and the characters develop in much the same way as the readers are.

Q. Does creating a series get easier or harder to achieve?
I think the most difficult part of any series is the middle. But then I feel the same way about every book I write — the middle (act two) is the most difficult section to write. I’m in the process of writing a brand new series at the moment and I’ve whisked my way through book one, and am about to climb the mountain that is book two. Writing a series does teach you the value of at least having an outline to work from, even if you don’t plot every detail.

BrobotAnd now AL Tait passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — James Foley. James is an illustrator and an author-illustrator. His most recent book is a graphic novel, Brobot.

AL asks:
You started out as an illustrator — what made you decide to write In The Lion and Brobot yourself? As an author-illustrator, do you start with the words for a story or start with the pictures?

Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators. See you next week!

Visit The Mapmaker Chronicles website for more about AL Tait and her books. You can read an earlier interview with AL Tait at Alphabet Soup, too.





Book reviews by Joseph, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Island of Dr Libris


The Island of Dr Libris

The Island of Dr Libris by Chris Grabenstein, Random House Children’s Books, ISBN 9780553538434

Joseph borrowed this book from his public library.

I really enjoyed Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library (another book by the same author) so I was excited to find this book at the library. Although I enjoyed it, it wasn’t as good as Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library, which was my favourite book this year.

In this book: In the holidays Billy has to go to a boring cabin with his mum instead of staying at the apartment with his dad. Billy’s mum rented the cabin from Dr Libris, her university professor, for a very good price and she’s going to sit and work on her dissertation all holidays. Billy has to entertain himself, so when he smashes his iPhone and there is no other technology he has to amuse himself by reading books from Dr Libris’ giant collection. But as he starts reading he can hear strange sounds coming from the island in the middle of the lake. It’s almost as if the stories he’s reading are coming to life. Together with Walter — a boy he met around the cabins — he goes to investigate what’s happening on the island.

This is a fantasy adventure I would recommended for ages 10+ because it has quite a lot going on in the book and you need to be able to follow it. You’ll appreciate it best if you already know about well-known characters from classic literature like Robin Hood, Tom Sawyer and others.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!




Beaconsfield Primary School, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Figgy in the World


Figgy in the World (cover)

Figgy in the World by Tamsin Janu, Omnibus Books, ISBN 9781742990453

Tamsin Janu is a fantastic writer! The book Figgy in the World is about how Figgy needs to find medicine for her Grandma Ama because she has an illness that she won’t tell her about. When you start to read the book Figgy in the World you will find that you can’t put it down!

The story-line of this novel is that Figgy lives in a village in Ghana (Africa) and needs to quickly save her Grandma Ama before she dies. In order to find the medicine for her Grandma, Figgy has to travel all the way to America and then back, with the medicine to save her Grandma before she dies. Alongside her is her goat Kwame who is more like her best friend. However on the journey she meets Nana who becomes her best friend.

Figgy met Nana after he had ran away from his papa. Figgy saw him sitting on the side of the road in the Volta Reigns. He was living in a village with his ‘family’ but none of them were biologically related to him. When Figgy saw Nana she didn’t really know what Nana was doing but then he said, “Would you like to buy some peanuts?”. Figgy had dropped all her money down a drain already so she said, “Sorry, I can’t, I just dropped all my money down the drain and I need to get to America before my Grandma Ama dies.” Nana then wanted to help Figgy, so he ran away from his village without anyone seeing him go. He had only just started his journey with Figgy.

I have never read a book as imaginative as this one. Tamsin Janu uses outstanding abilities to describe scenes in this book that makes you feel like you are there with Figgy and Nana. The fabulous thing about this book is how Tamsin Janu describes the towns and places that Figgy and Nana visit, especially the Orphanage. Nana used to live in this Orphanage when he ran away from his Papa, and when they returned all the children were so delighted to see them it made me want to cry.

I would recommend Figgy in the World for ages 10+, or children slightly younger who can really have an imagination and link the descriptive words to envisaging the scenes Tamsin Janu is writing about. The genre would be drama, and maybe some death too. This book was outstanding and I would definitely read it again! I will surely be reading more of Tamsin Janu’s books. With normal life themes such as friendship, love and death encompassed in this book, I thought it was outstanding and I look forward to reading more of Tamsin Janu’s books in the future.

This is Georgie’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. If you’d like to read more book reviews by Beaconsfield Primary students, you can click on ‘Beaconsfield Primary School’ 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!

Book reviews by kids

Book review: Rescue on Nim’s Island

Rescue on Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr, pictures by Geoff Kelly, Allen and Unwin, ISBN 9781743316788

rescue on nim's island


Matilda borrowed a copy of this book from her local library.

I read this book because I like all the other books I’ve read by Wendy Orr so far.

There are scientists coming to the island. So far Nim, Jack and Alex have kept the island a secret but now Jack has discovered something on the island and he wants other scientists to come. One of the scientists brings a daughter called Tiffany and when everyone goes exploring in a cave, Tiffany gets stuck …

Rescue on Nim’s Island is not a follow-on book from Nim at Sea, it follows on from the second Nim film (Return to Nim’s Island) instead. I was surprised that it didn’t follow on from Nim at Sea.

People who like to take risks will like this book because Rescue on Nim’s Island is full of risks. It would suit kids 8+.

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