Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Hole Story


The Hole Story written and illustrated by Kelly Canby

The Hole Story by Kelly Canby, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925591125

Reuben reviewed his own copy of this book.

Charlie finds a hole and puts it in his pocket and he puts it in his backpack, but everything falls out. So he goes to the shops to see who wants a hole, but they just don’t.

I love it. I’ve read it a lot. It’s funny.

Download The Hole Story activity sheet from the publisher’s website.

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

Happy reading!

authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Katrina Germein


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.)

Today the book baton is passed to best-selling author Katrina Germein. Katrina lives in Adelaide with her family and her dog, Mango. Her first picture book (Big Rain Coming, illustated by Brownyn Bancroft) has been in print since 1999. Her latest picture book is Great Goal! Marvellous Mark! illustrated by Janine Dawson.

Here are just some of Katrina’s books:

Last week Raewyn Caisley asked:
You write about so many different things: footy, remote communities, beaches, funny dads … I even read that you want to write about mermaids! Is there something that all your books have in common?

Katrina Germein signing booksKatrina replies:
Good question, Raewyn. I don’t set out to write about particular topics but some themes are quite common in my stories. The natural environment and the beach come up a lot, as do dogs and family. They must all be important to me. I’d like to write about a mermaid because I love the sea. (I’ve been trying to write that story for a long time but I can’t quite get it right!)

My new book Great Goal! Marvellous Mark! is inspired by my two sons. I’m influenced by people and things that I Iove. So perhaps love is the thing that all of my books have in common.

For more about Katrina Germein and her books, check out her website:

The elephant (cover) by Peter Carnavas.And now Katrina Germein passes the baton to the next visitor — Peter Carnavas, an award-winning author-illustrator. His latest book is a novel, The Elephant.

Katrina asks:
“Hi Peter,
Sometimes you write, sometimes you illustrate and sometimes you write and illustrate. What’s the hardest thing about being so talented?”
Pass the book baton is taking a break for the Australian school holidays. The interview series will resume in August.
In the meantime, you can read all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series!


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!








How writers come up with ideas

Aleesah Darlison and Alyssa with Zoo Ball
Aleesah Darlison & Alyssa hold copies of Zoo Ball.

Aleesah Darlison has over 20 books published in Australia. Her latest picture book is Zoo Ball and the best part is that it is illustrated by Australian school students! Aleesah is visiting today as part of a Blog Tour to celebrate the book.

Have you ever wondered where authors get their ideas from? Read on!

As an author, I’m often asked ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’.

For me, generating ideas isn’t the problem. Why? Because ideas are all around us!

Ideas for stories are in everything we do, everything we hear and everything we see.

We can collect ideas from conversations, from holidays we go on and places we visit, from stories friends tell us, from articles we read in newspapers, from things we experience ourselves, from news reports on TV, and from our imaginations.

Ideas start from the smallest, most simple seeds. The hard part is recognising a great idea and being able to turn that into a short story, a picture book, or a longer work such as a novel.

If we keep our eyes open, our ears open and our minds open, we find that ideas will come far more easily to us.

It’s always a good idea to write these ideas down, or if you have an iPod, iPhone or voice recorder of some sort, to record the ideas on those devices so you save them for later.

Another way to collect ideas, ready to use in a story, is to brainstorm or mind map them.

Brainstorming is a loose form of planning that people of any age can work with.

If you’re worried about where to start your story, what sentences to form, or the correct grammar to use etc, brainstorming lets you cut everything back to its most simple form. You can use single words or pictures (by drawing your own, printing pictures off the internet or cutting photographs out of magazines) to record your ideas. Each item you place on your page or mind map acts as a story prompt, a place to jump off and start writing.

Three terrific things about brainstorming:

  • Allows you to put all of your ideas on paper in the one place quickly and easily
  • Helps you plan a story before you start
  • Allows you to work through various options and combinations of ideas until you find one that works best

Here’s an easy example of brainstorming to start with.

When choosing a main character, or characters for a story, I start with the three categories:

  1. Human
  2. Animal
  3. Fantasy

Then I might list 10 or 20 or sometimes 50 different items under each of these headings.

Let’s look at animals (my favourite).

On a blank piece of A4 copy paper, write the heading ‘ANIMAL’. Now list 10 animals. They might be your most favourite animals. They might be your least favourite animals. They might be animals that you’ve seen books on before. They might be animals you’ve never seen books on before. My ANIMALS list would look like this:


  • Cat
  • Giraffe
  • Dog
  • Dolphin
  • Rabbit
  • Wolf
  • Elephant
  • Mouse
  • Meerkat
  • Otter

The idea of brainstorming is not to use every idea we write down. It’s to use our best ideas only. And if you’re like me and listed lots of animals, you probably couldn’t fit them all into one story — not very well, anyway.

So let’s choose two animals from the list. I choose:

  1. Meerkat
  2. Dolphin

Now you have two main characters for your story. You can choose any combination of characters that you like.

Give each character a name.

My meerkat is called Millie. My dolphin is called Bubbles.

While you’re brainstorming your animal main characters, you might already be getting an image in your mind of what they look like. It’s a good idea to draw your characters too. This helps you visualise them and they become more real to you, the author. And if your characters are more real to you as the author, they will be more real to your reader.

You can now follow this process for brainstorming problems your characters might face.

  • Do they get lost?
  • Are they trying to save the world from destruction?
  • Or is it their first day at a brand new school?

There are almost limitless possibilities.

When you’ve brainstormed and mind mapped as much as you can, it’s time to write your story.

Introduce your character and their problem quickly. Drop your reader straight into the action then spend the remainder of the story having the character try to solve their problem.


Remember to pace your story well. Include a beginning, a middle and an end (resolution).

Don’t solve your character’s problem too soon in the story. Make sure you build the humour, tension or drama until you reach a climax.


When you’ve finished your story, always be sure to edit it to make sure it really is as good as it can be. Then you’ll be ready to share your story.


Happy writing!

Best wishes
Aleesah Darlison


Zoo Ball cover

Zoo Ball is unique — it’s written by an award-winning author and illustrated entirely by Australian school children. The publisher, Wombat Books, ran an illustration competition. Winners for each page were chosen and the overall winning entrant was also asked to illustrate the front cover. With the launch of Zoo Ball, 23 young illustrators were published — before they’ve even finished school!

For more information about Aleesah Darlison and her books, visit her website:


Book launches in WA, VIC, QLD, and NSW

It’s time for some spring book launches — here are a few to get the season started:


My Dead Bunny

This is a hilarious rhyming tale about a zombie bunny who comes back to visit his owner. Sketches and illustrations will be exhibited at the WA launch and The Dead Bunny will also be in attendance at all three launches.

WA Launch

When: 6pm for 6.30pm start, Wednesday 30 September 2015.

Where: The Place”, Mezzanine Level, State Library of WA.

RSVP essential: email James Foley.

VIC Launch

When: 12–3pm, 10 October 2015.

Where: Federation Square Markets (Books Illustrated Stall), VIC

NSW Launch

When: 3.30pm–3.55pm, 27 September 2015.

Where: Illustration Annex at Writers in the Park Festival (Free entry!) at Centennial Park, Sydney.

Includes ‘illustrators duel’ with three illustrators.


Forest Wonder

Forest Wonder is a rhyming picture book for 0 to 6 year olds and celebrates nature, magic and imagination. Come along for a storytime session and meet the author and illustrator.

When: 10.30am, Wednesday 9 September 2015.

Where: Snowprint Bookshop, Shop 6–8, 141 Snowy River Ave, Jindabyne NSW.


Meet Sidney Nolan

Come along to the launch of picture book Meet Sidney Nolan. There will be kids’ craft and art activities, too.

When: 10am, Sunday 4 October 2015.

Where: The Mad Hatters Bookshop, Shop 3, 7 Day Markets, 50 Cambridge Pde, Manly Harbour Village, QLD.

RSVP: (07) 33935130

Why go to a book launch? Here are ten reasons why you should!


More book launches! (August 2015)

‘Tis the season for book launches (and we do love a book launch!). Check these out if you live in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, or Queensland …


My name is Lizzie Flynn — A Story of the Rajah Quilt by Claire Saxby and Lizzy Newcomb

My Name is Lizzie Flynn (cover)

Come along to the launch of My Name is Lizzie Flynn — A Story of the Rajah Quilt.

When: 6.30pm until 8pm, Wednesday 19 August 2015.

Where: The Gallery, Williamstown Library, 104 Ferguson Street, Williamstown, Victoria.

RSVP: Bookings by phoning 1300 HOB LIB



Bob the Railway Dog by Corrine Fenton and Andrew McLean.

Bob the railway dog (cover)

Come along to the SA launch of Bob the Railway Dog by Corinne Fenton and Andrew McLean.

When: 2pm, Sunday 23 August 2015.

Where: National Railway Museum, 76 Lipson St, Port Adelaide, SA.

RSVP for catering: corinneking



Underneath a Cow by Carol Ann Martin and Ben Wood.

Underneath a Cow (cover)

Come along to the launch of Underneath a Cow by Carol Ann Martin and Ben Wood — afternoon tea, storytelling, craft, music. Children especially welcome!

When: 2pm Sunday 23 August 2015.

Where: The Southern Swan, 12 Mary St, Cygnet, Tasmania.

RSVP: no need to RSVP, just go along!



Fearless with Dad by Cori Brooke and Giuseppe Poli

Fearless with Dad (cover)

Come along to the launch of Fearless with Dad by Cori Brooke and Giuseppe Poli.

When: 2pm, Saturday 29 August 2015.

Where: Where the Wild Things Are, 191 Boundary St, West End, QLD.

RSVP: events

Why go to a book launch? Here are ten reasons why you should!

Beaconsfield Primary School, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Tea and Sugar Christmas


Tea and sugar Christmas (cover)

Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly, ill. Robert Ingpen, NLA Publishing, ISBN 9780642278630

This book was written by Jane Jolly and illustrated by Robert Ingpen — an Australian award-winning illustrator, who I think draws the most amazing pictures I have ever seen. This picture book has around 16 pages with black and white illustrations, along with some coloured ones too.

This fictional short story based on true life events tells the story of a young aboriginal girl named Kathleen. She is waiting with so much excitement for the Thursday weekly supply train, which serviced the remote communities from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie for 81 years. However this train is a special train as it is the first Thursday of December, which means Father Christmas will be visiting.

I especially liked how at the end of this book, it has a few pages with factual information and real pictures of the supply train. It tells how these isolated people relied on the train for groceries, household goods and even medical advice.

This is Jamie’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: Show Day

Show Day by Penny Matthews, ill. Andrew McLean, ISBN 9781862916890, Scholastic Australia

Reviewed by Jin Xiang Wilson, 7, VIC*

show day (cover)

This story is about Lil and her family going to a show. Dad was in the wood-chopping contest and entered his orange marmalade in the Craft and Cookery contest. Mum entered her pumpkin, jam, cheese scones and an iced birthday cake in the show. Henry, Lil’s brother, entered his guinea pig in the Best Pet contest. Lil has a special entry for the Most Unusual Pet but it’s a secret.

I enjoyed reading this book.

"Undercover Readers Club logo"* Jin Xiang Wilson is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. (Download information about the club on the magazine’s website.) A review copy of this picture book was provided by the publisher.

Book reviews by Rebecca, National Year of Reading

Featured Book: Lightning Jack

Lightning Jack by Glenda Millard and illustrated Patricia Mullins. Published by Scholastic Australia, ISBN 9781741693911.
(A review copy of this book was sent to us by the publisher.)

Lightning Jack by Glenda Millard and Patricia Mullins

Sam Tully dares to ride the midnight horse, Lightning Jack—a stockman’s horse, a flying horse, a daring horse, a dancing horse. On the back of such a horse, magnificent feats are accomplished.

This tale is a modern-day bush ballad. The rhythm of the words keep the story moving along, like the galloping horse and—along with the poetic language—this makes Lightning Jack a fantastic book for reading out loud.

The illustrations feature the colours and scenes of the outback and capture the adventurous spirit of horse and rider. (The imprint page states that the illustrations are ‘created entirely from paper, meticulously blending coloured tissue, Japanese and Indian papers.’ Perhaps you could have a go at creating your own outback scene using torn papers.)

Like many good bush ballads, this tale has an unexpected ending. A great Australian picture book—add this one to your ‘must read’ list!

© March 2012 “Review of Lightning Jack by Glenda Millard & Patricia Mullins” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)
teachers' resources, Yidarra Catholic Primary School

Book Review: Button Boy

Button Boy, by Rebecca Young, ill. Sue deGennaro ISBN 9781741697971, Scholastic Australia

Reviewed by Year 2G, Yidarra Catholic Primary School, WA

Yidarra Catholic Primary School students with a copy of Button Boy. Photo © K Price
Yidarra Catholic Primary School students with a copy of Button Boy. (Photo © K Price)

The book Button Boy was written and illustrated by Rebecca Young and Sue deGennaro. Button Boy is a fabulous book because it is about being helpful.

Button Boy is about a little boy called Banjo who loves to collect buttons. His grandma sews the buttons onto his jumper. Every day when he’s on his way to school he finds someone who has a missing button and he gives them one. Finally, he has only one button left. Banjo is a kind and giving boy.

We like the book because the pictures are very funny. The best thing about Button Boy is that the main character is a kind little boy. People who like collecting things would like this book. It would be good for boys or girls aged 5 to 8.

You should go and get this book now! It is great.

* Year 2"Undercover Readers Club logo" at Yidarra Catholic Primary School is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. A review copy of Button Boy was provided by the publisher.