Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Pippa

Book Review: Alex, The Dog and the Unopenable Door

Alex, The Dog and the Unopenable Door by Ross Montgomery, ISBN 9780571294619, Faber and Faber

Review by Philippa, 12, WA

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

Alex, the dog and the unopenable door (cover)

Alex lives near The Cusp, a border around the Forbidden Land which prevents humans from going in. Alex father has made it to the magical centre of the Forbidden Land but when he comes back he starts digging holes in the back garden, and trying to run back to the centre of the Forbidden Land. Then Alex is captured by the head of expeditions-to-the-centre. Can he escape and find out the truth about his father?

This is a fantasy-thriller. The story is gripping and it is not like any other book I’ve read before. Do not read it 5 minutes before bedtime! (You’ll want to stay up all night reading it.)

I think the title doesn’t match the story. There is a lot going on in the book but the title makes it sound like a light read and for younger readers than I think will enjoy it, and the title doesn’t tell you it’s a fantasy book. I thought a better title might be something like The Secret of The Cusp.

I recommend this book for ages 10 to Adult. (I gave it to my Nana to read, and she couldn’t put it down either.)

Alex, The Dog and the Unopenable Door is in my Top Ten reads for this year.

Philippa is one of Alphabet Soup’s Junior Reviewers. If you are aged 12 or under, you can email us your book reviews, too — check out our submission guidelines. You can also read Philippa’s most recent reviewLiar & Spy
Book reviews by Rebecca

Book review – Saurus Street 2: A Pterodactyl Stole my Homework

A Pterodactyl Stole my Homework by Nick Falk, ill. Tony Flowers, ISBN 9781742756561, Random House Australia

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

a pterodactyl stole my homework (cover)

Sam and his older brother, Nathan, are Team Dinosaur. Nathan is the Captain and he knows everything about dinosaurs. Sam is Second-in-Charge.

But Team Dinosaur might be broken up—Sam’s mum is so mad when his fifth lot of homework goes missing (stolen by a pterodactyl, but she doesn’t believe that) that she threatens to send Sam to a school for naughty boys instead.

Sam and Nathan have to find a way to get that homework back. They have to find a way to get up Saurus Hill to find the homework-stealing pterodactyl.

This is a funny chapter book for younger readers who love dinosaurs—and who doesn’t love dinosaurs? There are also cool black and white illustrations on almost every page and the adventures are chock-a-block full of pterosaur facts.

You can download the first few pages of the book for free on the Random House Australia website. And best of all, this is book two in the Saurus Street series—there are more Saurus Street adventures to read. Excellent!

© January 2013 “Review of A Pterodactyl Stole my Homework by Nick Falk & Tony Flowers” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)
teachers' resources

Book review: The Great Expedition by Peter Carnavas

The Great Expedition, written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas, New Frontier Publishing, ISBN 9781921042812

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

The Great Expedition (cover)This story is loosely based on the expedition of explorers Burke and Wills. In The Great Expedition, the exploring party is assembled—with a leader, a navigator, a botanist, a biologist and an animal handler (to keep the dog under control). The group of young explorers needs to get a parcel safely to its destination. They set off in high spirits but soon run into all sorts of trouble … and then disaster strikes.

Although they are exhausted by their journey, obviously this adventure is not as arduous as the one Burke and Wills faced (plus, this journey has a happy ending!). This is a great picture book for kids learning about explorers—learning what happens on an expedition, and the roles of the people involved. At the end of the book there is a little about Burke and Wills, too.

Younger kids will enjoy the story as it is, older kids will appreciate the humour behind the kids’ expedition mirroring a real one. And everyone will love the quirky illustrations (look out for the dog in the endpapers!).

A fun adventure, and a springboard for learning about the great explorers of history.

© October 2011 “Review of The Great Expedition by Peter Carnavas”, reviewed by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)
Book reviews by Rebecca

Book review: The Pup’s Tale

The Pup’s Tale by Darrel and Sally Odgers, ill. Janine Dawson, Scholastic Press ISBN 9781741697254"The Pup's Tale (cover)"
A review copy of this book was sent to us by the publisher.

Trump is an animal liaison officer at Pet Vet clinic. (He’s a Jack Russell terrier.) This is book 6 in the Pet Vet series.

When Dr Jeanie (the vet) checks on a mother labrador and her 15 newborn puppies, she discovers that the mother dog isn’t able to look after the smallest puppy, Tiny. Trump and Dr Jeanie have to try to find a foster-mother for Tiny, and keep an eye on him.

Before you get into the story, there are some sketches of the important people in the book. Throughout the book there are grey info boxes to help with interesting words (like ‘Runt—the smallest pup or piglet in a litter.’)

If you like books about animals (and especially dogs!), you’ll love The Pup’s Tale.

© July  2011 “Review of The Pup’s Tale by Darrel and Sally Odgers, ill. Janine Dawson”, reviewed by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)
Book reviews by Rebecca, teachers' resources

Book review: Monster Maddie

Monster Maddie, by Susan Stephenson. Illustrated by KC Snider. (Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.)

"Monster Maddie cover"

This picture book’s main character—Maddie—hates feeling invisible and ignored on her first day of school. After that terrible first day she decides she’ll make the other kids notice her. And she becomes MONSTER MADDIE, with ‘fangs and claws and wild, wild hair.’ Her mean tricks and bullying behaviour don’t win her any new friends, of course. Even she knows she’s become a monster and she doesn’t like it.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how to make new friends (especially if you’re a bit shy). Monster Maddie shows the approach that some kids might take when they feel lonely and frustrated about joining in.  And Maddie is mean. ‘She put ants in their pants, dirt in their shirts, and ooze in their shoes.

When you’re reading the book, you can tell that she’s not going be asked to join in when she’s so mean. I’ve seen kids behaving like Maddie on the playground—back when I was growing up, but also when I’ve been around playgrounds as an adult. Luckily, by the end of the book Maddie comes up with a way to approach the other kids and join in with them. But it’s not much fun for the other kids OR for Maddie until she does!

This picture book includes 7 pages of activities, including a script of Monster Maddie as a play. This is a great idea for a book about bullying—sometimes acting out a story can help you to see things from a character’s point of view. The activities also include ideas for writing, thinking and creating. There are also some questions to get you thinking about bullying behaviour and what you might do if you feel like Maddie (or if you are one of the other kids in the story).

Susan Stephenson writes The Book Chook’s column (with writing tips for kids) in every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine.

Reviewed by Rebecca Newman
Book reviews by Rebecca, teachers' resources

What we’re reading: Hanging Out by Catherine Bateson

"Hanging out (cover)"

Hanging Out, by Catherine Bateson, illustrated by Adam Carruthers,  Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia, 2010

Weston is coming for a visit while his parents are on holiday, and Ben is worried.  Last time Ben saw Weston, Ben made up lots of stories about his life in Melbourne, and now Weston will find out he wasn’t telling the truth. Ben tries to make his mum change her mind.

I remembered everything I had said.

“Mum, he really can’t come here.”

The only true thing I’d told Weston was that we lived near Puffing Billy. We can hear its whistle blow from our house.

As soon as Weston arrives, he’ll start asking about all the activities Ben bragged about. What will Ben do?

This is an early chapter book in the ‘Mates’ series. The colour illustrations by Adam Carruthers are fun. My favourite is a drawing of Miss Phillips on page 35, but I can’t tell you why because it will spoil the story. 🙂

Do you think Ben should tell Weston that he made up most of the stories about his life in  Melbourne?

Reviewed by Rebecca Newman. Our review copy was sent to us by Omnibus Books.
Book reviews by Rebecca

The Battle for Rondo by Emily Rodda

The evil Blue Queen’s power seems to be growing and Leo and Mimi Langlander return to the world of Rondo for the last time to join with their Rondo friends to try to stop her. They come up with a plan to defeat the queen, but it’s risky. And they have to face dragons, ogres and numerous other evil inhabitants as they prepare. Can they save Rondo, or will the Blue Queen triumph and have Rondo under her spell forever?

This is the third book in the Rondo series and full of thrilling adventures. Mimi and Leo have changed a lot since The Key to Rondo (when they first entered Rondo) and seem more accepting of their roles in the survival of Rondo. You really want their plans to work, but even heroes are frightened, tired, and make bad decisions sometimes …

You don’t have to read the first two books to enjoy this one, but the first two are also fantastic – so I recommend starting back at the beginning with The Key to Rondo, and then read The Wizard of Rondo before moving onto this book. And you’ve got school holidays ahead of you, so you’ll have heaps of time to read!

The Battle for Rondo, by Emily Rodda, Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia, ISBN 9781862918306
A review copy of The Battle for Rondo was sent to us by Omnibus Books (for Scholastic Australia)
Book reviews by Rebecca

Pancakes and Painted Eggs (Jean Chapman)

Pancakes and Painted Eggs
Pancakes and Painted Eggs

This book is an old favourite of mine. It may not be in print now (correct me if I’m wrong, and I’d love to be wrong), but still seems to be available from many libraries and you could try finding second-hand copies through Amazon (or perhaps ebay).

Pancakes and Painted Eggs is a book for Lent and the Easter Season. It has stories, poems, songs (even sheet music, arranged by Margaret Moore), explanations of customs and festivals from a variety of cultures, recipes, craft activities, and fun illustrations by Kilmeny Niland. There’s something for everyone!

So get yourself down to your local library!

This book was selected for review from the Editor’s own collection.

What we’re reading: Can You Keep a Secret?

In our opinion, children just aren’t exposed to enough traditional rhymes anymore. Sharing them with your children aids memory, and encourages a love of rhythm, rhyme and poetry. It’s also FUN!

Can You Keep a Secret? (Timeless rhymes to share and treasure)
Can You Keep a Secret? (Timeless rhymes to share and treasure)

Can You Keep a Secret? is a selection of rhymes from a variety of cultures presented in a gorgeous hardback book. The illustrations, by Jobi Murphy, are appealing, colourful and simple.

The rhymes  have been selected by Mark Carthew and are divided into sections: nursery rhymes, playtime rhymes, action rhymes, counting rhymes, finger plays, and lullabies and gentle rhymes.

Highly recommended!

Review copy provided by Random House