Book reviews by Celine, Book reviews by kids

Book Review: The Firebird Mystery

The Firebird Mystery by Darrell Pitt, ISBN 9781922147752,
Text Publishing

The Firebird (cover)

Reviewed by Celine, 11, WA

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

14-year-old Jack Mason is orphaned when his parents die in a circus. One day, a detective Ignatius Doyle is looking for an assistant, and the head of the orphanage asks Jack if he’d like to be the assistant. The acrobatic Jack accepts, and is straight away launched into a full-on adventure. Scarlet Bell, a 15-year-old girl comes to Mr. Doyle, and tells him that her father has been missing. They search Scarlet’s house and find one of Leonardo da Vinci’s original paintings that had gone missing, only with a firebird above it. What does this mean? Leonardo certainly didn’t paint a firebird into his painting. This was immediately followed by another case, when Professor M, a criminal mastermind gets hold of an atomic bomb that the ingenious Phoenix Society had created accidently. This atomic bomb can reduce London into rubble, killing thousands of millions of people in the process. Will they get out of this alive?

A thrilling book that contains adventurous characters that are willing to risk their lives. I would rate this book 4 ½ stars. Recommended to girls and boys 10 and above who love crime and mystery solving.

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

Book reviews by Celine, Book reviews by kids

Book Review: The Apothecary

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy, ISBN 9781921758171, Text Publishing

Reviewed by Celine, 11, WA

The apothecary (cover)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

14-year-old Janie lives in a world where war is very common. Her parents are communists, which means they are on a different side to most people. To avoid being put in prison, Janie and her parents have to leave America and move to London. When she arrives, a boy called Benjamin befriends her. However, being friends with Benjamin wasn’t a very smart move. Benjamin’s father is the apothecary, and owns a shop with potions. One day, while Benjamin and Janie were in the apothecary’s shop, the Russian spies turned up, and the apothecary thrusts them a magical book (the Pharmacopeia) and hides them in the cellar. When they go back upstairs, the shop has been ransacked and Benjamin’s father had disappeared. Will Benjamin ever find his father, the apothecary? Can Janie and Benjamin hide from the Russian spies? Is anyone trustworthy?

This was a spellbinding novel, with irresistible characters. Although the cover wasn’t very captivating, I was enthralled from the very first paragraph. I would highly recommend this book to children from ages 10–14, with a vast imagination. This novel receives 110% approval from me.

Celine is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of The 26-Storey Treehouse. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by Joseph, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Don’t Look Now series

Don’t Look Now: Book 1 by Paul Jennings, ill. Andrew Weldon, ISBN 9781743311233, Allen and Unwin

Don’t Look Now: Book 2 by Paul Jennings, ill. Andrew Weldon, ISBN 9781743311400, Allen and Unwin

Don’t Look Now: Book 3 by Paul Jennings, ill. Andrew Weldon, ISBN 9781743311417, Allen and Unwin

Don’t Look Now: Book 4 by Paul Jennings, ill. Andrew Weldon, ISBN 9781743311424, Allen and Unwin

Series reviewed by Joseph, 9, WA

A copy of these books were provided by the publisher

This funny series is all about Ricky (the boy who can fly), Samantha (Ricky’s friend), Ricky’s mum and dad, and Jack (Samantha’s guide dog). Everyone calls Ricky a dork—once he tried to join the freckles on his nose like a dot-to-dot. (It didn’t work, he just got a face covered in pen.) Every book has one page with a single giant word on it: FAMOUS.

In book 1 Ricky learns that he can fly and there are good and bad things he can do with that skill. He’s trying to get back the kangapoo keyring his grandad gave him after an owl stole it from him.

Don't look now 1

In Book 2, Riley wants to show everyone he can fly but whenever he does he falls down.

Don't look now 2

In book 3, Ricky really wants to make friends with Samantha, the car wash girl. But all his strategies seem to fail.

Don't Look Now 3

In Book 4, Ricky’s problems continue. A flood is preventing Samantha and her school friends from getting their stuffed toys for the show’s exhibition. The toys are on the other side of the river …

Don't Look Now 4

This series is exciting—sometimes you can guess what will happen next but most of the time I have to keep reading to find out. Each book is very funny. There are lots of pictures (black and white sketches) and so many pictures makes it fun to read and extra interesting. The series reminds me of the ‘Treehouse’ series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton but instead of fantasy adventures this series is more everyday funny happenings.

I like that there are maps at the beginning and end of each book. You can find things like Samantha’s yard, and the Tower and Surrounding Areas. I also liked the lists of things like ‘Things to Know about People,’ and ‘Things to Know About Samantha.’

Boys and girls aged 9 to 12 would enjoy the ‘Don’t Look Now’ series. (Books 2 and 4 are my favourites.)

Joseph is one of our regular Junior reviewers. His most recent review was Figaro and Rumba and the Cool Cats

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: Anton Can Do Magic

Anton Can Do Magic by Ole Könnecke, ISBN 9781877467639, Gecko Press

Reviewed by Matilda, 7, WA

Anton Can Do Magic

Anton is a boy with a hat that he thinks helps him be magic. He tries to make things disappear. Whenever he does magic, he wiggles his hands and the hat falls over his eyes and he can’t see what’s happening, so he thinks he’s done something magic.

Something interesting about the illustrations is that they use mostly hot colours like red, orange and yellow and reddy-orange. Only the bird is not orangey-red.

Can Anton really do magic? You will have to read this picture book to find out.

I would recommend this book to 5 to 8 year olds because it’s funny and it made me laugh.

Matilda is one of our regular Junior Book Reviewers. She previously reviewed: An Aussie Year. If YOU would like to send us a book review,check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by Joseph, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Figaro and Rumba and the Cool Cats

Figaro and Rumba and the Cool Cats by Anna Fienberg, ill. Stephen Michael King. ISBN 9781743313497, Allen & Unwin.

Reviewed by Joseph, 9 WA

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

Figaro and Rumba and the Cool Cats

Figaro and Rumba are friends — Rumba writes songs for the Cool Cats (a band) but Figaro likes to sing along and Figaro is not a good singer. This book is about these two friends and a little cat called Dora. The Cool Cats band’s best singer (Marta) has a car and Figaro, Rumba and Dora take the car for a drive without Marta knowing. They end up at the house of one of Dora’s friends and Figaro is sure there is some kind of monster following them. At the house, they make a discovery about Figaro …

Will Marta figure out that someone’s taken her car? What IS the monster? Can Figaro and Rumba fix their mistakes and save the day?

My favourite thing about the book is when Figaro has a dream — it’s a sort of warning about the monster. At that bit of the book, Dad told me it was bedtime and I didn’t want to stop reading. (Unfortunately I had to stop because Dad took the book away, so I finished it the next day.)

One thing that made me stop and think was ‘Why would the friends take the car without permission?’

The illustrations make the story even funnier and you get to know the characters more. I recognised the illustrator from The Pocket Dogs, which is one of my favourite picture books and if you liked Tashi, this is the same author as those books.

I give Figaro and Rumba and the Cool Cats 7.4 out of 10. I think 6 to 9 year olds would enjoy this book best because of the type of storytelling, and they will enjoy the illustrations.

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Pippa

Book Review: Liar & Spy

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, ISBN 9781921922947, The Text Publishing Company

Reviewed by Philippa, 11, WA

(A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher)

liar and spy

Georges has just moved house. His mum has gone away to the hospital and his dad is keen for him to ‘meet friends his age’. Then a notice for a Spy Club meeting appears and Georges meets Candy and Safer and is recruited to the Spy Club. He starts tracking the comings and goings of Mr X, a mysterious man in the building.

But the Spy Club’s activities start becoming dangerous and Georges has to decide — how far will he go for his new best friend?

I really liked that you never knew what was going to happen next in this book. The author gave you jigsaw pieces of the story and the plot had twists and turns. This story was set in the USA and usually I prefer books that are set in Australia because I like it when the school-settings and the places are familiar … but I couldn’t put this book down.

This is a great book for 11 to 14 year olds.

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!
Book reviews by Joseph, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Nelly Gang

   The Adventures of Nelly Nolan: The Nelly Gang by Stephen Axelsen,   ISBN 9781921977916, Walker Books Australia

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

Reviewed by Joseph, 9, WA

The Nelly Gang (cover)

This book is a graphic novel — it’s a bit like a comic book with lots of picture frames but it tells one long story through the whole book.

Nelly’s gang are Nelly and her friends Miro, Jin, plus Nelly’s goat. Nelly lives in Christmastown in Victoria in 1860 with her Pa who is looking for gold. When he finds gold (lots of gold!) they decide to go back to Sydney to find Nelly’s Ma. But someone knows about their gold and bushrangers are everywhere — like Captain Sunbeam and also Captain Moonshine. (The title of the book made me think of Ned Kelly, but Ned Kelly is not in this book.) The Nelly Gang have to fight the bushrangers.

The pictures in The Nelly Gang have interesting things to look at in the backgrounds. In a normal book you would have lots of description in words but the comic-style pictures do that in a graphic novel. I like the message tree — the posters on it made me laugh. Nelly’s goat (Queen Victoria) also makes me laugh. That’s my favourite character. And I liked funny lines like ‘as rich as pigs in a parsnip patch’ which is what Pa says to Nelly when they are weighing his gold.

Boys and girls age 8+ would thoroughly enjoy this. You learn a bit of history like what clothes are like in 1860, what school was like (the kids used slates instead of books and pencils), what money they used, how people lived in the goldfields, how they weighed gold and what their transport was like (horses and carriages).

When I got to the end I wondered what will happen to Nelly next so I would like to read a sequel. I would rate this book 9.5 out of 10.

National Year of Reading

Book Review – Sword Girl: The Secret of the Swords

Today we have 7-year-old Lucinda stopping by as our guest reviewer. Welcome, Lucinda!

Sword Girl: The Secret of the Swords by Frances Watts, ill. Gregory Rogers, ISBN 9781742377285, Allen & Unwin

Reviewed by Lucinda, 7, WA

sword girl (cover)

The Secret of the Swords is a story with a lot of unexpected surprises. For example, lots of things talked. I really enjoyed it because it felt like I was in the story.

The book was about a little girl named Tommy who wanted to be a knight. My favourite character was Tommy because she liked knights and I do too. I really liked the ending because it has lots of action in it. Girls would like this book, but boys would too. People who are 7 or 8 would like this book. The part I didn’t like was the start because it had no action at all. I really liked the illustrations because the illustrations were full of action too!
"Undercover Readers Club logo"* Lucinda is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. (Download information about the club on the magazine’s website.) A review copy of Sword Girl: The Secret of the Swords was provided by Allen & Unwin.