authors, interviews

Ashleigh Barton on Solomon Macaroni and the Cousin Catastrophe

Ashleigh Barton lives in Sydney, Australia. She is the author of several picture books including What Do You call Your Grandpa?, What Do You Call Your Grandma? and What Do You Do to Celebrate? Today we’re pleased to have Ashleigh visiting Alphabet Soup to talk about her first children’s novel, Solomon Macaroni and the Cousin Catastrophe, illustrated by Sarah Davis.

From the publisher:

You’ve never met a vampire like Solomon Macaroni before – he’s friendly, polite and makes a mean tofu Bolognese. Understandably, when his parents go on a one-hundred-year cruise without him, Solomon is not impressed. Especially because it means having to stay in creepy Transylvania with his six cousins, who are the rudest and naughtiest vampires in existence. When his cousins venture into the spooky Wildwood on a dangerous mission, Solomon agrees to help rescue them. At least, that’s what he thinks he’s doing …


So … are Solomon’s cousins inspired by your own cousins?

Solomon’s cousins are probably inspired a little bit by my own family but not on purpose. I do have a lot of cousins (way more than Solomon does in fact – twenty-two first cousins in total!) and my siblings do love a good prank, but I didn’t intentionally base any of the characters on them. I’m sure some of their traits and our relationships growing up have probably showed up at least a little bit. Funnily enough, when one of my brothers first saw the cover, he thought the character illustrations were based on us. It was just a coincidence but I can see what he means – there is a bit of uncanny resemblance to our different personalities! (He thought Lucy, with her head in her book, was me.)

Did you suffer (or instigate) a memorable prank when you were growing up?

Looking back, pranking has definitely been a constant part of my life but fortunately nothing too traumatic. Everyone in my immediate family seems to love a good prank. My dad loved hiding our food if we left the room and once my brother stuck a fake spider high up on a wall to scare our dad when he got home from work. Poor Dad spent ages trying to get the spider down. A lot of my childhood friends and I loved pranking too. Some of the pranks we pulled were a bit naughty so I don’t want to share in case I give you ideas!

Which character in the book would you most like to spend an afternoon with?

Probably Uncle Dracula! He is a lot of fun and I’d be up for trying any of his whacky inventions, especially ones involving ice cream. It would also be amazing to listen to his stories and find out what life was like throughout the different centuries. Arrubakook – the wayfinding kookaburra – would also be a handy companion if I could hang out with her regularly because I can’t find my way anywhere.

Do you have a tip for children who’d like to try writing a novel?

One thing I’ve been having a lot of fun doing with kids in schools lately is coming up with a character to turn upside down the way I’ve done with vampires in Solomon Macaroni. The vampires in my story are completely different to traditional vampires – they don’t drink blood, they aren’t immortal (though they can live a really long time and age really slowly), they don’t have any powers or abilities and they can definitely eat garlic. This is because in Solomon’s world, magic has almost completely disappeared. The character of Dracula – a very well-known character from literature who is usually depicted as heartless and monstrous – is actually a very nice, caring and creative person. So, you could come up with your own character based on either a famous literary figure or a mythical creature and then completely rewrite them. Give them new characteristics and personality traits. You could even change their appearances, their family and friends, where they live and what they live for. It’s a great way to let your imagination run wild and then a story will often fall into place around this character you’re creating.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on next?

I’m always working on a bunch of things and constantly have ideas whirling around my head, but the project that I am properly working on now (or should be working on now) is the second Solomon Macaroni book. In book two, Solomon, his cousins and Uncle Dracula head to Paris for a family holiday that goes very, very wrong.

Solomon Macaroni and the Cousin Catastrophe is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.


Image shows the cover of a children's novel: Solomon Macaroni and the Cousin Catastrophe by Ashleigh Barton. The cover is black and Solomon and his cousins are drawn in grey, purple and orange. There are purple bats the top of the cover. Solomon looks like a vampire in a purple cape lined with orange, short black hair that comes to a point over his forehead and fangs. The cousin behind him is pouring orange liquid onto Solomon's head from a glass bowl. Twin girl cousins in purple pinafores are about to cut off Solomon's ear with a pair of scissors. A young cousin in a purple cap is lying at Solomon's feet tying his shoelaces together. A girl in a purple dress and necklace of beads is pointing an airhorn at Solomon. And a girl in a yellow striped shirt and hair in pigtails stands off to one side reading an orange book and looking over her shoulder uncertainly at the others.

AWESOME EXTRAS

Download the Teachers’ Notes

Visit Ashleigh Barton’s website for more about her and her books

Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: Isadora Moon Goes to School

Image shows the cover of a children's book: Isadora Moon Goes to School by Harriet Muncaster. The cover illustration shows a black sky full of stars with a white full moon at the centre of the cover. Moving across the moon is a child with bat wings, a fairy wand, a yellow dress, black-and-white striped tights and black hair blowing behind her. She has fangs. Ahead of her is a pink rabbit.

REVIEWED BY ARIELLA, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

Isadora Moon Goes to School by Harriet Muncaster, Random House Books for Young Readers, ISBN 9780399558238

Ariella reviewed her own copy of this book.

Have you ever read Isadora Moon Goes to School? I think you should read it because it is about a girl who is half fairy and half vampire. So when she goes to fairy school she can not wear black. But at vampire school she can’t whoosh when she is flying; she flaps. So she goes to another school …

Do you want a cool book? This is the best one for you. One reason I love this book is because being half fairy half vampire is awesome and having a living stuffed animal is great. Another reason I like this book is because Isadora can be a good friend. For example, because she is half fairy and half vampire she can be friends with both fairies and vampires. I also think you should read this book because it is funny because Isadora has 2 breakfasts and is so full.

I hope you can get this book right away. I hope you like it!


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!