Book reviews by Joseph, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Wonder


WONDER by RJ Palacio.

Wonder by RJ Palacio, Random House Children’s Books, ISBN 9780552565974 

Joseph borrowed this book from his school library.

August is born with a facial deformity and people think he’s ugly. He has always been home-schooled but now he has to go to school and face first impressions and bullies. There are 8 parts of the book (or 9 if you count the Julian chapter). In parts 2–5 you can read everyone else’s point of view before continuing with the rest of the plot. This meant you had background to the other people in the book and I liked that. It doesn’t have a standard plot and it was different from other books I’ve read.

Wonder reminded me a lot of the book Ugly by Robert Hoge (one of my Top Reads choices in 2015), and it makes me wonder if Wonder was based on a true story too.

This was a good read, well-written and engaging — and I wanted to keep reading it all in one run.

I would recommend Wonder for advanced 10-year-old readers and above.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of The Secret Island. 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: Song Bird Superhero


Song Bird Superhero

Song Bird Superhero by Karen Tyrell, Digital Future Press, ISBN 9780994302168

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

This book is about a girl called Rosella Ava Bird whose big dream is to fly. In her nightmares she is trying to save people while she’s flying and in those nightmares she always fails. She also lives next door to Frank Furter the school bully. Rosella’s singing shatters windows, she can’t fly, and she has been banned from the science fair. What can she do?

When I started reading Song Bird Superhero I thought it would be an adventure story. It turned out not to be my style of book but readers who love science fiction and fantasy might enjoy this book. The overall theme is friendship and family and finding what you are good at. It would suit 6 to 11 year olds best.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  Steve Goes to Carnival. 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: Dropping In

Dropping In by Geoff Havel, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925162219 dropping in (cover)


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

This is about two mates — one who is called Ranga and is very hyperactive and gets into trouble a lot, and one called Sticks. One day there’s a new student at school. His name is James and he’s in a wheelchair because he has cerebral palsy. They all live near each other but James can’t join in with everything the others do after school, like when they do skateboarding tricks. When James has to go into hospital for an operation, Ranga wants to make a welcome-home surprise. He has an idea that involves two skateboards and a beat up old couch. What could go wrong?

By looking at the cover, I didn’t think it was a book I would like, because I’ve never been skateboarding and this looked like a book all about skateboards. I decided to read it mostly because of the blurb and it turned out to be a really good book. I liked how these mates got along. Once I started reading Dropping In, I really, really, really didn’t want to put it down.

Most kids would enjoy this book and I think boys will particularly enjoy it. I recommend this book for kids aged 10+.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Refugee: The Diary of Ali Ismail. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

illustrator, teachers' resources

Two book launches (WA)

Here are two book launches coming up in June and July!

1. JUNE 2011 BOOK LAUNCH for picture book, The Last Viking

written by Norman Jorgensen, illustrated by James Foley

"The Last Viking (cover)"
When: Friday 24 June 2011, 6:30pm
Where: Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre (Old Freo Prison hospital), cnr Hampton and Knutsford Rd, Fremantle WA
RSVP for numbers to Fremantle Press: (08) 9430 6331 or email

A bit about The Last Viking (taken from the Fremantle Press site):

Young Josh is very brave.
He’s not afraid of anyone or anything—except maybe the dark. Pirates worry him a bit, of course, and so do boy-eating dinosaurs, and monsters under the bed. He’s also just a little afraid of dragons and vampires. But other than those few things, Josh is as brave as a lion.

Sort of.

When Josh comes face to face with real-life trouble, he begins to find out how brave he really is …

2. JULY 2011 BOOK LAUNCH for Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers

written and illustrated by Briony Stewart

"Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers (cover)"

When: Sunday 10 July 2011, 1.30pm–4.30pm
Where: Town of Vincent Library, 99 Loftus St, Perth WA.
Short reading, book sales, signing, sale of original illustrations and prints from the book.

Light refreshments and a chance for kids to win book prizes and colour in a giant dragon!

For more info, email Briony Stewart.

A bit about Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers (taken from the UQP site):

Kumiko is used to having a dragon guarding her night and day, but what she doesn’t quite know is why she needs one …

Since discovering the secret of the Shadow Catchers, a group of powerful sorcerers determined to steal magic at any cost, Kumiko knows it’s only a matter of time before her family’s link to dragons puts them all in grave danger. Is there a way to stop the Shadow Catchers once and for all and will Kumiko take the risk?

Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers follows Kumiko’s last and most exciting adventure as she travels through a world of shadows and dark magic in order to find freedom for herself and the kingdom of dragons.

Do you know about any upcoming book launches? (Let us know!)

authors, teachers' resources

Susan Stephenson, bullying and MONSTER MADDIE

18 March is the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. Today we are talking to author, Susan Stephenson (aka The Book Chook), about her picture book, Monster Maddie."Monster Maddie cover"

A bit about the book:

On Maddie’s first day at a new school, nobody notices her, even though she hangs around the edges of the other kids’ games and hopes to join in. On the second day, she becomes Monster Maddie, with ‘fangs and claws and wild, wild hair … “I’ll show them!” she said’. Of course her mean and hurtful behaviour doesn’t win her any friends and she realises nobody is going to invite her to play. She stomps away in tears—then, with the help of a curious kitten,she  finally comes up with a better way to join in on the playground.

What sparked the idea for you to write Monster Maddie?

As a school teacher, I saw lots of kids like Maddie. They didn’t understand how to make friends, and acted out. They did mean hurtful things in a desperate effort to be noticed and they certainly didn’t realise their behaviour was driving other kids further away. Sometimes those kids grow up to be bullies; sometimes they’re lucky—they realise what’s happening, and make an effort to be friendly. I wanted to write a book for those kids.

When I was at University, studying German, we read a book called Metamorphosis by a writer called Kafka. In the beginning of that story, the main character wakes up as a giant bug. I guess the idea of Maddie actually looking monsterish came from the profound effect that book had on me. I’ve also written a short story where a guy wakes up as a rooster. So far, I have only woken up as a human, but that doesn’t stop me checking the mirror each morning!

Did you ever feel like Maddie when you were growing up?

I certainly felt awkward in new situations, but I don’t remember putting ooze in people’s shoes and dirt in their shirts! I was lucky in that when I switched schools I had lots of my friends with me. Being a new kid is difficult. Often it seems that people are ignoring you, when they just need you to find a way to include them in a game.

How long did it take to write Monster Maddie?

Months and months. The hardest part for me is always the rewriting of a book. I get feedback on it from my writing friends, think about it, put it away for a while and make changes to it when I can see it with fresh eyes.

You say you have to rewrite after you write the story down. Is Monster Maddie very different from the first version you wrote?

It was always a story about a little girl who got mad when the kids at her new school wouldn’t notice her, and turned into a monster.  I think what changed was that it got fine-tuned. I deleted unnecessary words, made the structure of the story stronger, and worked hard to make sure the story sounded good to read aloud.

Have you met Monster Maddie‘s illustrator?

No, K.C.Snider lives in the USA and I live in Australia. But I talked to her via email.

Are you working on a new project at the moment?

At the moment, I’m working on two novels and a picture book. The picture book is about some sheep who want very much to go to the farmer’s wedding, only they aren’t invited. They try hard to get in, and end up succeeding in a most surprising way.

Monster Maddie includes 7 pages of activities, including a script for Monster Maddie to be performed. Do you think picture books make good theatre?

I think picture books are wonderful! They are perfect for kids to use to create their own reader’s theatre around, or just to act out the story for family and friends. I have a  series of four articles at The Book Chook blog where I talk you through the process of using Reader’s Theatre.

You can find out more about Susan Stephenson and her books on her website. The Book Chook has writing tips for kids in every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine. You can find more about literacy for parents and teachers on The Book Chook’s blog).