Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Celine, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Pharaoh, the boy who conquered the Nile

Pharaoh, the Boy Who Conquered the Nile by Jackie French, HarperCollins, ISBN 9780207200823

Pharaoh cover

REVIEWED BY CELINE, 12, WA

Celine reviewed her own copy of this book.

Narmer is 12 years old, and is often referred to as ‘The Golden One’, by the people of his town because they believe that he has potential to be a ruler, to follow the footsteps of his father, the king. Although he is the second-born child, he is preferred by his father and was therefore chosen to be the heir to the throne. His older brother Hawk, is a pleasant and kind brother, and always treats Narmer with care. But as the days pass by, and Narmer becomes more worthy of the throne, Hawk may not want to be the gentle, caring brother anymore.

After an awful incident with a crocodile, Narmer finds that he has been left with scars and wounds that may disable him forever. He may not have the strength to lead his people anymore. When a foreign trader arrives from another town to offer goods for gold, Narmer discovers his gift for trading. He decides to become one of the trader’s apprentices, and learns from the trader’s ways, as the trader and his travelling group continue to journey across the Nile. Will Narmer be able to survive this journey? What will become of his future?

I admire Narmer because when times were tough, Narmer was resilient. He was daring, even as a little boy. This book is suitable for children aged 11 to 14 who enjoy historical fiction. If I were part of the Children’s Reading Council, I would award this book with the highest commendations. It is a must read for everyone!

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

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Celine, Book reviews by kids

Book review: My Life as an Alphabet

My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg, Allen and Unwin, ISBN 9781743310977

My Life as an Alphabet

REVIEWED BY CELINE, 12, WA

Celine reviewed her own copy of this book

Candice Phee has led an extraordinary life, and her family has gone through much sadness: the loss of her younger sister’s life, her mother’s breast cancer, and her father’s fight with his brother. Candice herself has no friends, and many of her classmates think of her as someone who has ‘special needs’, even though she is perfectly normal. She desperately wants her family and herself to become normal, and happy as they used to be. When Douglas Benson, the new kid in class becomes friends with Candice, things start to change. Candice decides that she will make everyone happy, and so, with the help of Uncle Brian and the advice of Earth-Pig-Fish, Candice strives to make her world a better place. Will her plan work?

This book is recommended to girls who love stories about relationships with a twist of science fiction. It was a marvellous story, and although some of it was hard to believe, I would give this book a rating of 10/10.

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

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Celine, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Broken Sun

The Broken Sun by Darrell Pitt (A Jack Mason adventure: Book 3), ………ISBN 9781922182166, Text Publishing.

the broken sun

REVIEWED BY CELINE, 12, WA

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

Jack and his friends witness a ghastly robbery of a priceless item from the museum. This crime is soon followed by yet another, of The Broken Sun, an ancient relic that apparently leads to New Atlantis. Mr Doyle, a detective who is training Jack and his friend Scarlet, is shocked by the news that Phillip his son, who had been thought to be deceased for so long, could still be alive.

When Gloria, Mr Doyle’s receptionist, is pricked by a mysterious thorn that results in an almost fatal coma, Jack and his friends feel that they must find New Atlantis with the help of the Broken Sun to find a cure for her. Will they survive this risky journey, and who is so desperate to find the Broken Sun that they are willing to murder?

The Broken Sun is a thrilling book, with historic and futuristic elements in it. I particularly enjoyed chasing the enemy in Jack’s shoes.

This book is recommended to boys aged 11 and up, who like a twist of mystery and eccentric girls who like to read boyish books. I would give it a rating of 8/10.

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Celine, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Secret Abyss

The Secret Abyss by Darrell Pitt, ISBN 9781922147967, Text Publishing

The Secret Abyss

REVIEWED BY CELINE, 11, WA

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

Imagine living in a world where an infamous villain could be around the corner. One of your long lost friends comes bleeding and gives you a message but because he is dying the messages are shuffled. Jack Mason and his allies are on a mission to capture the Chameleon, a dangerous assassin, who has escaped from prison. Somebody else, however, is involved in the case. Charles Ashgrove, who is apparently linked to an infamous terrorist group, helped the Chameleon escape to achieve numerous crimes. The first on their list is to kill the president. They have already captured an ingenious inventor to build their deadly weapon “The Whip of Fire”.

Will Jack and his allies be able to save the president? Can they catch the Chameleon and punish Charles Ashgrove in time?

Second in the series to The Firebird Mystery, The Secret Abyss was an enjoyable book with hilarious jokes, and scary villains. I was tied to the book from start to finish, experiencing the same story as the characters.

I would recommend this book to hungry bookworms who love a twist of dare and mystery. This book ended surprisingly, and I was both sad for the characters, yet happy for them as well. I would rate it a perfect score: 10/10.

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

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Celine, Book reviews by kids

Book Review: Shadow Sister

Dragonkeeper5: Shadow Sister by Carole Wilkinson, ISBN 978922179579, Black Dog Books

Dragonkeeper 5: Shadow Sister

REVIEWED BY CELINE, 11, WA

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

Young Tao has been roaming the mountains in search of a cure of dragons’ weakness: iron, when he stumbles across his old colleague/enemy Fo Tu Deng, along with a gang of nomads. When Tao and his dragon Kai finally escape these savages, he is stuck in a dark passage with unknown ghosts prodding him and breathing cold breath on him. After they escape these ghosts, Tao and Kai are turned upon a seven-headed snake monster, whose bite is deadly, and fatal.

When Tao returns to his deserted home, at night, when the moon shines, a ghost appears. Who is this mysterious ghost? What does she seek from Tao?

All is not as it seems. When battle arrives, will Tao and his new-sought allies actually survive? Can Tao find his qi to defeat the opposition? Will Tao and Pema survive?

Full of action and adventure, Shadow Sister is impossible to put down. Reading Shadow Sister was an adventure in itself, I felt like I was Tao being pursued, haunted, and questioned. I recommend it to ages 10 upwards, but it is not suitable to sensitive children (I was haunted by the ghost and couldn’t sleep one night).

This is the best book of the series, but since I am quite sensitive, I thought this book was a little on the scary side.

In all, I rate it 99.9999999999999999%.

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

Posted in book reviews, 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!

Posted in book reviews, 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!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Celine, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The 26-Storey Treehouse

The 26-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, ill. Terry Denton, ISBN 9781742611273, Pan Macmillan Australia

Reviewed by Celine, 11, WA

26-storey treehouse

Have you read The 13-Storey Treehouse? Well, Andy and Terry are back with another 13 new storeys! When Andy tries to tell us a story, he is rudely interrupted by Terry, who’s apparently made the sharks sick by feeding them his underwear. Then Jill comes and helps. Inside one of the shark’s bellies, Andy finds a wooden head that belongs to Captain Woodenhead.  This leads into the story of pirates with Jill, Andy and Terry. Then a real pirate ship pulls up at their shore, and out comes a captain with a disgusting head. Apparently he found it in a fish’s tummy.

Could this possibly be Captain Woodenhead, and if so, how will Andy and Terry shoo away the captain and his crew?

I liked this book, however — it was quite gruesome and this book would suit pirate lovers better. I would give this book a rating of 7/10.

Celine is one of our Junior Book Reviewers. Here are two other books reviewed by Celine on Soup Blog: Blood Brothers, and Rotters and Squatters.  If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Celine, Book reviews by kids

Book Review – Blood Brothers

Dragonkeeper: Blood Brothers by Carole Wilkinson, ISBN 978742031897, Walker Books Australia

Reviewed by Celine, 10, WA

Blood brothers (cover)

Recently I devoured the most exquisite yet enchanting book, Blood Brothers. It is the fourth book in the series ‘Dragonkeeper’. It tells the story of a monk named Tao. He is the only monk in his family for one reason. He is accumulating good karma for his brother Wei. His brother Wei is unable to move his limbs or talk, but Wei has the powers of a dragonkeeper. When Tao and Wei hold hands, some of the powers are transferred to Tao, as Wei cannot use them.  Tao can then talk to a dragon that was following him throughout his journey so far.

Kai the dragon is in search of a dragonkeeper. As Tao journeys on from his house, he comes face to face with some terrible bloodthirsty nomads. Will Tao escape? Can Wei survive?

I believe the title is very suitable for this story and you will understand it when you finish the book. Blood Brothers is very hard to put down. I experienced the feelings with the character as if I were in his shoes—sad, relieved, excited and worried.

This book is recommended for ages 9 and above. My favourite part was when Tao called Wei ‘Wei-Wei’. I would rate this book all the stars visible in the night sky.

Now I’m going back to read books 1, 2 and 3!

"Undercover Readers Club logo"* Celine is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. (Download information about the club on the magazine’s website.) A review copy of Blood Brothers was provided by Walker Books Australia.
Posted in competitions

Winter Writing Comp winners! (2012)

Congratulations to the three winners from our 2012 winter story-writing competition.

UNDER 7s WINNER—Finn Canham

The Great Escape

One day there was a fluffy rabbit called Caramel. He saw the most fattest and juiciest orange carrot!

He came up with a plan. The plan was that he dug 1 metre down. Then he put his plan into action. But there was a rock, if he went around it he would lose his path so he dug up but there was a rock. He had to go backwards and dig up.

He ran over to the orange carrot and he realised it was so big that he couldn’t carry it home so he ate half of it. Then it was the size of two orange carrots. That was good because the rest of his family was two other rabbits. Caramel was the only baby they had.

He carried it back down the burrow and went home. Then they enjoyed their lunch, it was orange carrot soup.

UNDER 9s WINNER—Celine Ng

The Desk

I am waiting in anticipation for the classroom door to open. It’s the start of 2012 and I’m starting Grade 4. My ex-best friends are hanging out with Belinda. Since we had a fight in Grade 2, they have been ignoring me. My new teacher comes into the classroom.

“Sorry class, I left the key to the classroom in the staff room!”

Yes, Mr Brown’s class. He is the funniest teacher in the whole school. I’m crossing my fingers that I have a great desk. Back in Grade 2, I scribbled in my desk but my teacher caught me. I closed my desk and gave my most innocent smile. When I opened it, the scribble had disappeared! Believe me, it’s creepy!

The best bit is hunting for your desk at the start of the year. My teachers always place our nametags on the desk to let us know where we are sitting. I open my orange desk and guess what I saw? That’s right, I saw the scribble I made in Year 2. How queer. The teachers must have misplaced the desk when they were cleaned at the end of last year! I sigh thinking of the times I had in Year 2. Sitting at my old desk has made me nostalgic. If only I was wiser back then. If only I could send my young self a message to wise up. I sigh again and wrote myself a note:

Dear Bonnie,

You might not believe this, but I am actually you 2 years older. I remember having trouble with friends in Year 2; so, if you have any trouble, feel free to ask me for advice!

Signed: Bonnie from Grade 4.

I shut my desk thinking how silly I am trying to write to my 7-year-old self. After I have prepared my stationery for the day, I open my desk to retrieve my book to read and I am flabbergasted by what I see. The letter that I wrote to my old self has disappeared and in replacement is a reply with my 7-year-old writing, big and messy.

Dear Bonnie,

I made a mistake. Now my friends don’t like me anymore. I was trying to have fun and when Emma was about to sit down, I took her chair away. She fell and started crying. Help me think of a way to make up for that joke.

Love Bonnie.

Hmm … I have to help young Bonnie think something to repair our friendship again.

Dear Bonnie,

Write a sorry letter to them or make a sorry card. Otherwise they might hate you for not saying sorry.

Love Bonnie.

After news session in class, I go back to my desk and find another note:

Dear Bonnie,

Thanks for all your help. Cassie, Emma and I are best friends again.

Love Bonnie.

Emma and Cassie run towards me and give me a big bear hug. They hold my hands and for the first time in a long time, I feel popular.

UNDER 12s WINNER: Ellie Rose Fisher

Shipwreck

The sun’s strong, amber fingers found their way through the skylight, onto the cheek of the sleeping girl. Elizabeth Fleckfeather stirred and opened her sea green eyes. She could hear the sea churning and birds singing their songs to the morning, see her room—a jumble of books, socks and swimming awards—feel the warmth of the sun on her cheek and smell salt and books by her bedside.

Elizabeth sprang out of bed and to her dressing table. She scraped her hair into a scruffy bun, pulled on her moss green swimming costume and woke her dog, Rosie, from her wickerwork basket. The girl and her dog sprinted downstairs to the back door, where she unlatched the handle and pushed.

A wave of fresh, salty sea air came through the door and greeted the girl. Elizabeth thought she would never tire of that smell, salty and fresh of the sea. She skipped down the gravel path, flanked by silver birch and olive trees, her dog running silently at her heels.

She came to the dunes, took the rabbit track she wanted and found herself on a rocky cliff top. She went down the rivulets the rain had made in the rock; all the way down to the beach. There the sun sparkled on the water as if it were made of crystal and the sand of crushed diamonds. Elizabeth dived into the ocean. The sea was so very cold and the girl shivered in delight as it penetrated her skin—it was a lovely sensation and one she would never, ever tire of.

Elizabeth swam deeper and deeper into the sea, nearer and nearer to the old shipwreck. She’d heard tales of the old shipwreck—that it was haunted, the sailors’ bones were still down there, that it had the power to suck you under the water. Elizabeth had always disregarded these tales and dived near the old wreck every day. This day was no exception.

The wreck was slimy with seaweed and algae and was covered with lichen and moss. Shells like coils of toothpaste and white paint flecked the ship, which was crumbling apart at the planks. Small crabs and other creatures scuttled in and out of the port holes—glass now gone from age and sea water.

Elizabeth dived into the wreck, under the deck, swimming through curtains of tiny, bright orange fish and dodging several long wavy black eels—deeper than she had ever been before.

Below deck it was gloomy and she could only see a few centimetres ahead of her, so it was not very surprising what happened next.

Elizabeth was just about to leave the murky depths, when it happened. There came an ominous whooshing sound from the corner, where a large hole rotted. Elizabeth looked over her shoulder and the sight that met her eyes made her scream. Water filled her mouth and she was sucked into the hole—out of this world.

Well done Finn, Celine and Ellie Rose! These three talented writers have received a certificate and a $20 book voucher.

If you’d like to enter our spring writing competition (or the 2012 design-a-cover competition), check out the competitions page on our website. Good luck!