Posted in Events, library, school holidays, teachers' resources

Meet storyteller Glenn B Swift

Tall Tales and True of Brave Knights and Fair Maidens (WA event)

Storyteller Glenn B Swift will let you in on what Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Sir Lancelot had in common and what lessons they had to learn to live happily ever after. For ages four to 12. (This event is part of the WA Premier’s Summer Reading Challenge.)

Tuesday, 12 January from 11.00am to noon at Willagee Library and 2.00pm to 3.00pm at Canning Bridge Library.

Wednesday, 13 January from 1.00pm to 2.00pm at A.H. Bracks Library and 3.00pm to 4.00pm at Civic Square Library.

Cost: $2.00 per child (bookings essential).

For more information,  phone the City of Melville on 1300 635 845.

Posted in teachers' resources

Win a copy of Bush Secrets by Tjalaminu Mia and Jessica Lister!

Thanks to everyone who entered our Wombat Divine giveaway. (Refer to the comments at that post to see who won, if you haven’t already!)

We thought we could squeeze in one last book giveaway before Christmas is upon us. A while back we reviewed Bush Secrets, by Tjalaminu Mia and Jessica Lister, about a granddaughter sharing a secret with her grandfather, and then Grandpa sharing a special place in the bush with her.

We have one review copy to give away! To enter, leave a comment at any post on Soup blog, telling us the title of a children’s book you love (0r loved as a child!) that has a Christmas theme.

This giveaway has been extended and entries close on Thursday 24 December 2009 at 5 pm Perth time (that’s Perth in Western Australia!).

Posted in book reviews, Christmas, school holidays, teachers' resources, what we're reading

Even more Christmas books!

Well, there are only 7 sleeps left until Christmas day!

At this time of year, when I’m reading books to my children at bedtime, we always have at least one Christmas-themed book and (as we’re running out of days to talk about them) I thought I’d list a few all in one post!

One book that we continue to pull out since my eldest daughter was little is The Nativity, illustrated by Julie Vivas. It uses text from the Authorised King James Version of the Bible to tell the Christmas story and the illustrations really glow and make this a wonderful book. (You might know her illustrations from other books, like Possum Magic, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and Our Granny, or many others!)

We also love Twelve Days of Christmas by Rachel Griffin. It comes with a CD of the song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ and each double-page spread in the book covers one day of the twelve days. Each page has photographs of brightly-coloured embroidery showing scenes from that particular day – our favourites: the Five Gold Rings worn by an elephant, and the Pipers Piping, who are snake charmers. We love this book and we never get tired of the fun CD, and of course, the twelve days of Christmas aren’t over until Epiphany, so we can keep listening until well after Christmas! (This was published in the UK and my children seem to think that the twelfth day should be ‘Drummers drumming’ and not ‘Lords-a-leaping’, but I don’t know if this is an Australian preference or a Newman-children preference. If we’re singing it along with a piano we go with my children’s preference, but we respect the CD version when we’ve got that on!)

I believe Twelve Days of Christmas is currently out of print, which is A TERRIBLE THING! But I’ve seen it at several public libraries, so you could add it to your ‘must borrow’ list.

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Kevin Whitlark arrived in our house just before December and (you guessed it) is a silly version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ and full of all kinds of dogs doing doggy things. We like to sing ‘Three French Poodles, Two chewed up slippers, and a fat cat in a fur treeeeeee’ very loudly. If you love dogs (and Christmas carols), you will love this picture book. It really is very silly but it’s good fun and has been read quite a few times since it first arrived.

What about your holiday reading? Do you have any Christmas books that you just love and you think we should know about?

~ Rebecca Newman (Editor, Alphabet Soup magazine)

The Nativity, illustrated by Julie Vivas, Omnibus Books, ISBN 1862910529. This book was selected for review from the Editor’s own collection.
Twelve Days of Christmas, by Rachel Griffin, Barefoot Books, ISBN 9781841489407. This book was selected for review from the Editor’s own collection.
The Twelve Dogs of Christmas, by Kevin Whitlark, Scholastic Australia, ISBN 9781741694451. A review copy of  this book was sent to us by  Scholastic Australia.
Posted in Christmas, Events, info, library, school holidays, teachers' resources

Premier’s Summer Reading Challenge 2009 – 2010

For children in Western Australia, the Premier’s Summer Reading Challenge runs from 7 December 2009 until 8 February 2010.

On the ‘kids’ section of the website, you can find out about some authors and illustrators, register for the Challenge and download an entry form. (Make sure you get your mum or dad’s permission before doing this.)

And your parents can take part in the Challenge (and even win prizes), so make sure they get some reading in over the school holidays too! (Tell them to check out the ‘parents’ page on the website.)

There’s also a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page if your parents want to know more. Here’s an example:

Q: What should children read?
A: Children should read what interests them. This could be a variety of books, magazines, comics and newspapers. They all count towards completing the Challenge.

See – you can even read Alphabet Soup and it counts. (And you’d be reading that anyway, right?)

Happy reading!

Posted in authors, info, teachers' resources

Meet Christine Harris: author of Audrey of the Outback!

Christine Harris The summer ’09 issue of Alphabet Soup includes a Q&A with Christine Harris. We decided to publish the Q&A here too, with a couple of extra sections that didn’t fit onto the pages for the magazine layout!

Christine Harris is the author of 50 books, including Audrey of the Outback. She was nine years old and sitting up a tree when she wrote her first book. (She claims not to sit in trees when she writes these days. Perhaps it’s too hard to lug a computer up there.)

What do you love best about being a writer?
The surprises, in both the writing and the things I learn about the world, myself and my characters.

The readers that I meet in person and through emails, I love their enthusiasm and eccentric ways of viewing life.

Freedom and the ability to make a difference with my words.

Where do you live?
In my head mostly. But my house is in Mt Barker, South Australia

Audrey of the Outback coverWhat made you become a writer?
An impulse that I can only describe as a driving force. Even as a child I was captured by stories, telling them, reading them and then writing some.

Was it easy to get your first book published?
No. But I was determined. I gave myself three years to make something happen. I started with competitions, then went onto articles in magazine and newspapers and, eventually, publishers. I have had books shortlisted for prizes that were rejected previously by other publishers. My first short story was rejected 17 times, before someone said yes.

So? All great things take a lot of effort! The trick is to inform yourself of your best markets, be professional, creative and never give up.

Audrey Goes to Town coverAre there any ‘downsides’ to being a writer?
Starvation, isolation … any ‘ation’ you can probably think of. But, seriously, it is important to get out sometimes, rather than just staring at a computer all day. Talk to another human at least once  a day. And it’s hard waiting for my agent or a publisher to say whether they like my material or not. That’s agony. Some parts of writing are boring, but not many. And if I feel like that I take a break or play music or sounds. I bought some CD which are just natural sounds like birds or rain or the ocean and they have no music or words.

What was your favourite book as a child?
A Wrinkle in Time.  Scared the pants off me. Then there was Midwich Cuckoos, The Chrysalids – oops, looks as though I like being scared.

Do you have any pets?
Just my husband, David. And he’s quite house trained.

Audrey's Big Secret, coverWhere do you get your ideas/inspiration?
Anything I see, hear, feel, smell, read … sparks come from all manner of places. What is important is to let the idea run its full length, allow time to mull over it, ask ‘What If?’ and write notes.

Of your own books, which is your favourite?
I don’t have a favourite because I only write books I like, and it depends on my mood which genre I might choose on any day.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Knit, watch movies, work in my garden, hike, read, and scour YouTube for funny videos.

Do you mostly write in a paper journal, or use a computer?
Computer, these days. My handwriting is awful now, and I can type faster. Also typing on the computer allows me to change or save very easily. But I do have a collection of notebooks that I use for ideas and some planning.

Are you working on a book at the moment? Can you tell us something about it?
Maze is a psychological thriller for readers 11+ and I am halfway through, but I can’t talk about it as I am superstitious and think it will disappear if I talk about it too soon.

Do you have any advice for young writers?
Write often, in your own voice, and remember to enjoy it!

You can find out more about Christine Harris and her books by visiting her website: www.christineharris.com. You can also check out the Audrey of the Outback page: www.audreyoftheoutback.net.


Posted in authors, Christmas, illustrator

10 things you might not know about Snowy’s Christmas (and win your own copy!)

Snowy's Christmas (cover)Today I am talking to Sally Murphy and David Murphy, author and illustrator of Snowy’s Christmas (reviewed in an earlier post). We asked Sally and David to share 5 things each – things you might not already have heard about their book!

You’ll find their answers if you read on. But before you do – we have one copy of Snowy’s Christmas to give away!

If you’d like a chance to win, email editor@alphabetsoup.net.au and tell me the date that David finished the final illustration of the final draft. (Hint: he tells you below!) I’ll put all the entries in a santa hat and draw out the winning name on 25 October 2009.

Now – over to you Sally and David!

Sally:

1. Snowy’s Christmas was inspired by the story of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. I have always bought lots of Christmas books for my own children, and when I bought a new version of Rudolf, it set me thinking about how people adapt and retell stories. I started thinking about how I could retell the story in an Australian setting – and wrote the earliest draft of this story.

2. It took several years from writing Snowy’s Christmas to sending it to a publisher. After I had written the story, I was at a conference where I heard a publisher say that Australian publishers were not interested in seeing manuscripts for Christmas and other seasonal stories, because it was cheaper to import them. I believed her, and so didn’t persevere with the story (though I did once submit it to a website, which then closed down – hopefully not because I’d submitted to them).  Then, a few years ago publishers did start producing Australian Christmas stories, very successfully.  But it took for Linsay Knight, the publisher at Random House, asking if I could adapt a manuscript of mine she was interested in  for the Christmas market before I finally submitted Snowy. And boy am I glad I did.

3. I really have seen a white kangaroo – in fact several, at a wildlife park in Western Australia. You can see a  photo here: http://wwwcavershamwildlife.com.au/feed-kangaroos.html I don’t know a lot about them, but believe they are not albino, but fairly rare.

4. The book was illustrated by my brother-in-law David. Okay, you might have already known that, but did you know that it is very rare for the  author and illustrator to get to choose each other? Usually this is a decision made by the publisher. In this case, though, Linsay from Random House  actually asked me to have David do some sample illustrations when I submitted the manuscript. I had known Linsay for quite some time and she met David when she sat with us at a conference breakfast. I think maybe she liked us, or at least the novelty of a family team.  It was fun, and also special, to get to work with David.

5. The first draft of Snowy’s Christmas was about 1600 words – too long for a picture book. I did manage to cut it down to about 1000 words before I submitted it to Random House, but during the editing process we reduced it even further – it’s only about 600 words now.  Picture book texts need to be short  for young readers and often there is a lot  that can be shown in the illustrations without needing to be told in the text.

David:

1. The illustrations for Snowy were sketched entirely with my left hand using pencils. I then used my right hand to ink the line work. After that, the line art was scanned and I completed the colouring using my computer. For each illustration there were multiple sketches before the right one was found. I would have drawn each page 6–10 times.

2. Snowy’s red roo friends were based on a mob of kangaroos who live in the bushland near my house. I was particularly interested in the joeys who spent hours chasing each other around and boxing.

3. All the white boomers have names and their own stories. Sally, Kimberley (the editor) and I discussed who they were and what their personalities were. These completed their characters in my mind and allowed me to create more meaningful illustrations.

4. The very first sketch I did for the book was of Snowy and his mum. He was quite small, which made me worry if he would be strong enough to pull the sleigh, so I made him a bit bigger.

5. The final illustration for the final draft was completed on Christmas Eve!

If you want to find out more about the book, Snowy’s Christmas has its own website: http://aussiechristmas.wordpress.com/ (You can even hear David in a radio interview!)

And the book is going on a blog tour in the lead-up to Christmas. Here’s where you’ll find Sally and/or David talking about Snowy:

Week One: October 4

Deescribe Writing Blog

www.deescribewriting.wordpress.com

Week Two: October 11

Write and Read With Dale

http://livejournal.com/users/orangedale/

Week three: October 18

Alphabet Soup Blog (YOU’RE HERE!)

www.soupblog.wordpress.com

Week Four: October 25

Let’s Have Words

www.letshavewords.blogspot.com

Week Five: November 1

Sally Murphy’s Writing for children Blog

http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com/

Week 6: November 8

Aussiereviews Blog

http://aussiereviews.blogspot.com/

Week 7: November 15

Samantha Hughes’ Blog

http://samantha-hughes.blogspot.com/

Week 8:

Robyn Opie’s Writing Children’s Books Blog

http://www.robynopie.blogspot.com

Week 9:

Stories are Light

http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com/

Week 10:

The Aussie Christmas Blog

http://aussiechristmas.wordpress.com/

Week 11:

Tales I Tell

http://belka37.blogspot.com

Posted in book reviews, Christmas, illustrator, what we're reading

Snowy’s Christmas – book review

Over the next few months, I’ll be reviewing a number of Christmas books. (Last yearSnowy's Christmas (cover) I reviewed Roland Harvey’s Big Book of Christmas, and that will certainly be back on our shelf when we pull all the boxes of tinsel out of the back cupboard!)

I have a number of Christmas books in my ‘to read’ pile, and on top of the pile is a picture book – Snowy’s Christmas, by author Sally Murphy, and illustrated by David Murphy.

Snowy is a white kangaroo and he’s feeling a bit ‘left out’. He can’t win races against the other roos as he bounces short and high – instead of long and low. He’s no good at hiding (it’s easy to spot a white kangaroo against all that red dirt), and he looks sadly into the billabong to see his ‘face reflected in the water was not rugged and red like the other roos, but soft and white.’

But then he meets a stranger, who shows him that his differences make him the perfect choice for an important job …

Snowy’s Christmas puts an Australian spin on the story of ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,’ and adds something ‘snowy’ to our hot summer Christmases! Snowy’s story is accompanied by David’s fun illustrations – make sure you look for a touch of Christmas on almost every page turn. (I really love the star stuck to an echidna’s spines, and the jingle bells around the neck of a platypus.)

This is a great picture book for celebrating Christmas in the heat.

Snowy’s Christmas is going on a blog tour, and we’ll be talking to the author and the illustrator here, on Sunday 18 October 2009. Be sure to stop by then for your chance to WIN YOUR OWN COPY of Snowy’s Christmas!

A review copy of Snowy’s Christmas was sent to us by Random House Australia