Book reviews by kids

Book review: My New Best Friend

My New Best Friend by Meredith Costain, illustrated by Danielle McDonald (book cover)REVIEWED BY MIA, 8, VIC

Olivia’s Secret Scribbles: My New Best Friend
by Meredith Costain, ill. Danielle McDonald,
Scholastic Australia, ISBN 9781760277062

My New Best Friend is part of the Olivia’s Secret Scribbles series. These books are fiction, written by Meredith Costain and illustrated by Danielle McDonald. I think this book and series would suit girls between 6–9 and there is another series for older girls called Ella Diaries, which is written like a diary by Olivia’s older sister.

My New Best Friend is my favourite book, written like a journal, full of special private secrets. Olivia is always up to something and even has her own experiment cupboard. This book is about school, getting a new bedroom, making a new BFF, inventions, soccer, mysteries to be solved, an annoying older sister, a cat that needs more training, a spider, setting traps and lots more.

I love this series because I especially like experiments and new inventions and I can’t wait for more. I always read the whole book in one go because I need to know what’s going to happen. I give this book 5 stars.

This is Mia’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. 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: In the Lamplight

In the Lamplight by Dianne Wolfer and illustrated by Brian SimmondsREVIEWED BY MATILDA, 12, WA

In the Lamplight by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925591224 

Matilda borrowed this book from the library. 

This is a diary-style illustrated book about World War I. It’s by the same illustrator and author of Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy.

In the Lamplight is about a girl called Rose growing up in England. She joined the hospital to help out, hoping to become a nurse one day. In her diary you see her hopes and ambitions, postcards, photographs, and letters. There are also letters from soldiers to their loved ones, and sometimes from her brother to her. The book switches between a diary and a novel format.

I liked how it shows a woman’s perspective of the war and how young some of the helpers were.

Readers who enjoyed Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy will want to read this book. I’d recommend it for 9 to 13 year olds.

Read a sample chapter at the publisher’s website.  

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. You can read Matilda’s other reviews here. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Young Writers in Action

Young writers in action: Diary entry

Historical Narrative: Diary Entry
By Amy, 9, The Glennie School, QLD

Dear Diary,

I used to hear the drunk people sing this song in England many, many, years ago: “We’re bound for Botany Bay.” I never knew what “Botany Bay” was, but now I certainly do. My childhood has been tough in many ways but I always sing that song.

On the 10th of May, 1787, my family was in need of food, and I was only 7 years old. So I crept out onto the dirty, polluted and unhygienic streets of London. I saw the butcher selling some cooked sausages. He was calling out: “Come and get your cooked sausages!” It made me so hungry that I came and snatched six sausages right before his eyes. I sprinted and sprinted and sprinted, but I was running so fast that I didn’t notice a big pebble right in front of me. I was caught right on the spot.

They threw me into Newgate Prison for three days. On the second day I was told I would be sentenced to transportation. I was also told that the fleet would be leaving tomorrow. I felt very apprehensive and panicky.

In chains early in the morning on the 13 May 1787, in iron, cold chains around my neck, ankles, and feet, I was loaded onto the convict ship Lady Penrhyn. There were around 101 women.

The life on the ship for the first week was very challenging until I met some friends, Rebecca, Isabella, Rose, Ambrose , Elizabeth, Sarah and Phebe. We played games and sang together. Then, a few weeks into the trip, people started getting illnesses such as scurvy. All of my friends and I were lucky and escaped from the diseases.

After a period of around one month, we arrived at Rio de Janeiro on the 6 August 1787,  to select supplies. This was my first time tasting a hairy, yellow fruit and a big, round, juicy red fruit, another juicy green and orange fruit as well.

After being there till 4 September 1787, we set sail again. The seas were very bumpy and nearly everyone got seasick and the sea and under the deck smelled disgusting. The hospital was full of people with other diseases as well. Luckily, again all my friends and I escaped with minor health issues.

Then our next stop, was The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

We finally arrived at the Cape Of Good Hope on October the 14th to get more supplies, get the ship serviced and buy some animals to start the new colony.

We left The Cape of Good Hope on the 12 November 1787, and all of my friends and I were healthy.

We finally spotted Van Diemen’s Land on the January 3, 1788. We were so excited.

About three weeks later, we anchored the ship at Botany Bay. We had our stupid chains on again. We were assigned jobs. Like making roads and looking after the animals. All my friends and I were lucky that we were all assigned the same jobs; making roads.

We had to work 6am to 6pm every single day for seven years. Once I turned 18, and all my friends turned 17, we all were pardoned. I married a man named Thomas who was a farmer. I worked making cream, butter and milk, and sold it to the villagers.

I hope someone will read my diary  in the future.

~ Blanche

This is Amy’s first piece published with Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a story, drawing, poem, or book review, check out our submission guideline

Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: The diary of an airconditioner


by Gabriel Campbell, 5, NSW

Hot weather. Photo from

Today’s weather was as hot as a stove. But everyone kept switching me on. I have to blow air and I feel sleepy and tired. Then I get hot!

My friend, the air purifier, has to be switched on non-stop every night because he makes the air clean. He feels tired like me!


This is Gabriel’s first story published with Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a story, drawing, poem, or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy writing!





Totally Twins, an interview with Portia


"Musical Mayhem cover"
The first book in the Totally Twins series


Totally Twins is a new series for girls. The first book in the series, Musical Mayhem, was released in September 2010. The author, Aleesah Darlison, is taking Musical Mayhem on a blog tour to celebrate the launch of the book, and she arranged for us to interview a character from the series—Portia. You can get to know Portia’s twin, Persephone, on another stop on the tour.

But now, let’s meet Portia.

Your twin sister, Persephone, keeps a diary. Do you keep a diary too?

No. Not yet, but seeing Perse have so much fun with her diary sure makes me want one too! I’m usually kept pretty busy with school and ballet practice but maybe I’ll ask Mum to splurge on a new diary for me. I can’t let Perse have all the fun!

What’s the best thing about having a twin sister?

Having someone you can always, always rely on.

What’s the worst thing about having a twin sister?

Having to share a birthday—every year. But at least Mum lets us have our own cakes.

Describe yourself in 5 words.

Fun, friendly, fabulous, fashionable and … FUNKY!

Perse is a sensible, sensitive, shy, serious and super sister! But don’t tell her I said that, it might go to her head.

If you found $20 lying on the ground, how would you spend it?

I’d buy some pink-iced cupcakes for Perse and me (chocolate for her, vanilla for me)—but don’t tell Mum because she’s dead against high sugar food. I’d also buy some new jewellery and magazines.

"Aleesah Darlison"

You can find out more about Aleesah Darlison at: (There are some Totally Twins colouring-in pages you can download from her website.)

Persephone (Portia’s twin sister) also has her own blog where you can send her messages and download Totally Twins material. Visit Perse at: