Book reviews by Joshua, Book reviews by kids

Book review: All Four Quarters of the Moon

Image shows the cover of a children's novel: All Four Quarters of the Moon by Shirley Marr. The cover illustration shows two sisters with dark hair facing each other and holding hands around a tiny paper rabbit. Behind them is the night sky with a giant full moon.

REVIEWED BY JOSHUA, 13, NSW

All Four Quarters of the Moon by Shirley Marr, Penguin Australia, ISBN 9781760899554

Joshua received a review copy of this book.

Peijing is not from this country. Australia is such a different place to Singapore. Accompanied by Ba Ba (her Dad), Ma Ma (her Mum), her sister Biju and Ah Ma, her grandmother, Peijing is unsure of the strange new cultures and the adaptations she will have to make to fit into Australia. To Peijing’s realisation, her family are all fighting their own uncertainties in their new life. Little Biju is only in kindergarten and is struggling as her English isn’t as fluent as everyone else’s. Ma Ma doesn’t do much as she is alone without all her friends around and she can’t speak English. The only thing she finds she can do is to clean the house incessantly. Ba Ba doesn’t talk to anyone now, though he used to talk to the other men in the family. The family first moved to Australia so he could get a promotion. Ah Ma, who sits at the TV all day has nothing to do, like Ma Ma, and she also keeps forgetting things like who Peijing is, to chew food, and she dangerously wanders away from the house.

With all these problems in her family’s lives, Peijing feels that she cannot express her own issues to them so she steps up to care for the family especially Biju, who is still young and believes everything her sister says.

Helpless, the only thing Peijing knows she can control is the little world – a precious paper world where the two sisters create stories with their paper animal and plant creations. The world is filled with different creatures, real and fantasy but there are no people. To Peijing, the little world is a sanctuary of peace, a place of safety and security where she forms new stories from the shapes of different creatures.

As Peijing starts to feel at home in Australia, she questions what she can do to help her family in this foriegn land. Follow Peijing in this heartwarming book and how she leads her family through the struggles of culture shock and change. 

I particularly resonated with this book as I moved back to Australia after 11 years of living overseas and had to face changes in my lifestyle, different cultural expectations and ideals. I love the theme of identity that is interwoven throughout this book.

I would recommend this book for readers aged 9 and above. I’m sure you will enjoy this exceptional fiction novel. I rate this amazing book 5/5.

Read our interview with the author, Shirley Marr.


Joshua is a regular contributor to Alphabet Soup. Check out more of Joshua‘s reviewhere If YOU would like to send us a book review, please refer to our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

authors, interviews

Paula Hayes on The Vexatious Haunting of Lily Griffin

Paula Hayes is an Australian writer of magical realism for young people. This means she is good at making strange stuff up and setting it in real life. Her first novel, Lily in the Mirror, was a CBCA Notable Book in 2017. Then Lily in the Mirror grew and grew and turned into an omnibus, illustrated by Katy Jiang – a trilogy of Lily books! Today we chat to Paula about the omnibus, The Vexatious Haunting of Lily Griffin, launched in July 2022.

From the publisher:

When Lily Griffin finds a girl trapped inside a magic mirror, she uncovers a long-forgotten family secret and sets in motion a remarkable chain of events. Lily is a singular character, hilariously funny, sweetly poignant and deeply daggy. Plagued by social doubts and her own pecularities, she is the perfect person to investigate the many secrets of her grandfather’s house and, along the way, mend some family relationships, discover enduring friendships and learn to play netball.


Lily in the Mirror started out as one book on its own and now you’ve added two more books about Lily – bound up in one omnibus! Was there anything you found different about writing books two and three, compared to writing book one?

The wonderful thing about writing a series is that the characters are created in book one and then they are fleshed out able to grow and develop over the course of the two books. This makes writing the books easier because you know exactly how your character will react and what situations will show them off to their best advantage. For example, Linden, Lily’s older brother (AKA PigBoy) is quite a flat character, he is a trope of a nasty big brother but during the course of book two and three he is fleshed out, he develops, and changes and we come to understand his point of view much more.

Have you ever been in a haunted house yourself?

I haven’t been in a haunted house for reals, but in my imagination, I have! I have the sort of imagination that can turn noises into ghosts. My toys used to come alive in my bedroom at night as I sweated under the sheets. Again – imagination … or was it?

We follow Lily’s story as she writes updates in her journal. Did you keep a journal or diary when you were growing up?

During my late primary school days and early high school days I kept a journal every night. I had a great English teacher who encouraged me to write anything and everything, especially feelings. I found writing a way to clear my head and clarify my emotions. I would tie the note book up with a shoelace with complicated knots for safe keeping. At the end of high school, I had about seven big books and I threw them in the bin. I had processed all the events and big feelings and released it. I’m sure if Lily stopped at the first journal, her relationship with her brother would not be properly represented. It’s just a moment in time.

How did you go about researching information about the various time periods that pop up in the omnibus?

As well as being a word nerd, I am a history freak. I studied it at uni. My grandmother’s house was a time capsule for the 1910s to the 1990s and so I was lucky enough to see a lot of the things that are contained in the Rosy Room and the Little House. I love to read history books, biographies and collect old books. But when I want to know a specific fact, I google and go down a slippery rabbit hole where I get immersed in the past and I love it.

Do you have a tip for young writers who’d like to try writing a series or trilogy?

My advice to young writers is just to pick up the pen or your laptop and write. Write anything, you can cull and edit later. As for a series, you might like to map out how your plot is going develop over the course of three books unless you’re like me, I’m a pantser (I develop my story as I go … by the seat of my pants).  Once you know your characters well, they will start talking to you and you will know where to take them and how they will react. Writing a series gives you the freedom to explore themes and characters properly and that is an amazing feeling. Hopefully it’s amazing for your readers too!

The Vexatious Haunting of Lily Griffin is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.


Image shows the cover of a children's novel: The Vexatious Haunting of Lily Griffin by Paula Hayes and Katy Jiang. The cover shows Lily standing at the bottom left of the cover. Lily is a young girl with dark hair in pigtails, wearing a white blouse with red collar and an orange skirt. Behind her are an old woman in an orange dress sitting in a wheelchair, a man with a moustache wearing a blue cardigan and brown trousers, a woman wearing a yellow dress being hugged from behind by a man in a white shirt. At the woman's feet sits a teenage boy in a green shirt resting his forehead on his hand. Above them all floats a teenage poltergeist in a red shirt and brown pants. At the top left of the cover is a spider in a web.

AWESOME EXTRAS:

Read an excerpt from the book on the publisher’s website

Download the teaching notes

Visit Paula’s website for more about her and her books

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: The Endsister

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 12, WA

The Endsister by Penni Russon

The Endsister by Penni Russon, A&U Children’s,
ISBN 9781741750652

Matilda reviewed her own copy of this book.

The Outhwaite family is a carefree Australian family but when their father inherits a huge house over in London, the whole family moves. Clancy, the twins, and even Else have to settle into their new lives, and Sibbi knows what an Endsister is …

I really enjoyed The Endsister. It had wonderful twists, and I really liked how small things turned out to be important. The characters were really relatable and lovable, especially Clancy’s new best friend, Pippa.

I would recommend this story for readers 10 years and older who like spooky books, haunted houses, and books about families.


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!

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: Pepsi the Problem Puppy

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 11, WA

Pepsi the Problem Puppy

Pepsi the Problem Puppy by Sandi Parsons, ill. Aśka, Faraway Nearby Ink, ISBN 9780987615701

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

Rosie has always wanted a dog but when her dad brings home a mischievous puppy called Pepsi, she realises what a big responsibility keeping a dog is. Unfortunately, Mum doesn’t like Pepsi destroying everything, running through the house (while destroying everything), and having accidents inside. Rosie will have to find a way to train Pepsi or the puppy will be taken back to the shelter.

Every few pages there are humorous black-and-white illustrations. Six to eight year olds will love the humour and the detailed stories about Pepsi being naughty. Granny’s failure to get Pepsi’s name right (due to her bad hearing) is also funny.

This is a book about everyday life and will be a favourite for kids who love dogs and wish for one of their own (or who already have a naughty puppy of their own).


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!

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: The Lion in Our Living Room

The Lion in Our Living Room by Emma Middleton and Briony StewartREVIEWED BY MATILDA, 11, WA

The Lion in our Living Room by Emma Middleton, ill. Briony Stewart, Affirm Press, ISBN 9781925584226

Matilda reviews her own copy of this book.

Tom and Tilly want to play lion games with their dad. The story is told poetically — it rhymes and it’s very rhythmical. The phrasing allows you to use lots of expression so it’s good to read out loud, like this:

Will he come? Won’t he come? Will he come and play?
Will the mighty lion come and play with us today?

The illustrations are by Briony Stewart who has written and illustrated other books like the Kumiko series and The Red Wheelbarrow. The illustrations are done in colour pencils and I like how you can see the pencil strokes because you can see that it’s not computer done. I was lucky to meet Briony Stewart at the Fremantle book launch, where there were also fun activities related to the book like making lion masks, lion face painting, and making paper lions.

This picture book will be great for kids aged 6 and under who love playing and being imaginative.


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: Framed Love

FRAMED LOVE
by Charlize, 10, QLD

.

Take a walk in the park, hand in hand
Breathe in the fresh air of the free land
Explore the area full of flowers and bugs
Then give your mother lots of big hugs
 .
Show her how much she means to you
Tell her how life would be without her, too
She cooks, she sweeps, looks after us all,
She doesn’t care what you look like, big, or small
 .
She looks at you and smiles
The grin stretches for miles
She whispers ‘I know what to do, little one’
‘Let’s take a picture to remember this fun.’
 .
You kneel down and kiss your mother
The camera at a special angle, held by your father
The heartfelt picture hangs up above
But nothing is ever higher than your mother’s love.

This is Charlize’s first poem 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!

 

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: To the Lighthouse

To the lighthouse (book cover)REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 11, WA

To the Lighthouse by Cristy Burne,
ill. Amanda Burnett, 
Fremantle Press,
ISBN 9781925164619

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

Isaac and Emmy are two very different kids. They meet on Rottnest Island when their families are on holiday. Isaac is a shy, nervous boy, but Emmy is an extravagant daredevil. Emmy wants Isaac to begin a game of Dare — involving jumping into icy cold water, riding all the way to the lighthouse, and riding there at night by themselves. It’s dark, and it’s miles and miles away. Isaac’s Mum is very overprotective and she worries a lot. Luckily she doesn’t know they’re planning to go to the lighthouse at night …

It’s great to read a book that is set in WA, instead of the usual places in kids’ books (like England or Sydney). The illustrations are in black and white and appear about once in every chapter. They suit the story — they’re a bit quirky, like the characters in the book.

To the Lighthouse would be a good book for 7 to 10 year olds.


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!