Posted in authors, interviews

Denis Knight, Cristy Burne and Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows

MEET THE AUTHORS – DENIS KNIGHT & CRISTY BURNE

Denis Knight and Cristy Burne
Denis Knight & Cristy Burne

Science fiction and fantasy author Denis Knight is a computer programmer who grew up geeking out about the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. He has also worked as a technical writer, a delivery boy, a tutor, and, for one glorious summer, a tour guide on Rottnest Island.

Cristy Burne has worked as a science communicator for nearly 20 years across Australia, Japan, Switzerland, the UK, US, South Africa and beyond. She has performed in a science circus, worked as a garbage analyst, and was a reporter at CERN when they turned on the Large Hadron Collider. Her books include To The Lighthouse, Off The Track, Beneath the Trees, and a non-fiction book, Zeroes and Ones. In 2020, she told the story of the inventor of spray-on skin in Aussie STEM Stars: Fiona Wood.

Denis and Cristy decided to collaborate on a book and the result is a hilarious new series featuring the adventures of a girl named Wednesday Weeks. Today Alphabet Soup is super excited to have Denis and Cristy visiting to tell us about co-writing Book 1 in their series – Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows.

From the publisher:

Wednesday Weeks never wanted to be a sorcerer’s apprentice. She’d rather study science than magic. But when her cloak-wearing, staff-wielding grandpa is captured by a power-hungry goblin king, Wednesday must find a way to embrace her magical heritage and rescue him from the dreaded Tower of Shadows.


One book, two authors. What was it like trying to write a book using two brains?

DENIS: Writing a book with two brains! I love that. It’s actually a great way to describe it. Although sometimes it feels like we only have half a brain between us. Ouch! Cristy just kicked me under the table.

CRISTY: Only because you kicked me first! It was actually really exciting, writing with Denis, because I could never predict what he would write, and I was always literally laughing out loud to discover what Wednesday and Alfie had been up to while I was away.

DENIS: Right. It was a lot of fun. But it was challenging, too – in a good way. When you’re working on your own, you can let yourself get away with stuff. But when you’re writing with a partner, you can’t do that any more. You have to level up.

How did you come up with/agree on the name for your main character?

CRISTY: Denis came up with the concept of Wednesday Weeks, a reluctant sorcerer’s apprentice, and in that very first chapter, he invented many of our favourite characters and names: Wednesday Weeks, Alfie, Mrs Glock … and of course, Abraham Mordecai Weeks (otherwise known as Grandpa).

DENIS: That’s true. Although, Wednesday’s character started out as something quite different from where she ended up. Cristy doesn’t know this, but my first idea was for a space bounty hunter named Serenity Weeks.

CRISTY: A what? Pardon?

DENIS: Then she was going to be a paranormal investigator named Wednesday Weeks. Wednesday’s character and voice started to develop when I wrote some short scenes where she and Alfie were searching for Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. Then the reluctant sorcerer’s apprentice idea popped into my head, and that was kind of the final piece of the puzzle.

CRISTY: More like the first piece of the puzzle. From there, we started writing. At first, it was literally a game. Denis wrote Chapter 1, and after reading this chapter, I wrote Chapter 2, and then Denis wrote Chapter 3. And we just trusted the story to evolve.

DENIS: I think the lesson here is to give yourself the time and space to play with an idea and see what develops. Also, that space bounty hunters are awesome. What do you think of the name Serenity Jones?

CRISTY:

CRISTY:

CRISTY: … I hope you’re not asking me?

How did you know/agree when Book 1 was finished and ready to submit?

DENIS: We wrote our first super-quick, super-short draft of Book 1 in early 2018.  

CRISTY: That first draft was only around 25,000 words long, but it was enough for us to get to know Wednesday and her world, and to know we wanted to write more.

DENIS: We had the first ten pages critiqued by a publisher in June 2018, and she gave us some really good feedback.

CRISTY: Over the next year, we both worked on other projects, but we kept coming back to Wednesday.

DENIS: We rewrote the opening chapters based on the publisher’s feedback, and we fleshed out the middle section, adding in the Sword of Reckoning and the laundry kraken. In June 2019 we had the opening chapters critiqued again by a different publisher, and she loved it. So that’s when we knew it was ready to submit.

CRISTY: Later, as we worked with Hachette to progress the manuscript through the various editing stages, we had three different editors all offering their advice, and there were thousands of new notes on each fresh edit that we completed. Getting the story just right was a whole lot of work!

Do you have any ‘Must Do’ or ‘Must Not Do’ tips for young writers who might like to collaborate on a story?

CRISTY: Respect for the other author’s creative brain is really important. A big part of the game we play as we write each Wednesday Weeks book is to take up the reins from where the other author has left off, and to then drive the adventure where we think it needs to go.

DENIS: Be open to your partner’s ideas, and have fun.

CRISTY: Another Hot Tip is to trust. As you write, remember that you teamed up with this other creator for a reason, and although smooshing two brains into one story can be difficult, the results will be worth it.

DENIS: Also, don’t expect it to be brilliant right away. It won’t be! But if you keep working on it, you’ll get there.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re writing next?

CRISTY: We’ve just finished putting the finishing touches on Book 2 of the Wednesday Weeks series.

DENIS: It’s called Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny and it’s out in September 2021.

CRISTY: We love it because it has all our favourite characters, plus more page-time for Adaline, our punk faery-friend from the laundry.

DENIS: There’s also some advanced magic for Wednesday to tackle, a hippo-bugamus, a giant pinball machine of death, a visit to outer space and, of course, some snarky Bruce-jokes.

CRISTY: And don’t forget a whole lot of dirty-rotten evil-doing from Gorgomoth.

DENIS: Right. Oh, and also, Grandpa gets turned into a frog for a while.

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.


AWESOME EXTRAS:

See Denis Knight & Cristy Burne talking about the book [YouTube]

Take a sneak peek inside the book!

Download the Teachers’ Notes

Visit Denis Knight’s website for more about him and his books

Visit Cristy Burne’s website for more about her and her books

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows
Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Kobe

Book review: A Hidden Enemy

Kobe recommends SURVIVORS 2: A HIDDEN ENEMY by Erin Hunter

REVIEWED BY KOBE, 9, WA

Survivors: a Hidden Enemy by Erin Hunter, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 9780062102607

Kobe reviewed her own copy of this book.

A mysterious book prowls through the tall grass. It pounces on a startled reader. The reader screams with surprise. After the reader had a cool down from the fright, the reader had a look at the cover. It couldn’t be, it was the book! Survivors: A Hidden Enemy, written by Erin Hunter the famous author. The reader started to read. Then after the reader finished, she wrote a review of what she thought of the book.

Survivors: A Hidden Enemy is written by Erin Hunter, the writer of the series Warriors and Seekers. This story is about dogs and about wolves. It is suitable for young readers because it doesn’t include a lot of violence and a lot of death. It is a brilliant book and it has a lot of exciting things in it too! It is so good I don’t know how good I should say it is! It has lots of climaxes in it as well as lots of problems.

My favourite part was when Squeak wanted to outsmart a wolf and then Mother Dog told Squeak not to try, because it was funny how Squeak and Mother Dog had opposite thoughts! I thought it was funny because it reminded me of when I had an argument with my friend about flipping a bottle and whether having it land on its bottom was skill or luck.

I hope you will read this book and enjoy it because I loved it a lot.

Now the reader had finished the review and she made lots of people read the book she read. Enjoy an epic journey by the side of a scruffy little dog and see amazing sights no one else will ever see in their life!


Kobe is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read all her reviews hereTo send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Lost Stone of SkyCity

REVIEWED BY EVA, 11, WA

The Lost Stone of SkyCity by HM WaughThe Lost Stone of SkyCity by HM Waugh, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925815948

Eva received a review copy of this book.

The Lost Stone of Skycity is written from the main character, Sunaya’s, point of view. Sunaya and her friend Danam discover the land of where the ice people live. In the beginning of the book they think it is just a legend but they discover that the ice people are real! The ice people find Danam and he gets taken away to take the dragon tests. The dragon tests are tests to see if he is strong and powerful enough to defend the Queen from anything bad, and if he passes the tests, he would become the cloud dragon. There is a really cool twist, that you won’t see coming!

This book is awesome because it was exciting! I’ve got a favourite part of the book but I can’t tell you about it as it will spoil it for you – but believe me you have to read this book!

I think the author is very talented. I liked imagining the pictures in my head. It had lots of action in it which was exhilarating! My favourite character was Sunaya. It was a joy to read!

I think other people should read it because there is no other book like it. It is really unique – I like the gotals. The book encourages people to be strong, never give up, and to trust their instincts.

I hope there is a second book soon! I loved the book so much I might dress up as the character, Sunaya, for book week at school!

Read a sample chapter from The Lost Stone of SkyCity.

Read Alphabet Soup’s interview with the author.


This is Eva’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Tyrant’s Tomb

REVIEWED BY ISAAC, 13, WA

The Tyrant’s Tomb (The Trials of Apollo Book 4) by Rick Riordan, Puffin, ISBN 9780141364049

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

The Trials of Apollo: The Tyrant’s Tomb is a fascinating book. It is a fiction novel about mythological creatures, gods and other beliefs. Rick Riordan writes every one of his books with care. The initial storylines of these books are all set in the same world, but his stories and plots get more sophisticated as they continue on from the other stories within the series.

I really enjoyed this book, as it plays along with the main storyline of the series and refers to mythological elements from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. 

Overall, Rick Riordan’s books are all highly recommended! 


This is Isaac’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!
Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: Harry Potter series

Harry Potter and the sorcerer's stoneREVIEWED BY ISABELLA, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, ill. Mary GrandPré, Scholastic, ISBN 9780545582889

Have you ever heard of the book series Harry Potter? It is by JK Rowling. Have you seen the front cover? It’s so phenomenal! Well at least to me. I think that the illustrator Mary GrandPré did a very good job! I love all the front covers. Because they have details! And they are unique! And the front cover makes me feel like I’m in the story.

Do you also like magic? Because Harry Potter is about magic! Harry Potter is a story about this bad wizard named Voldemort. He’s trying to do something bad to Harry Potter. Harry Potter is really good at magic! The reason I like Harry Potter is because he does magic! I think that magic is amazing! Another reason I like Harry Potter is because he goes to Hogwarts! Which is a MAGIC school! My favorite part is the Holiday Feasts. I wish that the Holiday Feasts were in real life!

One of my favorite characters is Ron Weasley. He’s so funny. One time, in the second book, Malfoy called Hermione a Mudblood, a name for a muggle born, and so Ron tried to do a spell on Malfoy. Muggle born means human born. That hurt Hermione’s feelings. The spell that Ron did was eat slugs. Since the Whomping Willow smashed his wand, the spell reversed back on him, and he threw up slugs. His jaw just opened  and he started throwing up slugs! I like Hermione and Harry too, but my least favorite characters are Draco Malfoy, Voldemort, and the Dursleys. Malfoy is my least favorite character  because he’s mean to Harry Potter. I don’t like Voldemort either because he’s trying to do something bad to Harry Potter. I also don’t like the Dursleys because when Harry was only 11, they made him sleep in the cupboard under the stairs. So, basically, that was his room. When I first read it I was wondering, “How could a family do such a thing?” On one of his birthdays, or ALL of his birthdays, OR for the whole summer AND his birthday he HAS to pretend he doesn’t EXIST! And plus it’s his BIRTHDAY! I can’t imagine that life.

These are all the reasons I love Harry Potter!

The first book in the series is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone*. The second book is called Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The third book is called Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The fourth book, that I’m reading, is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The fifth book is called Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The sixth book is called Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The seventh book is called Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And those are all the books in the Harry Potter series.

 

*In Australia this book is published as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: HARRY POTTER SERIES

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling illustrated by Mary GrandPréREVIEWED BY MOMO, SECOND GRADE, MISSOURI, USA

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, ill. Mary GrandPré, Scholastic, ISBN 9780439136358

I think you should read the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Mary GrandPré. Keep reading don’t stop. It might seem really boring at first. Hey! Wait! Just at the beginning.

In the first book he finds the Sorcerer’s Stone. Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley help him find it. Harry Potter is eleven in the first book. I LOVE this book series because they all have a lot of action in them. Also he finds the school of witchcraft and wizardry. Also because he has a cute little owl! Awwww so cute.

I give this book a nine out of ten. I found this book in a bookstore. I am on the fifth book in the series. My sister read all of the books. I recommend this book for ages 8–12.


Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup this month. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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

Book review: A Wrinkle in Time

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'EngleREVIEWED BY MATILDA, 12, WA

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Penguin Books Ltd, ISBN 9780241331163

Matilda borrowed this book from the library.

This is a science-fiction novel about a family whose dad is missing. The little brother discovers three ladies who seem to be able to travel to other dimensions, and they tell Charles Wallace that they know where his father is.

I like time-slip novels — this is sort of a dimension-slip novel. I really enjoyed it because it was so different from our world, and I liked the characters in the other world.

The copy of the book I read was a movie tie-in, and had photos from the movie in the middle pages of the book. That was annoying because I had an idea in my head of all the characters and then suddenly I came across the movie photos and they were completely different. (But I’d still like to see the movie.)

Kids who love weird fantasy adventure books will love this.


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!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

REVIEWED BY TILLY, 8, QLD

Book cover of The Secret Horses of Briar HillThe Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd, ill. by Levi Pinfold,
Walker Books, ISBN 9781406367584

Tilly reviews her own copy of this book. 

It is December 1941, World War II, Briar Hill Hospital.  A girl named Emmaline has a secret: there are winged horses in the mirrors.

The main characters are Emmaline, Foxfire and the Black Horse.  Emmaline is passionate, persistent and courageous in her attempts to save the magical winged horse Foxfire.  Foxfire is in trouble as the Black Horse is hunting Foxfire.

I really like the black and white illustrations, they are beautiful!  The illustrations help paint a magical picture in your head while reading the book.

It is a fantasy book written through the eyes of Emmaline.

I like this book a lot. I recommend this book to children who have a wild imagination from 8 years of age.


This is Tilly’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda, Recommended reading

Book review: The Sisters Grimm series

The Sisters Grimm (cover of book 1) by Michael Buckley, ill Peter FergusonREVIEWED BY MATILDA, 12, WA

The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson, Abrams Books.

Matilda borrowed this series from her school library.

Daphne and Sabrina Grimm are normal girls that live a normal life, until suddenly their parents disappear. After being in the foster care system for two years the girls are finally placed with their grandma, where they discover that fairytales are real …

I absolutely loved everything about this series and I couldn’t put it down. The plot is quirky but it is written in a wonderful way. These books are definitely my favourites so far this year. I was kept in suspense all through the books, and I really felt as though I was there.

I recommend this book for kids aged 10+, and for readers who love adventure stories and fairytales.

5 stars!


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!

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

Book review: The Book of Secrets

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 11, WA

The Book of Secrets by AL TaitThe Book of Secrets (The Ateban Cipher book #1) by A.L. Tait, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780734417671

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

The Book of Secrets is the first in The Ateban Cipher series. It’s about a young monk who has been living in the abbey all his life, and has never been outside the abbey walls. Then he finds Brother Benedict bleeding and maybe dying, and Brother Benedict hands him a book. What is the secret of the book? Why is it in a code he can’t distinguish? And who is this Aidan he has to take it to?

I loved this book because at first it seems magical and absurd … but it could actually happen. My favourite character is Gwendolyn, because she is determined and independent, and does everything to help other people. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the next book in the series.

I would recommend this book for readers aged 9 and older who love fantasy and adventure.

Extras:

Read the first chapter!

Teachers notes, available at the publisher’s website.

Read an interview with the author.


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!