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!

Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: My Alien Friend

My alien friend

by Anouksha, 10, VIC

Today at school we had art. The teacher said that you could draw anything you wanted to draw. I drew a spotty alien with four arms, two tentacles and an eye. Behind it in the background was planet Mars with a beautiful starry night sky to go with it. We were allowed to take our artwork home so I took it home and stuck it on my bedroom door.

The next day I woke up to a rustling sound. I looked everywhere but all I could see was my very own room with nothing unusual. That was strange. Then I kept on looking for the mystery sound. Wait a minute, suddenly my alien artwork I did at art yesterday caught my eye. It was MOVING!!! Suddenly out popped an ALIEN!!! It popped out from my alien artwork. I screamed and then mum came in. I pointed my finger straight at the alien but then it vanished! I told mum there was an alien before but it vanished. Mum took no notice of it and said I was daydreaming but I wasn’t.

Just when Mum left, the alien reappeared! I didn’t scream again because I’m pretty sure the alien would vanish again. Suddenly the alien started talking in a really weird language that I did not understand. I gave a puzzled look in return. Well, I guess the alien understood because the alien gave me a pair of headphones. I put it on my head and when the alien spoke, it would translate into English. “That is so cool” I said.

The alien said: “My name is Zing Zang. I have been transported to earth by your wonderful alien drawing, but I can’t find my way back to Mars. Can you help me?”
“Sure,” I replied. “Tomorrow we can camp outside in tents so we might be able to find Mars,” I suggested.
“Ok,” said Zing Zang.

It was nearly night. We set our tents up and we were now gazing into the stars.Stars. Photo from pexels.com

“All I can see is billions and billions of stars,” said Zing Zang. After a few minutes I heard Zing Zang shout out “Spaceship,spaceship,spaceship!”
“Zing Zang did you find Mars?” I asked surprised.

“No, but I found a spaceship that was a spaceship from Mars,” Replied Zing Zang. “Now all we have to do to get their attention is turn around 3 times, jump two times and clap,” said Zing Zang.

So we turned around 3 times, jumped 2 times and clapped. Suddenly a big shiny spaceship landed on our garden. Our garden was big enough for the spaceship to land. The spaceship landed and signalled something to Zing Zang. I gave Zing Zang a great big hug even though he was pretty slimy! Zing Zang walked into the spaceship and then I waved goodbye. The spaceship zoomed away into the starry night sky. In the sky the Spaceship was as small as a speck of dust.
“Oh no, I forgot to give Zing Zang the headphones,” I said. At least I could keep it to remember Zing Zang.

“Anouksha, Anouksha,” said someone. Tap, Tap! I woke up and saw my mum tapping on my shoulder and saying wake up. So all this was a dream?
“Awww” I moaned. I wish it was real. When my mum left I heard a rustling sound. “Maybe this wasn’t a dream after all.”


This is Anouksha’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!

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Posted in authors, illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Anna Ciddor

PASS THE BOOK BATON

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today the book baton is passed to author and illustrator, Anna Ciddor. Anna has written and illustrated over fifty books on topics as diverse as Vikings, Australia, goldfish, and tournaments. Her most recent book is The Family with Two Front Doors — a true story about a family of nine children who lived in Poland in the 1920s.

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Meg McKinlay asked:
You’re a writer and an illustrator — good grief! Do you feel equally comfortable doing both, or does one come more naturally to you?

Anna answers:
Well, to tell the truth, even though I have been a full-time author and illustrator for nearly thirty years, I don’t find either writing or illustrating quick and easy! For me, they both need lots and LOTS of drafts and research and planning. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how I wrote and illustrated The Family with Two Front Doors so you can see what I mean.

Step 1 Planning and research
The Family with Two Front Doors is based on stories my late Nana told me about her childhood. I planned each chapter of the book, including the ending, then sat down to bring the first scene to life in my head. I quickly discovered I had a problem. Nana never told me what clothes she wore as a child and, sadly, she was no longer around to help. If I can’t picture a scene, I can’t write it, so I had to stop and research the types of clothes worn by religious Jewish children in 1920s Poland. All through the book there were delays while I researched details before I could picture each scene.

Step 2 The Writing
When I write, I constantly ask myself, ‘Does this word give the best picture of what I am trying to say?’ For example, in one sentence I wrote ‘Yakov ran through the door,’ but then I realised I needed a more descriptive word than ran. Maybe burst would be better? Or scampered? Which word gave the best picture of what Yakov was doing? As you can imagine, this makes the writing process extremely slow. It took me four years to research and write The Family with Two Front Doors!

Step 3 The editing
When I deliver a book to the publishers, it is very exciting and scary, waiting to find out if they like it. Luckily, they loved The Family with Two Front Doors but it took me a few months to write the few changes they suggested because I am so slow!

Step 4 Illustrating
For me, this is the last step. Even though The Family with Two Front Doors was going to have tiny black and white illustrations, I wanted them to be perfect. I drew them over and over again. The faces of the characters had to be exactly the way I imagined them, and their clothes, and details, such as the sewing machine, had to be historically accurate. Those few tiny illustrations took me months!

Visit Anna Ciddor’s site for more about her and her books!


Dragonfly SongAnd now Anna Ciddor passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Wendy Orr. Wendy’s books have been published in 25 countries and languages and have won awards in Australia and overseas. Her Nim’s Island books were made into movies. Wendy Orr’s latest book is Dragonfly Song.

Anna asks:
I love to find out how other authors work. There are two parts to my question. Firstly, do you plan the whole book, including the end, before you begin (like I do), or are you one of those authors who start writing without knowing the ending? And secondly, once you begin writing, do you slow yourself down with research and re-writing (like I do), or are you one of those amazing authors who can work fast?
..
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
 ..
See you next week!

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Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Paula Hayes

PASS THE BOOK BATON

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Alphabet Soup features a book creator every Friday who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today Perth author Paula Hayes takes the baton. Paula has one husband, four children, three dogs and five rabbits. She is the author of a YA novel and also a recent children’s novel, Lily in the Mirror, which one of our regular reviewers (Matilda, 10) described as ‘creepy but good’.

Last week Joshua Button and Robyn Wells posed a question for Paula. They ask:

Q. Your character Lily loves all things dark and mysterious. Were you inspired by any real life mysteries, strange events or unusual people?

A. Lily loves all things dark and mysterious and so do I. I like fantasy that is almost scary but not too scary.  The book was inspired by a room in my grandmother’s house full of vintage family treasures. The door would shut behind you but that was because the house really did need restumping and not due to supernatural events. But add a little imagination … and I was in the Rosy Room.


And now Paula Hayes passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — AL Tait. AL Tait is the author of the bestselling series, The Mapmaker Chronicles. The Mapmaker Chronicles

My question(s) for AL Tait:
Which book in your Mapmaker Chronicles series have you enjoyed writing the most? Does creating a series get easier or harder?

Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators. See you next week!


Visit Paula’s website for more about her and her books. You can read Matilda’s review of Lily in the Mirror on Alphabet Soup’s site.

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

Book review: The Island of Dr Libris

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 12, WA

The Island of Dr Libris

The Island of Dr Libris by Chris Grabenstein, Random House Children’s Books, ISBN 9780553538434

Joseph borrowed this book from his public library.

I really enjoyed Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library (another book by the same author) so I was excited to find this book at the library. Although I enjoyed it, it wasn’t as good as Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library, which was my favourite book this year.

In this book: In the holidays Billy has to go to a boring cabin with his mum instead of staying at the apartment with his dad. Billy’s mum rented the cabin from Dr Libris, her university professor, for a very good price and she’s going to sit and work on her dissertation all holidays. Billy has to entertain himself, so when he smashes his iPhone and there is no other technology he has to amuse himself by reading books from Dr Libris’ giant collection. But as he starts reading he can hear strange sounds coming from the island in the middle of the lake. It’s almost as if the stories he’s reading are coming to life. Together with Walter — a boy he met around the cabins — he goes to investigate what’s happening on the island.

This is a fantasy adventure I would recommended for ages 10+ because it has quite a lot going on in the book and you need to be able to follow it. You’ll appreciate it best if you already know about well-known characters from classic literature like Robin Hood, Tom Sawyer and others.


Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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

Book review: The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 10, WA

THE REMARKABLE SECRET OF AURELIE BONHOFFEN by Deborah Abela.

The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen by Deborah Abela, Random House Australia, ISBN 9781741660951

Matilda borrowed this book from her school library.

This story is set at a pier where Aurelie’s family owns and runs a ghost train. But the pier is now becoming broken down and old and the family can’t afford to fix it up. Someone is trying to pressure them into selling the pier — but they really don’t want to sell their beloved home because it’s been in the family for generations …

On the cover Aurelie is wearing strange clothes so I expected she would be a strange girl. I liked her because she was honest and proud of being different. I like books with lots of adventure and excitement and The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen was a fast moving story and also had mystery, ghosts, family, friendship and hope. You will have to read the book yourself to find out what the remarkable secret is.

Readers aged 9+ will enjoy this book — especially readers who like fantasy elements in their books.


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