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?
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Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
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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!

Posted in Young Writers in Action

Young Writers in Action: The Wolf Girl

THE WOLF GIRL

by Ella, 10, VIC

Mia is a girl who has been raised by wolves, the only family she remembers. She has learnt many things from her wolf family, such as hunting, climbing, stalking and pouncing. In her spare time, Mia collects stars to help with her fear of the dark. Mia enjoyed her life with the wolves, until one day, the unthinkable happened. While Mia was out sailing to catch fish for her and the wolves to eat, a boat sailed alongside her. The man on board was tall. Mia was terrified, but was alone and had nowhere to run.

The man grabbed her arm.
“ What are you doing?!” shrieked Mia.

The man didn’t answer her, but instead said,
“ Ya comin with me little girl!”
“I belong here!” screamed Mia.
“ Pfft!” said the old man, “so ya live in the woods, do ya?”
“For as long as I can remember!’ cried Mia.

The man didn’t care, and continued to pull Mia onto his boat.

For two years the man and his wife held her captive. Dirty and dressed in rags, she was taught how to make medicines to sell at the local town nearby. She was their slave. Every night Mia would cry and clutch her one star she still had from years ago, longing for her wolf family. Mia spent everyday making medicine, and waiting on the humans. Her lunch was nothing more than dry bread and curdled milk, while they feasted on salad and fresh fish that Mia caught. They would yell at Mia to hurry to the market in and sell the medicine. When she returned they would snatch the money, leaving Mia with nothing.

Meanwhile, in the woods, the wolves had never forgotten their Mia. Although they believed Mia had run away for another life, they never stopped searching for her. Finally, their search had come to an end. One night, as exhausted Mia lay sleeping, the wolves gently took her from her bed, and carried her onto their boat. Mia woke confused and dazed. She didn’t know what was going on. Had she been taken prisoner again?

The wolves were also confused and hurt, thinking that Mia had abandoned them all those years ago.

‘Why are you angry with me?’ shouted Mia.
‘You left us,’ growled the sad and angry wolf, slamming the door behind him.

Mia thought long and hard, and then it all began to make sense. She pieced it together in her mind. The day Mia was taken, the wolves believed she had run away. They didn’t understand she was taken from them, her canine family.

“ I was captured!” screamed Mia through the closed door.

The wolf returned, ready to listen.

“ I wouldn’t swap you guys for the world!” cried Mia.

The wolves embraced Mia and vowed to always protect her. Mia no longer felt scared of the dark. The pack remained on guard and hoped the evil humans would never return. Guess what …

THEY NEVER DID!


This is Ella’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!

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

Book review: Lily in the Mirror

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 10, WA

Lily in the Mirror by Paula Hayes

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

Lily in the Mirror by Paula Hayes, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925163872

Lily likes visiting her grandpa because her annoying big brother isn’t around, and there is always cake. Then she makes a big discovery in her grandparents’ rosy room: there is a mirror that has a girl in it (a girl who is also called Lily) and her grandpa doesn’t know. When Lily goes with her grandpa to visit Grandma in the hospital, her grandma is sick and losing her memory. But her grandma does remember Other Lily — the Lily that’s in the mirror.

This is a chapter book fantasy story. It’s a a weird story in parts. As well as the strange mirror with Other Lily in it, Lily finds a fresh finger and a fresh toe in the rosy room … and they’re not attached to anybody! You want to keep reading.

I recommend Lily in the Mirror for ages 7+. It’s creepy but good.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Riddle Gully Secrets. 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: Nightbird

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 10, WA

Nightbird

Matilda reviewed her own copy of this book.

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman, Yearling Books, ISBN 9780385389617

Twig is a young girl with a huge family secret. When an ancient relative of the late Agnes Early moves into the house next door, Twig is forbidden to go there. Can Julia, Twig and Agate help to break a curse?

I love the name Twig, and this was the best book I’ve read this year. Nightbird is a fantasy novel — and I really liked that it was a story that could happen in real life with a few magical tweaks.

If you enjoyed Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars, this is the sort of book you’ll enjoy. (And if you haven’t read Molly and Pim, you should read that too!)

I recommend this book for children ages 7 and up.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  Four Children and It. 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: Four Children and It

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 10, WA

Four Children and It audiobook

Matilda borrowed this audiobook from her local library.

Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson, read by Jacqueline Wilson, Bolinda Audio, ISBN 9781486234127

This book is based on another book called Five Children and It by Edith Nesbitt.

Four Children and It is about four children (Rosalind, her brother Robbie, her step-sister Smash, and half sister Maudie). They meet … something … that grants them a wish a day, which lasts until sunset. But what if something goes wrong?

It was exciting and Smash was selfish and annoying but Maudie was cute. It made me want to read Edith Nesbitt’s original story.

I picked up this audiobook at the library because I’m into Jacqueline Wilson’s books and I’ve read everything else by her in our library. I recommend this book for ages 7 and up. Even grandmas will enjoy it (well, mine did!).

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  Figgy and the President. 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: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

REVIEWED BY JAMES

Year 4 student at Arden Anglican School, Beecroft NSW

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling, Bloomsbury Children’s, ISBN 9781408855652

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a great book and has been round for 19 years and many people enjoy reading the series of books.

Joanne Rowling’s books have been translated into 78 languages and the Harry Potter series are her best books yet. Not only children enjoy reading it but many adults like to read the books.

The book has broken many records and there are many reasons it is famous. It has some of the best ratings you could see for a book that has been round for many years.

The best part I like about this book is many people think Harry knows a lot and that he has the power to control nearly anything. No one can do a lot in their first week at Hogwarts but Professor Snape is a bit jealous of Harry and the attention he gets. He tries to prove he knows nothing but he is still the same as he was before. Snape isn’t very nice to Harry because he expects a lot more, like to tell some people to do the same thing as they where told to when he never knew what the other people where doing.

The paragraph I like best is this:

Things didn’t improve for the Gryffindors as potion lesson continued. Snape put us all into pairs and set them to mixing up a simple potion to cure boils. He swept around in his long black coat, watching them weigh dried nettles and crush snake fangs, criticising almost everyone except Malfoy, whom he seemed to like. He was just telling everyone to look at the perfect way Malfoy had stewed his horned slugs when green clouds of acid green smoke and a loud hissing filled the dungeon. Neville had somehow managed to melt Seamus’ cauldron. “You Potter why didn’t you tell him not to add the quills. Thought it would make you look good if he got it wrong did you?”

The part I like about this certain paragraph is that professor Snape is jealous of Harry’s powers so he tries to make him look bad in front of everyone. The only thing that made Harry famous is when Voldemort tries to kill him but couldn’t and something was protecting him.

This book has more action than usual books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid which is just a basic story. This is the best book I have read in the 9 years I have been around for. At the beginning you’re eager to see what happens next because it just describes a few characters and the settings. This book has a very tightening tension scene at the beginning. Yes it gets a bit boring reading the setting at the beginning but wait till another 5–8 pages and you’ll be totally addicted to it because I couldn’t stop reading.

Every night my Mum or Dad would come in an hour or 2 later after they said goodnight and I’d still be reading this magnificent book. The best character I like is Hagrid. You can never get enough of Hagrid, that’s one thing I know for sure! The best part I like with Hagrid involved is the Gringotts bank when they take a train back to the ground floor from Harry’s vault at the bank. This is what I like the best: Hagrid told Harry, “don’t talk to me on the way back, it’s best if I keep my mouth shut.” This is why I like Hagrid he is always in a pickle.

Even though Harry is just learning everything, he gets the hang of things very quickly. When he was taking his first flying lessons Neville broke his wrist so the teacher had to go. “Nobody can go on their brooms till I say so.”After she left Harry got on his broomstick and started flying to save one of Neville’s gifts his parents sent him. Malfoy always likes to tease or steal one of Harry’s friend’s things or even his stuff.

I like this because Harry is new and already he has friends and is helping them fit in even if he hasn’t already fit in.

This book has lots of descriptive language and that is very important in a book like this. Because it has a lot of stuff happening you need to have a little read of the sentence and you can basically remember what happened 5 pages ago. You can always keep up because the author explains every little detail. Some people may think that’s boring but when you get further into the book that little detail becomes very important and if you don’t have the detail you’ll lose track of where you are in the story

This book has changed my experience of reading books it has had so much action following with lots of detail. This story also has a very good sense of humour throughout it.


This is James’s first book review posted to Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, story or poem —  check out our submission guidelines.

Posted in poetry, Young Writers in Action

Young writers in Action: The Fantasy Land

THE FANTASY LAND
by Shristuti Srirapu, 8, India
 
 
I stepped through the pink and purple magic
And found myself in the land of beauty
Where fairies splash in crystal water
And unicorns play above.
 
I stare at playing pixies
Among blooming flowers
And gleaming red apples
Along orchids of blazing color.
 
As I plunge into water
Where dolphins shriek for food
And mermaids dive deeper
Into rays of colourful fish.
 
I step out and the world is dark
And look through iron bars
Where dragons breath fire
And watch with piercing eyes.
 
As witches cackle mercilessly
Giants come storming in
Throwing whatever is in their way
Dragging giant clubs.
 
I touch the floor and murmur
And then it disappears
I fall from the magical world 
of differences.