Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Yasmin Hamid


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 Yasmin Hamid. 

Yasmin grew up in East Africa with her siblings, English mother and Sudanese father. She has been in the same book club group for almost twenty-five years.

Yasmin’s first children’s novel — Swimming on the Lawn — was published in 2017.

Swimming on the Lawn by Yasmin Hamid


Last week Aśka asked:

To someone like me — who grew up among grey blocks of flats in Eastern Europe — your childhood sounds absolutely fearless. Was there ever anything that you were afraid of? How did you overcome that fear?

Yasmin answers:

Yasmin Hamid in a garden. Photo courtesy Fremantle Press.
Yasmin Hamid, author

This is a very interesting question. I don’t remember ever being afraid when I was a child. I think it was to do with the place where I lived at that particular time (open spaces, lots of freedom to roam the neighbourhood, climb trees and and be away from home for hours on end without supervision). There wasn’t any hint of stranger danger and there was rarely any interference from adults.

I remember doing things that involved an element of risk like climbing up onto our house roof and weighing up the possibility that if I jumped off and flapped my arms, whether I could fly a bit before I fell onto the strategically placed mattress! Needless to say, I always knew I couldn’t and would climb down again after spending time looking over the garden from a different perspective.
Read a sample chapter from Swimming on the Lawn and download teachers’ notes.

And now Yasmin passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Sherryl Clark. Sherryl writes picture books, junior fiction, novels, verse novels, and books for young adults.

Yasmin Hamid asks:
I know you have travelled to many different countries, but do you find it difficult to write books that are set in an Australian landscape when in your mind you have the embedded landscapes and terrains of the New Zealand you grew up in?

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (While you’re waiting you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

Posted in authors, illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Anna Ciddor


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!



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

Book review: The Silver Donkey


The Silver Donkey

The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett, Penguin Australia, ISBN 9780143301578 

Matilda borrowed this book from her school library.

Two sisters called Marcelle and Coco discover a soldier in a French forest. He’s blind and he’s trying to go home across the Channel. If anyone discovers him he might be shot because he has run away from the war and so the children need to help him without telling anyone.

The silver donkey is a lucky charm that was given to the soldier by his little brother. Coco likes to hold it while the soldier tells the sisters interesting tales about donkeys. In every tale a donkey is spending its life pleasing or helping someone else. Coco was my favourite character in the book because she had a lot of enthusiasm and she was very determined. It was different from other books I’ve read. It was a very calm and gentle book even though it was about children planning to help a soldier escape.

This book will suit readers aged 9 to 12 because it talks about war. It’s a good book for readers who like a realistic story with a historical setting.

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