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!