Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Michael Gerard Bauer




This is our first Pass the Book Baton for 2017! What is Pass the Book Baton? Every Friday we feature a book creator who answers one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.) Make sure you check out all all the posts from the Pass the Book Baton series so far.

To start off this year’s series, the baton is passed to Michael Gerard Bauer.

Michael Gerard Bauer


Michael Gerard Bauer is the author of many books for children and young adults. His latest book is a young adult title — The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy and me and he has a picture book coming out soon (stay tuned!). You might recognise some of these books:

Last year Wendy Orr asked:
I’m curious whether, like me, you draw on different parts of yourself to create your characters (even if other people might not be able to see that ‘seed’ that started the process). Do you use any techniques to find these beginnings, or does the character appear to grow spontaneously, and you only recognise later the bit that sparked its creation?

Michael answers:

Bauer's latest young adult novel

I think I do draw on different parts of myself to create characters but I don’t think in most cases that I do it deliberately or consciously. I can certainly see myself, or aspects of myself, in main characters like Joseph in The Running Man, Corey from Just a Dog and Ishmael from the Ishmael series. Even the character of Maggie from The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy and Me shares quite a bit in common with me — although I’d have to admit, there’s also a fair bit of me in The Pain! Having said that, I don’t ever see myself as being those characters, despite any similarities that might exist in our personalities and attitudes. I doubt that I could write about, or would want to write about, a central character to whom I couldn’t relate or empathise.

I really don’t apply any techniques to help find character beginnings. My characters seem to emerge and grow from the situations that I imagine them in and that’s more of a spontaneous thing. So with Joseph in The Running Man it started with me imagining a boy living next door to a mysterious and reclusive neighbour and wondering how he would deal with each situation as it arose. As a writer you find out more and more about your character as you develop your story. I think the part of you that is in the character is probably the strongest and most obvious at the start, and as you unearth the story and the character is placed in different situations, they take on different layers and dimensions and so they grow away from that seed of you to become unique identities in themselves.

Ultimately I believe the best thing you can do when developing characters is to stop thinking about them as characters but rather think about them as real people. Try to imagine their life outside the limits of your story for example and how they have become the people they are. When you stop looking at them as your ‘creation’ and give them room and freedom to grow, they tend to take on a life of their own and often reveal themselves to you in surprising ways.

Want to know more about Michael Gerard Bauer and his books? Visit his website:

The WishbirdAnd now Michael passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Gabrielle Wang. Gabrielle is the author of picture books and novels, including two series in the Our Australian Girl series. Her latest novel is The Wishbird.

Michael asks:
In general I’d love to know how being an illustrator impacts on your writing. For example, if you are writing a novel, do you find yourself creating illustrations for the characters or scenes even though they might not be included in the published work? Have characters or stories ever started from something you have drawn? Is visual imagery an important part of your writing style?
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 Joseph, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Ungifted


Ungifted by Gordon Korman

Ungifted by Gordon Korman, HarperCollins, ISBN 9780061742668

Joseph borrowed this book from his public library.

Gordon Korman wrote one of my favourite books (I Want to Go Home), and when I found this at the library I knew I wanted to read it. I thought it wasn’t as funny as some of Korman’s other books, but it had a great plot and kept me engaged.

Because of a mistake, Donovan is sent to an academy of selective distinction. He know’s he’s not gifted enough to be there but he decides to try to stay because he’s hiding out from the principal at his old school. (He skipped detention and managed to destroy the gym.)

All the kids at the academy suspect there was a mistake, so he has to do his best to blend in. Unfortunately he has a history of getting into trouble. I like how Korman links so many events in the story and keeps you guessing. Most readers aged 11+ would enjoy this humorous book. It involves lots of modern technology and the vocabulary suits advanced readers.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of The Island of Dr Libris. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!


Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Oliver Phommavanh


Oliver PhommavanhIt’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.)

We’re pleased to feature author Oliver Phommavanh as he takes the baton today. Oliver writes funny novels and short stories, he’s also a comedian and primary school teacher. Oliver’s first book — Thai-riffic — was published in 2010.

Here are some of his book covers:

Last week Deborah Abela left a question for Oliver to answer.

Deborah asks:
In your writing, you have this wonderful ability to create characters that feel real and who I very quickly feel I know and like. Do you know your characters really well before you write or do they come to life as you rewrite each draft?
Oliver Phommavanh:
It depends on each story that I write. Sometimes it comes to me straight away like in Thai-riffic or Con-nerd and then I just write the draft with the voices of each character fully in my head. Other books, I have a faint voice of what the characters could be like and then I write the draft to build that voice. A lot of my characters are drawn from my own childhood friends and family, but more recently just from observing kids in schools when I visit them. I have a fair idea of what my characters will sound like, so I let them roam around in my head awhile, but some shout louder than others, haha!

Darcy Moon and the deep fried frogs.

And now Oliver passes the book baton to the next author — Catherine Carvell. Catherine is the author of Darcy Moon and the Deep Fried Frogs.

Oliver asks Catherine Carvell:
What is one thing you’d like kids to walk away with after they’ve read your book?

Check in every Friday for a Q&A with children’s authors and illustrators. See you next week!

For other posts featuring Oliver Phommavanh at Alphabet Soup check out:

What’s Funny?

3 Quick Questions and

Meet Oliver Phommavanh




Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl (audiobook), read by Lionel Jeffries, BBC Audiobooks UK, ISBN 9781408483770

fantastic mr fox audiobook


Matilda borrowed this audiobook from her local library.

I like listening to audiobooks because they make you have an idea of the picture in your head. With this audiobook I could read along with the book while I listened but sometimes I just like listening without the book. I like the voices they have for the characters.

Fantastic Mr Fox is about a family of 6 foxes (4 children and 2 adults). Mr Fox has a very clever brain and every night he makes sure the wind is blowing towards him so he can go out and steal some dinner from the 3 farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean. The 3 farmers are really mean and they try to catch the foxes because they want to shoot them. I like this story because it’s exciting and the foxes can dig faster than any other animal.

Most kids from 5 and up would love this book but little kids might need a grownup there to help with the scary bits.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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