Book reviews by Joseph, Book reviews by kids, poetry

Book review: Our Village in the Sky

Our Village in the Sky by Janeen Brian, ill. Anne Spudvilas, ISBN 9781743318140, Allen and Unwin

Our Village in the Sky



A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

This is a book about kids living in a village in the Himalayan mountains. Our Village in the Sky is a book of poems and each poem talks about what the kids do during the day. They have to do chores like take care of the animals, wash clothes and scrub dishes, carry water from a water pipe, and more.

I found it interesting because I didn’t know much about this sort of life and it’s very different from the lives of Australian kids. The kids in this book don’t have the technology that we have, they spend their days doing chores so their families can live, and they make their own fun outdoors. My favourite pages are the ones about the children washing the dishes in summer and winter. But my favourite poem (as a poem) is the one about playing knucklebones.

The illustrations are realistic, serious pictures and they help you to see what the kids in the village are like. It helps you to understand the emotions in the poems.

The book also has a QR code — it takes you to a website with audio. This is especially good for young kids who can look at the pictures and listen to the poems be read to them.

This book is good for kids aged 6 to 12. I would recommend this book especially for grades 3 and 4 in their classrooms because it teaches you about life in another country while enjoying a good read at the same time. I give it 7.75/10 — it’s not the sort of book I would normally pick up but I was glad that I did read it.

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

poetry, Soup Blog Poetry Festival

Visiting poet – Janeen Brian

Janeen Brian

Today we have Janeen Brian visiting Soup Blog to talk about her poetry and poetry-writing. (Janeen also writes picture books, short stories, nonfiction and novels. She’s a busy writer!)

When did you first start writing poetry?

I can’t remember writing anything much at all as a child, so I’d guess I began writing poetry in my late twenties or early thirties.

What sort of poetry do you like writing best of all?

Both rhyming and free verse. I tend to use rhyme for more of my humorous pieces, but not exclusively. I love the word-manipulation, the struggle and the joy of creating rhyme. Free verse excites me too, but for a different reason. There, I aim to convey something to the reader by way of a new point-of view, a twist at the end, a particular rhythmic pattern, or a feeling. I love selecting the right word. It can take hours, or longer. But when it does — oh, what a feeling!

What sort of poetry do you like reading?

I love reading ballads, humorous, quirky, clever verses, verse novels, free verse and rhyming verse. I prefer reading children’s poetry because that’s the main area in which I write, but I also read adult poetry and have also written in that field.

Where can we find your poetry?

My poetry has been included in the following anthologies:

  • 100 Australian Poems for Children
  • There was a big fish (limericks)
  • Christmas Crackers
  • Fractured Fairytales and Ruptured Rhymes
  • Four and Twenty Lamingtons
  • Petrifying Poems
  • Stay Loose Mother Goose
  • Off the Planet
  • Vile Verse
  • Putrid Poems
  • Side by Side
  • Machino Supremo

(Tadpoles in the Torrens due for release September, 2013. Our Home is Dirt by Sea due for release 2014)

By jingo!Books of my own poetry:

  • By Jingo!
  • Silly Galah!
  • Nature’s Way A-Z of biodiversity.

(Our Village in the Sky due for release 2014)

Rhyming picture books:

  • I’m a dirty dinosaur
  • Meet Ned Kelly
  • I Spy Mum!
  • I Spy Dad!
  • The super parp-buster!
  • Shirl and the Wollomby Show
  • Columbia Sneezes.

Over 150 poems have been published nationally and internationally in the following magazines:

  • The School Magazine
  • the Victorian Education Magazines
  • Spider
  • Ladybird
  • Ladybug
  • Contagious.

Comma Dog © Janeen Brian

There’s a comma
of a dog
lying on the mat.
Dozing belly and
curl of tail
ears no longer
playtime exclamation marks
eyes closed as hyphens
and soft brackets of sighs
snuffling from
that comma of a dog
in a circle
of sun.

Published in The School Magazine: Orbit. May 2012

How often do you write?

I write every day. It might be my diary, my ideas book, some research notes, a page of practice writing, a draft of a poem or story or rewriting earlier drafts of work.

Do you prefer to write with a pen and paper or straight onto the computer?

Note-taking, ideas gathering, early paragraphs or lines of poetry are mostly done by hand with pen and paper (an exercise book), but I gradually take the work onto the computer and work from there on.

What’s your number one tip for budding poets?

Choose a book of poetry. Write out several poems that you like and then work out how the poet has written them. Think and discover. And practise.

Janeen’s Poetry Prescription corner

IF YOU’RE HAVING A SHAMBLY DAY — read the following poem:

‘Cat Burial’ (from Note on the Door by Lorraine Marwood).

Some books by Janeen Brian

For even more about Janeen Brian and her books and poetry — visit her website!

Interview with Janeen Brian © 2013 Janeen Brian and Rebecca Newman

Three Quick Questions – Janeen Brian #21

All through October, Alphabet Soup is celebrating turning three. We have heaps of writers and illustrators stopping by to answer THREE QUICK QUESTIONS and today’s visitor is Janeen Brian, poet and author. Her books include Shirl and the Wollomby Show and Columbia Sneezes!, and many more …

Shirl and the Wollomby Show (cover)  Columbia Sneezes (cover)










1. Where do you like to write?

My favourite place to write is still my office, although I’ve tried many other places. It’s where my brain associates the act of writing best of all. I can jot down ideas or brainstorm while in bed or on a couch, but in my office I can spread work out on a central table or concentrate totally at my computer. My office has all sorts of photos and writing memorabilia in it, so it’s very much my place of enjoyment as well my writing.

2. Can you name a book you’d recommend to our readers?

I read children’s and adult’s books all the time, but I’ve just finished re-reading a book by Gary Paulsen, called Hatchet. First printed in 1987, it’s had many reprints and I think it’s a classic. The blurb reads: When a 13 year old city boy crash lands in the Canadian wilderness all he is left with is a hatchet—and the need to survive. From now on he learns everything the hard way …

It’s a wonderful read, gripping, powerful and realistic. I shared it with my grandson, which made it doubly enjoyable.

Hatchet (cover)
Janeen Brian recommends Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

3. Can you offer a word or phrase that kids could use for inspiration if they have writer’s block?

Here’s a command phrase that might kickstart inspiration: ‘Don’t come any closer!’

Find out more about Janeen Brian—visit her blog, and her website.

© October 2011 “Three Quick Questions with Janeen Brian” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)
authors, teachers' resources

Literary auction: $$ for Qld Floods

Authors for Queensland is an online auction set up to raise money for the Qld Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal. Up for auction are books signed by the authors and/or illustrators, picture book illustrations, manuscript assessments for writers, author mentorships, Alphabet Soup subscriptions and much more. (Make sure you check with an adult about bidding for items.)

Items that caught our eye included:

  • Signed copies of Wendy Orr’s new book Raven’s Mountain (out February)"Raven's Mountain (cover)"
  • Signed copies of Katrina Germein’s My Dad Thinks He’s Funny
  • Signed copies of Karen Collum’s Samuel’s Kisses
  • Signed copy of The Tomorrow Book by Jackie French
  • A full set of signed Billie B Brown books by Sally Rippin
  • Signed copy of This is the Mud by Kathryn Apel
  • Signed copies of Famous and Chess Nuts by Julia Lawrinson
  • Illustration (unframed) by Judith Rossell from Janeen Brian’s book Too Tight Benito

The auction ends 24 January 2011.