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

Book review: Elizabella breaks a leg

REVIEWED BY ELIZABETH, 7, NSW

Elizabella Breaks a Leg by Zoë Norton Lodge and illustrated by Georgia Norton Lodge

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

Elizabella Breaks a Leg by Zoë Norton Lodge, illustrated by Georgia Norton Lodge, Walker Books Australia, ISBN 9781760652555. 

The story starts when Elizabella goes to a theatre where she watched Rapunzel. She adored the show. Now she wants to put on a show in her school, but Mr Gobblefrump said no, unless she could make the entire play free. Elizabella was not discouraged and she decided to do the play. The other problem she faced was that her best friend Minnie was going to New York for good. Elizabella was thinking how to stop Minnie’s parents. 

I like when Elizabella and her class went to  the Rapunzel play because they talked about it and she wanted to do the play. Also, I like how Elizabella likes to do pranks such as putting undies on the flag pole. Another funny part was when Elizabella caught her brother kissing a girl. Elizabella also has a cousin called Isabeth who helps her by encouraging her. 

I give this book 4.5 stars. I recommend this book for 8 and up. 

Elizabeth is a regular reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read another of her reviews here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in authors, illustrator, interviews

Meet the illustrator: Karen Blair

Karen BlairMEET THE ILLUSTRATOR

Karen Blair is an award-winning illustrator and author of children’s picture books. She loves to draw characters that are young, old and in between, as well as Australian wildlife – in the bush, the sea, the outback, or at home. She has a background in painting landscapes and loves incorporating this into her illustrations. You might recognise her work from Baby Animal FarmWhen Billy was a Dog (written by Kirsty Murrray), the Lemonade Jones books (by Davina Bell), Hello from Nowhere (by Raewyn Ciasley), and many more. Her latest book is Meet Eve in the Outback (text by Raewyn Caisley), which is part of the new Aussie Kids series. Raewyn visited Alphabet Soup recently to talk about writing the text. And now it’s time to hear from Karen about the illustrations!

Meet Eve in the Outback (book cover)


You illustrated Meet Eve in the Outback, written by Raewyn Caisley. How is illustrating a junior fiction book different from illustrating a picture book?
This was my first junior fiction book, which was both exciting and nerve-wracking. In a picture book, I have almost unlimited space on the page to do my visual story-telling, and the words usually fit in around the images. In a junior fiction book, it’s the opposite, with a higher word count, smaller pages and much less space. It makes you really crystallise what you want to add with the illustrations, and it comes down to how can I show an interesting part of the story – the action, the emotion, or even some visual information. That might be showing some of the Nullarbor setting, and the characters’ reaction to being in that part of the story. The shape of the illustration is also more limited, and needs to be varied throughout. It was an interesting process.

What are your favourite art tools/mediums?
I love illustrating with line, and I felt brave enough to try the very traditional dip pen and ink for this book for the first time. It’s slightly unpredictable and does some great things with a big brush and just a little water. I also love drawing with charcoal, it has a life of its own, I think because it used to be twigs it is not a uniform material and can also be a bit unpredictable. I like how you can get a line that will move from delicate to strong with the slightest change in pressure.

How long did it take you to do the illustrations for Meet Eve in the Outback?
I think it was about 3 months, but I work part time. It was a 2 part process – I had to do ‘spot colour’ digitally, which I had never done before. Also nerve-wracking and I was very grateful that my friend, and brilliant author-illustrator James Foley, helped me. His knowledge of digital illustration is phenomenal. Mine is not!

Do you have a tip for budding illustrators?
So much of illustrating is about process. Find a process that you enjoy. In the beginning I would do every part of the process – character sketches (hundreds), visual research (how DO you draw a car graveyard, or a truck, a camel etc), storyboard, dummy, roughs, colour roughs, and final artwork. I still do most of those for each book. You really have to love the process, which also includes getting feedback from the publisher, or it all might be torture. It’s a bit of torture, here and there but worth it. I would also recommend playing a lot with style and materials.

Can you tell us a bit about your next creative project?
I have started writing again, which I haven’t done properly since I had children. I’m working on a book called Train Party which will be published with Penguin next year. It’s set at the miniature railway, and is a rhyming text. It was inspired by some toddler birthday parties I went to last year, including the son of my friend Briony Stewart, another incredible author-illustrator, and incredible train-cake maker! It’s such a fun experience that I think many generations of Australians have enjoyed, and I love the community aspect of the train-drivers sharing their trains with children. There’s heaps of visual research for this one, I am realising that I don’t know much about trains …

Meet Eve in the Outback is out now! Available from book stores and libraries. 


Meet Eve in the Outback (book cover)AWESOME EXTRAS:

Click here to download an Aussie Kids series activity pack

Click here for Teachers’ Notes for Meet Eve in the Outback.

Read our Q&A with Raewyn Caisley, the author of Meet Eve in the Outback

Watch Karen sketching & talking about her book creation (YouTube)

Visit Karen Blair’s website for more about her and her books. 

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

Book review: WeirDo 13

Kobe recommends WEIRDO 13: WEIRDOMANIA by Anh Do & Jules FaberREVIEWED BY KOBE, 9, WA

WeirDo 13: Weirdomania by Anh Do, ill. by Jules Faber, Scholastic Australia, ISBN 9781742997933

Kobe reviewed her own copy of this book. 

Thinking of a book to read in May? WeirDo 13: Weirdomania is the right book for you.

This action packed book is filled with funny pictures and amusing jokes. In this book you’ll learn who’s the famous wrestler in the Do family and you’ll be surprised to find out who it really is! I hope you like the battle between the unbeatable Block and the mystery Do wrestler.

I hope you enjoy this amazing book and once you read it you’ll be attached to this best selling book written by Anh Do. Enjoy your reading journey!


Kobe is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read all her reviews hereTo send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Box Car Racers

Box Car Racers by Meredith Costain and illustrated by Danielle McDonaldREVIEWED BY MIA, 8, VIC

Olivia’s Secret Scribbles: Box Car Racers
by Meredith Costain,

ill. Danielle McDonald,
Scholastic Australia,

ISBN 9781760660031

Box Car Racers is part of the Olivia’s Secret Scribbles series. These books are fiction, written by Meredith Costain and illustrated by Danielle McDonald. This book and series would suit girls between 6-9 who like inventions, experiments and competitions.

Box Car Racers is now my new favourite book, written like a journal, full of special private secrets. The book is filled with drawings that make it so easy to imagine, as if you were there and a part of it.

This story is about Olivia, who is a nice girl who likes to win, but values her friend’s happiness more. This book is about school, recycle week, box car races, the magic of silver stripes, friendships, secrets under the table, older sisters, planes, bat cars, puppet shows, and unicorn carriages, crashes, GLITTER AND MORE GLITTER and so much more.

I love this series because Olivia likes a lot of the things that I do and I have also built and raced a box car:

The box car

I read this book from start to finish in one night and I want to read it again tomorrow.

I give this book and all the illustrations 5 plus plus stars.


You can read another book review by Mia here. 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: My New Best Friend

My New Best Friend by Meredith Costain, illustrated by Danielle McDonald (book cover)REVIEWED BY MIA, 8, VIC

Olivia’s Secret Scribbles: My New Best Friend
by Meredith Costain, ill. Danielle McDonald,
Scholastic Australia, ISBN 9781760277062

My New Best Friend is part of the Olivia’s Secret Scribbles series. These books are fiction, written by Meredith Costain and illustrated by Danielle McDonald. I think this book and series would suit girls between 6–9 and there is another series for older girls called Ella Diaries, which is written like a diary by Olivia’s older sister.

My New Best Friend is my favourite book, written like a journal, full of special private secrets. Olivia is always up to something and even has her own experiment cupboard. This book is about school, getting a new bedroom, making a new BFF, inventions, soccer, mysteries to be solved, an annoying older sister, a cat that needs more training, a spider, setting traps and lots more.

I love this series because I especially like experiments and new inventions and I can’t wait for more. I always read the whole book in one go because I need to know what’s going to happen. I give this book 5 stars.


This is Mia’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Gabriel Evans

PASS THE BOOK BATON

Gabriel EvansIt’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 Gabriel Evans. He has illustrated over twenty books and designed over a hundred greeting cards, painted large gallery artwork, and travelled across Australia presenting illustration workshops and seminars in schools and festivals.

Here are some of the books he’s illustrated:

Last week Sue Whiting asked:
What would you do differently in terms of the development of your career as an illustrator if you had your time over again?

Gabriel answers:
It has been an absolute pleasure working with Sue during her time at Walker Books.

If I was to have my time again I would definitely experiment more with my art. I was always trying to make perfect, beautiful pictures that limited my experimentation.

It’s only in recent years I take enormous pleasure and satisfaction from making risks and discovering new, creative systems. That means using BIG brushes, spray bottles, palette knives, goose feathers, cardboard, fingers, sticks and anything else I can think of.

It’s all about learning through creative, messy fun!

Find out more about Gabriel Evans and his books and art — visit his website!


Meet MarlyAnd now Gabriel passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Alice Pung. Alice writes books for a range of ages. You might have read her Marly books from the Our Australian Girl series.

Gabriel asks:
“You’re both a solicitor and author. How do you balance these two jobs? Is there a connection between the two?”

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. 

See you next week!

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

Book review: Summer in Enchantia

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 9, WA

Summer in Enchantia (Cover)

Magic Ballerina: Summer in Enchantia by Darcey Bussell, ill. Dynamo Limited, HarperCollins Children’s Books, ISBN 9780007317219

Matilda borrowed a copy of this book from her local library.

This is about a girl called Rosa who has magic ballet shoes. Whenever there is trouble in Enchantia the ballet shoes whisk her off there so she can help solve the problem. This time the king and queen of Enchantia want to have a garden party but pirates are stealing everything they need for the party.

I found out about this series (about Rosa) when I read a Delphie book (another girl in the Magic Ballerina series.) I like this book because it’s about working together to solve a problem. There are seven books in the Rosa series.

I’d recommend this book for ages 6 to 10 and for people who like ballet.

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