Posted in authors, Events, teachers' resources

“Lights out!” (Dee White)

A big welcome to our guest blogger today – Dee White. Her books include many fiction and nonfiction titles, including Hope for Hanna, and a Young Adult book, Letters to Leonardo.

Letters to Leonardo (cover)

Hope for Hanna (cover)

Dee White photo
Dee White

Reading after lights out was a constant source of conflict in our house. My sister and I shared a set of bunk beds – she was on the top one so the light source was definitely better for her.

We didn’t actually read by torchlight. We kept the bedroom light on so if the other person wanted to sleep then that was just too bad, or you got used to sleeping with the light on.

Official lights out at our place was at 8.30pm. But we soon learned that once parents became engrossed in their television show or ‘winding down’ because the kids were now in bed, they forgot to check to make sure that lights stayed out.

Ours wasn’t the most foolproof method. It was easily detectable, and it led to sisterly verbal exchanges that also attracted parental attention.

During these clandestine sessions (which occurred almost every night), I liked to read books that are pretty much like the ones I write today – books about real people and the things that happened in their lives. Early on I was a big fan of ‘The Whiteoaks of Jalna Chronicles’ by Mazo de la Roche (this could have been the influence of my European father).

In my teens, I gravitated towards tragically romantic books like Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’urbervilles and Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I liked thick books that I could savour, ones that didn’t end too quickly.

Today, I see the same trait in my eldest son. His undercover reading tastes include books by Clive Cussler, Robin Hobbs and Matthew Reilly. My youngest is more an Artemis Fowl, Diary of a Wimpy Kid kind of guy.

I’ve always loved reading, but I have to admit that it’s so much more exciting when you’re reading undercover – when the threat of detection lurks around every corner.

© 2010 Dee White

You can find out more about Dee White and her books by visiting her website: www.deescribe.com.au

You can also visit her blogs:

http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

http://content.boomerangbooks.com.au/kids-book-capers-blog/


Undercover Readers logoAlphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. So be sure to check back tomorrow!

Posted in authors, Events, info, teachers' resources

“Lights Out!” (Sue Walker)

Today we welcome Sue Walker to the blog to tell us about what she used to read after lights out when she was growing up. In the past Sue has worked in a bank, a school, a bookshop, and a cemetery. She now works from a studio in her backyard in Sydney, where she lives with her husband, three children, and a scruffy white dog.

Her book Tilly’s Treasure is part of the Aussie Nibbles series, and Best Friends is a Children’s Book Council Notable Book. Sue’s latest title is Arnie Avery – a novel for children 9-13 years.

"Tilly's Treasure (cover)" "Arnie Avery (cover)""Best friends (cover)"

"Sue Walker photo"
Sue Walker

When I was young, I had a bed with a light built into the bed head. It was great for reading after lights out. I’d read books by Enid Blyton – The Magic Faraway Tree, The Enchanted Wood and The Wishing Chair, and I’d imagine it was me visiting all those strange lands and flying in the wishing chair. I shared my room with my sister, and she’d complain because the light kept her awake at night, so sometimes I’d use a torch instead of my bed light. The best book I ever read was The Shark in Charlie’s Window. It was about a boy who had a flying shark for a pet.

As I grew older, I became an avid romance reader, and I loved super scary books too. Sometimes I was so tired in the morning it was hard to get ready for school, but it never stopped me from reading after lights out. Somehow, it was more exciting when I knew everyone was sleeping except me, and the house was dark and quiet around me.

Even though I’m an adult now, I still read loads of children’s books. If I had a lights out curfew, I’d read the kind of books I loved as a child. Books with a little bit of adventure and fantasy – they’re great for the imagination.

© 2010 Sue Walker

Visit Sue Walker’s website for more information about the author and her books!

"Undercover Readers logo"Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up.

Posted in authors, Events, teachers' resources

“Lights out!” (Sandy Fussell)

Sandy Fussell is visiting today, to tell us about what she got up to after ‘lights out’ when she was growing up! Sandy Fussell is the author of the Samurai Kids books (The first book in the series, White Crane, is pictured below), and Polar Boy. Her latest book is Jaguar Warrior, and the fifth Samurai Kids book — Fire Lizard — will be out in September 2010.

"White Crane (cover)""Jaguar Warrior Cover""Polar Boy cover"

"Sandy Fussell photo"
Sandy Fussell

I had a strict childhood. There were so many rules. Reading in the bedroom, in bed, under the covers, or otherwise was definitely not allowed. I wasn’t a rule-breaker to begin with but …

Rule Number One was bed time at 7.30pm. That’s doubly hard to take when you are in Year 12  and it’s summer daylight savings time, but my mother wasn’t one to argue with about anything. Her house, her rules. Rule Number Two was no more than one hour’s homework. That was also hard in Year 12 when I already had one subject over the scheduled 12 unit limit. Mum believed homework was set by teachers who didn’t get their work done during the day and she wasn’t going to help make up for their shortcomings. *sigh*

So I began doing my homework under the bed covers. My partner in crime was my grandfather who lived next door. He worked in the local coal mines all his life and firmly believed in the importance of a good education leading to a better job. I didn’t have any money so Pop bought me a torch and kept up the supply of batteries. Mum knew something was up but she couldn’t catch me. I was quick at turning off the torch and hiding the evidence. Mum thought I was reading in bed and removed my bookcase from my bedroom.

That didn’t seem fair to me. So after my illicit homework was done, I read, read, read. I was a huge science fiction and fantasy fan and luckily so was the school librarian. I loved those series of big thick books. It was pure escapism. From Frank Herbert’s Dune to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Empire, to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and William Horwood’s Duncton Wood.

In some ways not much has changed. Last night I finished Tallow, the first book in Karen Brooks ‘Curse of the Bond Rider’ series. The second title in the trilogy, Votive, isn’t out until March 2011. I don’t want to wait – that’s what I really want to read under the covers now. Right now! It’s a story of wonderful scope in very way – the world building, the characters and the narrative itself. Other titles on my immediate list are The Sky is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson), Thai-riffic (Oliver Phommavanh), Beatrice and Virgil (Yann Martel) and the last two books in the ‘Rangers Apprentice’ series.

There are winter days when I would be happy to stay in bed and read under the covers all day!

© 2010 Sandy Fussell

Visit Sandy Fussell’s website to find out more about the author and her books!

"Undercover Readers logo"Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. So be sure to check back tomorrow!

Posted in authors, teachers' resources

“Lights out!” (The Book Chook)

Monster Maddie

Today’s visitor will be familiar to regular readers of Alphabet Soup. We’re pleased to welcome The Book Chook – a writer, editor and reviewer. She has a column in every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine with great writing tips for kids! Her picture book, Monster Maddie, was published in 2010. What did The Book Chook read after ‘lights out’ when she was growing up? She’s here to tell us today.


I love stories. Fiction books mostly, but I’ll take a story any way I can get it. When I was a child, Mum and Dad didn’t think reading was a good enough excuse to stay up past bed time. Parents are strange like that, aren’t they? If they saw the light on in my room, they would take my book away. So I would grab my torch and book, huddle under the bedclothes, and read my book like that.

The problem with this was oxygen. Or rather lack of oxygen. I would read for so long that pretty soon I’d used up all the air. So I’d surface for a while, take a few quick, quiet gasps, then go undercover again.

One night I had an idea. I took my brother’s snorkel into my bedroom, put the mouthpiece in my mouth, and stuck the other end above my bedcovers. It tasted rubbery and a little salty, but it was better than suffocating.

Undercover Readers cartoon © Susan Stephenson 2010
Image courtesy The Book Chook

This time, the problem was Mum finding the snorkel under my pillow next day. Do you think she believed me when I said I wanted to dream about being underwater?

Nowadays, when the lights are out, I have finished reading all I want. But if somebody said I couldn’t read, I know that would just make me want to read even more. I bet I could invent something ingenious – maybe a tiny headlamp for seeing, connected to a mini oxygen tank for breathing. I would read lots of great books undercover – ones that make me laugh, with characters I like who go on adventures or solve problems.

Alphabet Soup’s book review club is called UNDERCOVER READERS. You don’t have to read under the bedcovers to belong, but if you do and you run out of air, can I suggest a snorkel?

© 2010 The Book Chook

The Book Chook has a blog for parents and teachers featuring fantastic literacy resources and tips.


Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. So be sure to check back tomorrow!

Posted in authors, Events, teachers' resources

“Lights Out!” (Katrina Germein)

Today Katrina Germein visits Soup Blog to share about ‘lights out’ (or rather, ON) at her house. Katrina is the author of Big Rain Coming, and Littledog, and she has a new book coming out in August – My Dad Thinks He’s Funny.

A Sneaky Plan

"Katrina Germein with her family"
Katrina Germein with her family

My son thinks he can trick me. He thinks he has me fooled. But I’m smarter than he thinks and I know what he’s up to.

He tells me he wants to sleep with the light on, not just the lamp but the big bedroom light.

“But why?” I ask.

“It’s better,” he says.

I don’t believe him; no one sleeps better with the big light on. Still, I leave the light. I know it’s all part of his sneaky plan.

“Shut the door,” says my son when I kiss him goodnight.

“But you get frightened,” I say.

“Not anymore,” answers my son. “Not now I have the big light on.”

I close the door and leave him alone, alone in his room with the big light on. But he’s not alone really; he’s invited others. They’re all in it together. I wonder who’s conspiring with my son tonight. Zac Power? The BFG? Specky Magee? Bonnie and Sam? Captain Underpants? My son has his favourites. (If it was me I’d choose Pippi Longstocking. But this is my son’s sneaky plan and not mine.) Anyway, I’ll find out who the accomplice is later. I have my ways.

An hour later I open the door. My son is asleep, The Famous Five still in his hand. So that’s who’s been plotting with my son tonight. He’s not the first to fall for their charms.

I kiss my son on top of his head. “Good plan,” I whisper and I turn out the light.

© 2010 Katrina Germein

You can find out more about Katrina Germein and her books at her website.


"Undercover Readers Logo"Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. So be sure to check back tomorrow!

Posted in authors, Events, teachers' resources

“Lights Out!” (Aleesah Darlison)

Welcome to day 2 of the celebrations for the launch of the Undercover Readers Club! Today Aleesah Darlison is visiting to talk to us about reading undercover. She has two books due out in 2010 – a picture book, Puggle’s Problem (out July), and junior novel, Totally Twins: Musical Mayhem (out September).

"Puggle's Problem (cover)""Totally Twins (cover)"

Lights Out – Aleesah Darlison

"Aleesah Darlison (photo)"
Aleesah Darlison

I have a bad habit, I confess. I love reading in bed. Some people read in bed to make themselves sleepy, to help them drift off into Dreamland. But I read in bed to stay awake, knowing that if I start a book, I won’t be able to stop until I’ve finished it.

As it gets later and later and I get further and further through the book, I just can’t put it down. I can’t bear the thought of waiting the next day or the next or worse – the next – to see what will happen. Even at the expense of getting huge, black bags under my eyes, I have to finish the book!

It’s always been this way, ever since I started reading at the age of four. Look in my photo album and you’ll see shots of me, very young, reading to kids in the neighbourhood. My kindergarten teacher used to get terrible migraines and would often have to lie down in the sick bay next to our classroom. I went to school in a tiny country town in the seventies. We weren’t big on substitute teachers back then and my teacher would leave me in charge of the classroom to read to everyone until she was feeling better. I remember this very clearly.

My favourite bedtime reading when I was very little were Golden Books. Stories like, The Poky Little Puppy, and The Most Beautiful Tree in the World, a tale about a huge pine tree that gets chopped down to become a Christmas tree. As I grew older, I loved C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, including The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Enid Blyton was another favourite, especially her Magic Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair series. Older still, I fell in love with the English classics, like Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion) and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights). But my all-time favourite classic novelist was Charles Dickens (Great Expectations, The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby). Even today, my bookshelves are full of his works.

I grew up in the country, so we were expected to play and do chores outside a lot of the time. Being inside reading a book was seen as a luxury, as time-wasting, and I was often told to ‘Get your head out of that book!’.

I wrote a lot, too. Mostly silly, soppy poems that would be far too embarrassing to show to anyone. I wrote them on yellow note paper and kept them in a red folder. Reading and writing into the small hours was a regular past time of mine. In our tiny house, my parents knew exactly what I was up to and could tell if I had the light on too late, so I would wait until they had gone to sleep, then secretly read or write by torchlight under my covers.

I got caught a few times and was always told to turn the light off. Immediately, or else! Then I’d go to sleep, imagining all sorts of story developments and twists. Then, in the morning, as soon as it was light, my eyes would ping open, I’d pick up my book and, still in bed, I’d start reading where I left off. An early morning read snuggled up in bed is just as good as a late night one, after all.

If I had a lights out curfew today, I would still sneak books into bed. Especially in winter, when it’s so delightfully naughty to curl up in a toasty bed and read, read, read. The books I would read in bed these days are Kate Forsyth’s The Wildkin’s Curse, Jackie French’s Hitler’s Daughter, Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, Sandy Fussell’s Jaguar Warrior, and David Grimstone’s Gladiator Boy series. Just to name a few.

© 2010 Aleesah Darlison

Visit Aleesah Darlison’s website to find out more about her and her books!

"Undercover Readers logo"Alphabet Soup magazine is celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. So be sure to check back tomorrow!

Posted in authors, Events, teachers' resources

“Lights out!” (Sheryl Gwyther)

Today we are launching Alphabet Soup magazine‘s UNDERCOVER READERS CLUB – the new reviewers club for kids aged 12 and under! As part of our online celebrations, we’ve invited a different children’s writer or illustrator to visit Soup Blog every day until 29 June 2010 to tell us about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up.

Our first visitor is Sheryl Gwyther, author of Secrets of Eromanga, and Princess Clown. Her writing has also appeared in the NSW Schools Magazine, and the anthology, Short and Scary.

"Secrets of Eromanga (cover)""Short and scary (cover)""Princess Clown (cover)"

READING UNDER THE COVERS (Sheryl Gwyther)

"Sheryl Gwyther (photo)"
Sheryl Gwyther

What happens when you are reading an extremely exciting bit in a book and Mum or Dad says, light’s out!?

You keep reading, of course! Out comes your trusty torch. You wriggle under the covers and once again, you are lost in the book. This is exactly what I used to do when I was younger.

Once upon a time, before I owned a torch, I tried to use a candle to read in bed after ‘light’s-out’ – never thinking of the danger involved with fire. Burning wax on my fingers and on the floor stopped me. Maybe my mother saw the wax drops everywhere, because not long afterwards my parents gave me my first torch.

There’s a powerful image in my memory of reading in the dark with a torch. It happened when I was about eight. I had to get up for school the next day and Mum was nagging me stop reading and go to sleep. But I was caught up in the Silver Curlew (a book by Eleanor Farjeon), an exciting story about a young girl’s fight to save her sister from an evil imp. How could I possibly sleep?

I hid under the sheet with my torch, reading. Everyone else had gone to bed. It was dark outside and still, and the story was at a creepy, scary part. Then, an eerie wailing sound came from the trees outside.

It was a nocturnal bird called a Bush Curlew. I snapped shut the book, flicked off the light and burrowed back under the sheet in the dark, remembering my grandmother’s words … Curlews always wail when someone is dying. I was too scared to go to sleep!

If I had a ‘Light’s Out’ curfew put on me tonight, you would find me reading (with the aid of my trusty torch) a spell-binding story by Kate Forsyth, The Starthorn Tree. It’s the first in a series. When I’ve finished this one, I can start on the second one, The Wildkin’s Curse. Do you think my torch battery will last?

© Sheryl Gwyther 2010

Visit Sheryl Gwyther’s website, and her blog for more information about her books!

"undercover readers logo"If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we have a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up.