Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Reuben

Book review: Secret Agent Mole, Book 1

Secret Agent Mole Book 1: Goldfish-Finger by James Foley. The book cover shows a mole wearing square glasses and a white dinner suit, and a hippo in a vest and trousers looking serious, and a tiny green bug. The title is in a font that looks like an official stamp on a Spy/Secret Agent file.


Secret Agent Mole, Book 1: Goldfish-Finger by James Foley, Scholastic Australia, ISBN 9781761200151

Reuben received a review copy of this book.

Before I read any book I always read the blurb, and in this book parts of the blurb are just black lines, like it was an agent’s file. When I got this book I thought it would be about a mole, in a tuxedo, with a grappling hook but the hook was a plunger. And I knew it was a graphic novel.

It was what I expected because the mole had a plunger in a grappling gun – and it’s very funny. 

My fave character is Max because he is always telling dad jokes, and he’s the funniest character.

I am definitely looking forward to reading Book 2 in this series because I want to see if they manage to beat Dr Nude, the naked mole rat.

This is a great read for anyone who likes comics or animals or moles or insects/bugs and funny books.

I rate this book 5/5 plungers!

Read our March 2023 interview with the author-illustrator.

Reuben is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. Check out his earlier reviews here. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by kids

Book review: Remarkable

Remarkable by Lizzie K FoleyREVIEWED BY HARUNE, 12, JAPAN

Remarkable by Lizzie K Foley, Penguin Group USA, ISBN 9780142424100

Harune reviewed her own copy of this book.

It’s a nice spring day and the schools have just closed, letting floods of children out to the streets. Laughter rings through the air, feet patter on cobblestone. A girl and an elderly man walk into an ice cream parlour together; the waitress looks at them disinterestedly and waves them to a seat. The pair are grandfather and granddaughter, there to enjoy their Friday afternoon with vanilla sundaes. They went there every Friday, yet every week never received their orders. Why? You might ask. How? Their story begins in a small, spectacular town by the name of Remarkable.

Inside the wondrous town of Remarkable, everyone has their talent. Their gift. In fact, the citizens of Remarkable are all so extraordinary that in their everyday lives people, pets, and surroundings shine with glory. Until Jane. She was utterly, horribly normal and plain, and while the people of Remarkable, being perfect in any way, didn’t hold it against her, she was forgettable. Forgettable in such ways that you may forget to serve her and her grandfather vanilla sundaes. But when Jane meets the Grimlet siblings and a strange pirate moves into her prestigious city, her life takes an unexpected turn into pranks and friendship, danger and fun, and choices that could determine the future of Remarkable. Will Jane discover her own voice in the competitive town, scrape through a series of harrowing challenges, and protect Remarkable’s greatest secret?

I enjoyed Remarkable because it’s a story of an ordinary girl in a community full of talented and gifted individuals, trying to find her own passion while making new friends along the way. The way Jane grows and changes throughout the book is easy to follow and connected with me as a reader. Parts I enjoyed reading of Remarkable were when the Grimlet twins were dreaming up mischief or inviting Jane to find out more about herself. It is a lighthearted, amusing tale that will warm your hearts and make you smile.

This is Harune’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Lost Stone of SkyCity


The Lost Stone of SkyCity by HM WaughThe Lost Stone of SkyCity by HM Waugh, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925815948

Eva received a review copy of this book.

The Lost Stone of Skycity is written from the main character, Sunaya’s, point of view. Sunaya and her friend Danam discover the land of where the ice people live. In the beginning of the book they think it is just a legend but they discover that the ice people are real! The ice people find Danam and he gets taken away to take the dragon tests. The dragon tests are tests to see if he is strong and powerful enough to defend the Queen from anything bad, and if he passes the tests, he would become the cloud dragon. There is a really cool twist, that you won’t see coming!

This book is awesome because it was exciting! I’ve got a favourite part of the book but I can’t tell you about it as it will spoil it for you – but believe me you have to read this book!

I think the author is very talented. I liked imagining the pictures in my head. It had lots of action in it which was exhilarating! My favourite character was Sunaya. It was a joy to read!

I think other people should read it because there is no other book like it. It is really unique – I like the gotals. The book encourages people to be strong, never give up, and to trust their instincts.

I hope there is a second book soon! I loved the book so much I might dress up as the character, Sunaya, for book week at school!

Read a sample chapter from The Lost Stone of SkyCity.

Read Alphabet Soup’s interview with the author.

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

authors, interviews

Meet the author: Elaine Forrestal


Elaine Forrestal is a Western Australian author who grew up in Australian country towns and now travels all over the world. Her award-winning books have been published internationally and translated into other languages.

Elaine Forrestal
Elaine Forrestal, author of Goldfields Girl

Elaine’s latest book is Goldfields Girl, set during the Gold Rush in Coolgardie, Western Australia.

From the publisher:

Goldfields Girl by Elaine Forrestal (book cover)It’s 1892. Amid a fevered gold rush, 14-year-old Clara Saunders is in search of adventure in the new outback town of Coolgardie.

A friendship with cheeky young water carter Jack is a promising start, but the goldfields are a harsh place, where water is scarce, disease is common and where many men will never find the fortune they’ve come to seek.

With unforeseen tragedies on the horizon, Clara’s time in the dusty town will truly test the limits of her fierceness and determination.

How did you first hear of Clara Saunders and decide to write a story based on her life? Was Clara a relative?
We were almost at the end of the editing stage of the book before I knew that my sister-in-law’s husband is Clara Saunder’s grandson! So that’s obviously not why I chose to write about her. I was researching ‘children on the goldfields’ because I wanted to write a goldfields story, but felt that so many stories had already been written about it that I needed a new angle. Clara was the only child I found. Because of the harsh conditions —like lack of water and food, only tents to live in, heat, dust and flies — the women and children mostly stayed at home.

How did you go about your research for Goldfields Girl?
I tried Google first. Then I went to the Battye Library (on the 3rd floor of the State Library of WA). I felt like a detective because she wasn’t easy to find. And when I found the transcript of her ‘Memories’ I was so excited I virtually danced around the Library Reading Room. The librarian was a bit shocked.

How long did it take you to write the book?
It took about two years to write the book, then another two years to find the right publisher and go through all the usual editing and rewriting stages.

Did you have to leave anything out of the book?
I have only told the story of Clara’s life from 1892 to 1894, so I have left a lot out. but I didn’t change any of the facts — just added some dialogue to make the story more interesting to read.

How do you come up with the titles for your books?
I am hopeless with titles. I’ve lost count of how many Goldfields Girl had. I usually change them myself a couple of times, then the marketing team doesn’t like the one I have come up with so we work on it together. They know a whole lot more about what works for readers and bookshops, so I’m usually happy to go with what they suggest in the end.

Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to write stories based on real-life events?
You do need to do a lot of careful research when you base your story on real events. But I love doing the research. It’s fascinating to read about how people lived back then. I usually find out a lot more than I need to know, but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll get to use some of it in another book down the track.


Click here to read a sample chapter Goldfields Girl by Elaine Forrestal (book cover)(thanks to Fremantle Press)

Click here for Teachers’ Notes

Click here for a Goldfield’s Girl crossword activity

Click here to see two 1894 photos of Clara Saunders (in a blog post by Elaine Forrestal)

Visit Elaine Forrestal’s website to find out more about her and her books:

Goldfields Girl is out now in bookstores and libraries!

Book reviews by Hannah, Book reviews by kids

Book review: SICK BAY


Sick Bay by Nova WeetmanREVIEWED BY HANNAH, 12, QLD

Sick Bay by Nova Weetman, UQP,
ISBN 9780702260322

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

Meg uses the Sick Bay to hide from other kids. New girl Riley is a type 1 diabetic with an over-protective mother. They think they’ve worked each other out, but what if they’ve got it all wrong?

Sick Bay by Nova Weetman enfolds you into the world of Meg and Riley who are both working out and living through their own issues and yet somehow they are helping each other out even more.

Riley runs with the ‘popular’ clique. She’s well respected, praised even, although her peers don’t understand her diabetes. Her friends think that it’s something that they can just wish away or make fit into their life. Her mother is manic and controlling. Riley just wishes that she could be a normal teenager with a normal body, a normal mother and a normal life.

Meg is completely different. Her current best friend is a tattered, brown, paper bag that she keeps in her front pocket. She hides in sick bay to avoid other kids and PE. Her father died six months ago and ever since this tragic event, her life has changed dramatically. Meg wears slippers to school and begs for food from the office lady Sarah. There is a rumour going around about how poor she is.

They both meet in sick bay one day, and are oblivious as to how much their lives are going to change as a result.

Nova Weetman has kept the action moving and exciting while still managing to keep the storyline relaxing. She executed the emotions of the characters beautifully and I found myself siding with them and feeling their sorrow as well as their excitement.

I would recommend this book to ages 10 to 14. If you enjoyed The Endsister by Penni Russon or Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham, you are sure to love this one as well!

Hannah is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read all her reviews hereIf YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!