Posted in authors, interviews

The Lost Stone of SkyCity: an interview with HM Waugh

HM WaughMEET THE AUTHOR

HM Waugh is an environmental scientist, writer and educator with a long-term love of wild places and high mountains. This has led to icy feet and sunburnt cheeks in magical countries like New Zealand, Nepal, Bolivia and Switzerland. She has studied dolphins in New Zealand and rare plants in the Wheatbelt, and worked in mining and construction projects across Western Australia.

When she’s not writing, she’s teaching school and community groups about science and the environment. This often involves working with children and animals concurrently, and Waugh loves being able to truthfully say she handles dragons for a job. HM Waugh’s new children’s novel is The Lost Stone of SkyCity:

Sunaya’s peaceful village life is turned upside down when a simple mountain mission turns into a death-defying quest for survival.

Winter treks to summer pastures, mythical Ice-People that are scarily real, avalanches, ice falls, power plays, mysterious magic and surprising friendships – it seems not everything in life is set in stone …

We are pleased to have HM Waugh visiting Alphabet Soup today.


The Lost Stone of SkyCity by HM WaughYou live in Western Australia. What inspired you to write a book set in the snow?
I absolutely love mountain landscapes, I love to travel to them and I love reading about them in books. For me, they’re both beautiful and dangerous. There are so many different challenges you have to face and issues to deal with when it comes to snow, and – honestly – I’m not always that good at them. I remember wearing gumboots sledding when I was a kid living in New Zealand, and the snow all got stuck down my boots, partially melted and then froze solid so I couldn’t get the boots off. Ouch.

So one day I was thinking – wouldn’t it be awesome if you could understand and read mountains as naturally as people who’ve grown up in those areas seem to be able to? And from that thought came the world and the magic of The Lost Stone of SkyCity.

How long did it take you to go from the story idea to the published book?
I like to let my ideas bubble away and pick up extra details and join with other ideas before I start to write them. I first thought of the idea for The Lost Stone of SkyCity in 2015 but there wasn’t enough for a story so I jotted it down in my notebook and left it. It wasn’t until late 2016 that I actually wrote the book, but then I basically forgot I’d written it. I found it again near the middle of 2018, did some serious editing and submitted it to my (now) publisher. And they loved it! Hooray! I signed the publishing contract at the start of 2019 and had a whirlwind nine months of preparation before it came out in October.

So, that’s a bit over four years from first thought to having the book on shelves.

What’s the most recent children’s book you’ve read?
Because I love these books (and books you love are like old friends) I’ve recently re-read Scorch Dragons by Amie Kaufman, which is the second book in the Elementals series for middle readers. (I’m being very patient waiting for the next instalment!)

Writing a book: pen and paper, or typing straight into the computer?
I plot and brainstorm with pen and paper, but then it’s absolutely writing on the computer. I can write much faster, and it’s so much easier for me to read what I’ve written!

What are you working on next?
I’ve just finished the first round of edits on a really fun middle-grade adventure set on a dying Mars of the future, where kids can basically fly and, in order to save their planet, have to team up with those they’ve always been taught to fear.

But I’m pushing my Mars story to the side at the moment, because [as I write this] it’s National Novel Writing Month time, and I’ve got a super-secret-squirrel story idea on the go. I love new ideas!


The Lost Stone of SkyCity by HM WaughAwesome extras:

Click here to WIN a copy of the book

Click here to read a sneak peek inside the book

Click here for Teachers’ Notes

Click here to visit HM Waugh’s website

The Lost Stone of SkyCity is out now! Look for it at your nearest bookstore or library.

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

Book review: The Endsister

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 12, WA

The Endsister by Penni Russon

The Endsister by Penni Russon, A&U Children’s,
ISBN 9781741750652

Matilda reviewed her own copy of this book.

The Outhwaite family is a carefree Australian family but when their father inherits a huge house over in London, the whole family moves. Clancy, the twins, and even Else have to settle into their new lives, and Sibbi knows what an Endsister is …

I really enjoyed The Endsister. It had wonderful twists, and I really liked how small things turned out to be important. The characters were really relatable and lovable, especially Clancy’s new best friend, Pippa.

I would recommend this story for readers 10 years and older who like spooky books, haunted houses, and books about families.


Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. You can read Matilda’s other reviews 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: New City

New City by Deborah Abela, ISBN 9781742758558,
Random House Australia

New city

REVIEWED BY VERONICA, 11, NSW

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

New City is the sequel to Grimsdon, but you don’t need to read the first book to appreciate New City.

The book is set after the events of Grimsdon, when Isabella, adult friend Jeremiah, and her other friends, who survived together in the first book, are taken from the flooded Grimsdon to the beautiful New City. They are treated like heroes and live in luxury. But is it such a wonderful place, or do darker secrets lie beneath?

The kids have faced sea monsters and evil lords, but now they have new threats to face.

New City shows how the people can make change happen, and how just one person can make a change in the world. I like how Deborah has used real events from our times for her own story, and she has made her characters likeable and believable. They have developed over the course of the story and you can see their friendship with each other.

Deborah’s writing is is simple and sweet. But I do believe that some of Deborah’s ideas are unrealistic.

As this is set in the future, all sorts of new inventions have been invented, like invisible wings called Ornithopters. They have cameras everywhere, and hi-tech technology is a solid part of the people’s lives. Yet, they still use eagles as messenger birds, when technology would’ve normally replaced them.

Deborah has brought out a unique story that will be enjoyable for children of ages 9 and up. If you enjoy adventures in worlds that are both like and unlike our own, then this book is worth a try. In my opinion, this is an improvement on Grimsdon. Deborah has explored new ideas and has presented them well. I rate New City 4 stars out of 5.

Do you think you’d enjoy this book? You can read a sample of New City on the publisher’s website.

Veronica is a member of our Top Reads Team, and this is her first book review on Alphabet Soup’s blog. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!