The publisher provided a review copy of this book.
The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow is a thrilling adventure book about a boy called Jackdaw Hollow who gets orphaned after his parents and he go outside during a thunderstorm, but Jackdaw miraculously survives. A lady named Mrs Celeste Beekman decides to take him in and be his foster mother while also being the headmistress of Direleafe hall – a school for girls. Jackdaw Hollow has always wanted to find his calling and when an opportunity presents itself he gladly accepts it. He meets several people like ghosts, strange girls and an evil lady and all to try and find his calling.
I really enjoyed this book because it not only teaches people about friendship but is also a thrilling adventure book. Another sensational feature about this book is that it tells you that you should not go too far and lose yourself to try and find your calling.
This book would be suitable for ages 6–12 but can be enjoyed by older or younger people. I would give this book five out of five stars because I like how it can teach others about the meaning of friendship and not to take things too far.
HM Waugh is the author of books for children and young adults. She’s also an environmental scientist, and educator with a 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. Her latest book is Mars Awakens, the unputdownable first book in a duology.
From the publisher:
Raised in two colonies on Mars each long ago abandoned by Earth, Dee and Holt have been brought up to hate even the idea of each other. But when a mysterious object crash-lands on a far-flung plain, they are both sent to investigate and their fates intertwine. Together they must battle epic storms and deadly bioclouds while unpicking the web of lies they have been told about their planet.
What brought you to write a book set on Mars? Did you need to do much research before you began writing?
I love space and the idea of going to other planets, and we’re so close to being able to send people to Mars – kids reading my book could absolutely be a part of this – that one day the idea to write a book based on Mars just popped into my head. Mars is a real place, so I did have to do a lot of research. Not only about the Mars we know – like its gravity and size and moons and what it looks like from the surface – but also into the Mars we could create. The plants we would need to make wax and rope and clothing. To feed the population. To stabilise the planet. It was a lot of fun!
What’s your favourite unusual fact about Mars?
There are so many! I think one of my favourites is how rovers have been detecting strange levels of methane (like fart gas) on Mars. And recently they discovered rocks on Mars that contain substances that, on Earth, can be created by methane-producing bacteria. Did Mars once have life? Does it still?
Dee uses kites to travel long distances across Mars on her own. What gave you the idea? Did you test a prototype or put trust in your imagination?
The kites came from an epic brainstorming session. I knew Mars was too big to walk around, so I needed some low-tech way for Dee and her colony to travel long distances. And what did Mars have going for it? Much less gravity than Earth so you can leap higher and run faster, and some serious windstorms. And I thought about sailboats, and umbrellas in storms, and kite-surfers, and combined them all to create the Martian kites. I did not test this out! I’m not even sure they’d work on Earth? But I did use my experiences doing things like sailing, skydiving and ziplining to create the feel of kiting with the wind.
If there was a callout tomorrow for volunteers to move to Mars – would you be tempted to put your hand up?
Absolutely! Try out for all the things. What’s the worst that could happen? Either I don’t get selected and I’ve lost nothing, or I do get selected and get to decide whether to accept the place or not. If it was a one-way ticket I honestly think I’d find it very hard to say goodbye to my family. Maybe they could come with me?
Can you tell us something about your next writing project?
Well, obviously, my next project is Mars Book 2 and I’m not giving away any spoilers! Beyond that, I have ideas simmering away in my head for a new project and I’m just letting them develop. It can take a while for the right collection of ideas to come together, and then I suddenly know I’ve got the ingredients for a book.
Mars Awakens is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.
When Gorgomoth steals an oh-so-important crown he unleashes power that only the crown holds. Then, wanting revenge, he turns Wednesday’s Grandpa into a frog. However, this was only the beginning …
I liked the fact that Adaline, who had been really helpful, got a good title as the summer princess and that everything went well in the end. I also liked how I had to keep on guessing what would happen and it certainly kept me on the edge of my bed.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes magic and evil (stinky) sorcerers, regardless of your age.
The publisher provided a review copy of this book.
Mel and Shell is a book about friendship, laughter, friendship problems and of course ABBA. This book is set 40 years ago when the world was obsessed with the sensational band ABBA.
In this book Shell and her classmates are writing to a pen-pal from 1829 about their day, what they would be surprised about and what they would like.
Another character in this book is Sharon the girl who can’t get enough of herself. She is a mean person but gets people to think that she is nice.
There were many surprises in this book but one of my favourites was that they went on school camp and Sharon forced Shell to push her and some boys out to an island and something happens to one of them.
The cover of this book is amazing and tells a lot, and I love the characters; Shell is just so outgoing, kind and funny and Mel is adventurous and nice. I recommend this book for kids aged 10 and up and for anyone who needs a good book to laugh.
I give this book 5 stars for the creativity and the good plot.
Iona Presentation College students are members of Alphabet Soup’s review team. This is Kate’s first review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!
Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.
‘The hardest part is over. You made it.’
You find yourself in a new country, in a big city, in a big house. It’s all new and scary. You, Meixing, have been told you need to go to school as well. Everything is strange to you – the language, the people, the culture and the school. This is Australia.
Your home, Big Scary, is your friend and looks out for you. Big Scary keeps you safe and protected. Everything is ok.
But everything goes wrong when Ah Ma’s wedding ring, your grandma’s wedding ring, is lent to you for good luck at school. The problem is that your supposed friend tricks you and steals the ring. You don’t know how to get it back as you can’t speak the language fluently and your now ex-friend lies and says that her parents got it for her. Distraught, you go home.
What are you going to do? What other problems will you face?
Shirley Marr’s book, A Glasshouse of Stars, expresses big, strong emotions and feelings such as when Meixing loses someone close to her and is very torn apart. Later she finds the glasshouse’s secret and is exuberant upon her findings. Marr mixes Meixing’s imagination and brings it to life, causing the reader to visualise the scene before them. The way Marr uses second person helps the reader to understand and empathise with Meixing.
As an avid reader, I really enjoyed reading this book and every time I see the coloured cover of the book, I am compelled to pick it up and fly back to Meixing’s world. This book is very creative through the metaphors and images that connect the story together. It is also relatable as I have also faced some of the problems Meixing met. I encourage you thoroughly to pick up this book and find yourself in the shoes of a migrant girl.
I loved this book deeply and rate it a well-deserved 5 out of 5. Come read this exceptional book!
Julia Lawrinson is an award-winning writer of more than a dozen books for children and young adults. Her books are about friendship, family and the occasional Jack Russell. We’re very pleased to be chatting to Julia today about her latest book Mel and Shell.
From the publisher:
It’s 1979. Swedish pop group ABBA rules the airwaves, rollerskating is cool, and Mel and Shell are best friends. There’s nothing they like more than making up dances to ABBA songs, and there’s nothing they like less than Scary Sharon and Stinky Simon. But things are changing, fast. Confiding in her pen pal from 1829, Shell discovers she has a lot to learn about loyalty, honesty and rollerskating.
How did you come to write a book set in 1979?
In 1979 I was in year five, and it was a hugely exciting year to be a kid. ABBA was at its most popular, rollerskating was huge, Doctor Who with Tom Baker was my favourite show, and BMX was just taking off. It was also the 150th anniversary of English settlement in Western Australia, so everyone was given a diary with lots of olden day pictures, which fascinated me.
You incorporate two timeframes from history in the book – 1979, when the book is set, and 1829, which the main character is learning about in year 5. How much did you need to research before you began writing the novel?
A lot! I went to the State Library and looked at all the old newspapers on clunky old machines called microfiche, to see what was happening in the first half of 1979, and also to remember what television shows were on when. I also had to make sure I had the right information about who was on what ships coming from England, and what happened to them on the way.
OK, we have to ask – are you an ABBA fan yourself?
ABBAsolutely! I still have an ABBA calendar every year, sent to me by my best friend who lives in England. When we see each other we still dress up and pretend to be Anna and Frida.
If you found a way to time-slip back to 1979, what would be the first thing you’d do when you arrived?
Go rollerskating, buy a yo-yo, and watch Young Talent Time.
Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
My next project is my first picture book, set in 1962 in Perth, and features an astronaut. It will be out in June 2022 with Wild Dog Books.
Mel and Shell is out now! Ask for it at your favourite book shop or local library.
REVIEWED BY EMILY, 9, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)
Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows by Denis Knight and Cristy Burne, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780734420190
Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.
I found Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows to be a fascinating fantasy fiction adventure, but it is missing the absence of surprise when Wednesday made the portal back home. When Wednesday and Alfie fight off the laundry monster I imagined it wearing Alfie’s hat and I almost laughed so hard!
I enjoyed this story because of its detail and how each character showed perseverance and resilience to help family and friends. When I read Wednesday Weeks I had to notice its similarity to Scarlet and Ivy because both books try to help family and are about magic! I liked the skull, Bruce, because he was funny and helped Wednesday and Alfie.
Emily is a member of Iona Presentation College’s student reviewers’ team. This is her first review for Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR story, poem, artwork or book review,check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!
Anna Ciddor has always been fascinated by the past. It would be her dream come true to step through time! Instead, she immerses herself in research and hunts out the tiniest details so she can bring the past to life in her imagination. Anna has written and illustrated over 50 books on topics as diverse as Vikings, Irish druids, Australian history, travel, and toilets. Today we’re thrilled to talk to her about her latest book, The Boy Who Stepped Through Time.
From the publisher:
When Perry steps into a crumbling ruin while on holiday in France, he is not expecting to be transported back 1700 years to Roman times. While he hunts desperately for a way home, he must blend in as a slave in a grand villa – even if it means eating mice for dinner! He dodges the perils of Roman life. And all the time there is the danger that he will be trapped in the past forever …
How did you come to write a novel about Ancient Rome?
Well, it’s a long story because I actually started writing it when I was ten years old! You see, I read a book about Ancient Romans and I was fascinated by the idea of people lying around on couches eating with their fingers and spitting out their pips and bones on the dining room floor! I decided to write a novel about a boy from Roman times. I described him running down a stone-paved street dressed in a tunic. (A tunic was a type of dress that Roman boys used to wear.) I got stuck trying to work out what would happen to him though, so I stopped writing and went back to playing with my sisters. When I grew up, I became an author and illustrator, but it wasn’t until nearly fifty years after I started it, that I finally went back and finished the story about the Roman boy.
You joined forces with a researcher to help you with the accuracy of historical elements of the book. Could you tell us a bit about how you worked together?
I really needed help with the research because Roman times were so weird and different from the world we live in now. Romans cleaned themselves with olive oil instead of soap, they ate food like peacocks and dormice, they all got in a huge bath together, and they even went to the toilet together! The researcher and I worked for about a year researching the book and planning what was going to happen in every chapter. When I started writing and picturing the scenes though, I discovered I still needed more information. What sort of spell words did the Romans use? What medicine did they use to cure a sore throat? I kept sending the researcher text messages and she found me the answers but sometimes they were a big surprise. One Roman spell word was ABRACADRA. And one cure was to drink horse saliva!
You also illustrated the book. How did you go about the illustrations?
Again, the researcher helped me by finding Ancient Roman sources of things I was illustrating. For example, my granddaughter asked me to put a cat in the story so of course I did, and when I wanted to draw the cat, the researcher found me mosaics of real ancient Roman cats. They turned out to look exactly like my granddaughter’s two cats. Hers are tiger striped – one is orange and one is brown.
Is there an aspect of ancient Rome that you wish was still around today?
No! There are lots of things I am glad are NOT around today. The Boy Who Stepped Through Time is about a boy called Perry who goes back in time, and one of the things he hates most about Roman life is the toilets. The first time he needs to go, he opens the door and sees there are three toilet holes all in a row on a wooden bench, and a woman is sitting using one of the holes already. Even worse, instead of toilet paper they all share a sponge on the end of a stick.
Can you tell us a bit about your next writing project?
At the moment I am planning a sequel to The Boy Who Stepped Through Time. You can enter a competition for a chance to win your name in it! Click here to enter.
The Boy Who Stepped Through Time is out now! Ask for it at your favourite book shop or local library.
Science fiction and fantasy author Denis Knight is a computer programmer who grew up geeking out about the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. He has also worked as a technical writer, a delivery boy, a tutor, and, for one glorious summer, a tour guide on Rottnest Island.
Cristy Burne has worked as a science communicator for nearly 20 years across Australia, Japan, Switzerland, the UK, US, South Africa and beyond. She has performed in a science circus, worked as a garbage analyst, and was a reporter at CERN when they turned on the Large Hadron Collider. Her books include To The Lighthouse, Off The Track, Beneath the Trees, and a non-fiction book, Zeroes and Ones. In 2020, she told the story of the inventor of spray-on skin in Aussie STEM Stars: Fiona Wood.
Denis and Cristy decided to collaborate on a book and the result is a hilarious new series featuring the adventures of a girl named Wednesday Weeks. Today Alphabet Soup is super excited to have Denis and Cristy visiting to tell us about co-writing Book 1 in their series – Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows.
From the publisher:
Wednesday Weeks never wanted to be a sorcerer’s apprentice. She’d rather study science than magic. But when her cloak-wearing, staff-wielding grandpa is captured by a power-hungry goblin king, Wednesday must find a way to embrace her magical heritage and rescue him from the dreaded Tower of Shadows.
One book, two authors. What was it like trying to write a book using two brains?
DENIS: Writing a book with two brains! I love that. It’s actually a great way to describe it. Although sometimes it feels like we only have half a brain between us. Ouch! Cristy just kicked me under the table.
CRISTY: Only because you kicked me first! It was actually really exciting, writing with Denis, because I could never predict what he would write, and I was always literally laughing out loud to discover what Wednesday and Alfie had been up to while I was away.
DENIS: Right. It was a lot of fun. But it was challenging, too – in a good way. When you’re working on your own, you can let yourself get away with stuff. But when you’re writing with a partner, you can’t do that any more. You have to level up.
How did you come up with/agree on the name for your main character?
CRISTY: Denis came up with the concept of Wednesday Weeks, a reluctant sorcerer’s apprentice, and in that very first chapter, he invented many of our favourite characters and names: Wednesday Weeks, Alfie, Mrs Glock … and of course, Abraham Mordecai Weeks (otherwise known as Grandpa).
DENIS: That’s true. Although, Wednesday’s character started out as something quite different from where she ended up. Cristy doesn’t know this, but my first idea was for a space bounty hunter named Serenity Weeks.
CRISTY: A what? Pardon?
DENIS: Then she was going to be a paranormal investigator named Wednesday Weeks. Wednesday’s character and voice started to develop when I wrote some short scenes where she and Alfie were searching for Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. Then the reluctant sorcerer’s apprentice idea popped into my head, and that was kind of the final piece of the puzzle.
CRISTY: More like the first piece of the puzzle. From there, we started writing. At first, it was literally a game. Denis wrote Chapter 1, and after reading this chapter, I wrote Chapter 2, and then Denis wrote Chapter 3. And we just trusted the story to evolve.
DENIS: I think the lesson here is to give yourself the time and space to play with an idea and see what develops. Also, that space bounty hunters are awesome. What do you think of the name Serenity Jones?
CRISTY: … I hope you’re not asking me?
How did you know/agree when Book 1 was finished and ready to submit?
DENIS: We wrote our first super-quick, super-short draft of Book 1 in early 2018.
CRISTY: That first draft was only around 25,000 words long, but it was enough for us to get to know Wednesday and her world, and to know we wanted to write more.
DENIS: We had the first ten pages critiqued by a publisher in June 2018, and she gave us some really good feedback.
CRISTY: Over the next year, we both worked on other projects, but we kept coming back to Wednesday.
DENIS: We rewrote the opening chapters based on the publisher’s feedback, and we fleshed out the middle section, adding in the Sword of Reckoning and the laundry kraken. In June 2019 we had the opening chapters critiqued again by a different publisher, and she loved it. So that’s when we knew it was ready to submit.
CRISTY: Later, as we worked with Hachette to progress the manuscript through the various editing stages, we had three different editors all offering their advice, and there were thousands of new notes on each fresh edit that we completed. Getting the story just right was a whole lot of work!
Do you have any ‘Must Do’ or ‘Must Not Do’ tips for young writers who might like to collaborate on a story?
CRISTY: Respect for the other author’s creative brain is really important. A big part of the game we play as we write each Wednesday Weeks book is to take up the reins from where the other author has left off, and to then drive the adventure where we think it needs to go.
DENIS: Be open to your partner’s ideas, and have fun.
CRISTY: Another Hot Tip is to trust. As you write, remember that you teamed up with this other creator for a reason, and although smooshing two brains into one story can be difficult, the results will be worth it.
DENIS: Also, don’t expect it to be brilliant right away. It won’t be! But if you keep working on it, you’ll get there.
Can you tell us a bit about what you’re writing next?
CRISTY: We’ve just finished putting the finishing touches on Book 2 of the Wednesday Weeks series.
DENIS: It’s called Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny and it’s out in September 2021.
CRISTY: We love it because it has all our favourite characters, plus more page-time for Adaline, our punk faery-friend from the laundry.
DENIS: There’s also some advanced magic for Wednesday to tackle, a hippo-bugamus, a giant pinball machine of death, a visit to outer space and, of course, some snarky Bruce-jokes.
CRISTY: And don’t forget a whole lot of dirty-rotten evil-doing from Gorgomoth.
DENIS: Right. Oh, and also, Grandpa gets turned into a frog for a while.
Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.
The Trials of Apollo: The Tyrant’s Tomb is a fascinating book. It is a fiction novel about mythological creatures, gods and other beliefs. Rick Riordan writes every one of his books with care. The initial storylines of these books are all set in the same world, but his stories and plots get more sophisticated as they continue on from the other stories within the series.
I really enjoyed this book, as it plays along with the main storyline of the series and refers to mythological elements from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.
Overall, Rick Riordan’s books are all highly recommended!