Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Tyrant’s Tomb

REVIEWED BY ISAAC, 13, WA

The Tyrant’s Tomb (The Trials of Apollo Book 4) by Rick Riordan, Puffin, ISBN 9780141364049

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

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! 


This is Isaac’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 authors, interviews, teachers' resources

Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire: an interview with Nat Amoore

Nat AmooreMEET THE AUTHOR

Nat Amoore is a Sydney-based writer and podcaster (if you haven’t heard of the One More Page podcast, you’d better check it out here). Nat is an accomplished entertainer and presenter for children, and has been a trapeze artist and circus performer for the international resort chain, Club Med. Her first children’s novel is Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire:

Finding a million dollars in your backyard – every kid’s dream, right? That’s what me and my best friend Toby thought too.

Jumping castles at school. Lollipops for our adoring fans. Wearing sunglasses indoors (‘cos that’s what all the millionaires do).

There’s a lot you can get with a million dollars . . . including a whole lot of trouble.

We’re thrilled to be chatting with Nat Amoore at Alphabet Soup today!


Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat AmooreOkay – what would YOU do with a million dollars if you suddenly became a millionaire?
Oooooohhhh, this is such a hard one even though I get asked it all the time. One of my favourite things about writing Secrets Of a Schoolyard Millionaire was being able to explore all the things I could/would do with a million dollars. But in the end, I think I’d divide it into three. First third would be to go wild with. Spend on whatever I wanted. Rent out Wet’n’Wild for all my friends so we didn’t have to wait in line. Buy heaps of books. Get a bed shaped like a race car. Take a holiday. Just get a little cray-cray! The second third I would put away and save for something responsible when I grow up, like buying a house or something adult like that. And the last third I would spend on other people who need it more. There are a lot of great charities out there and a lot of ways to help people who need it.

Did you base the characters in Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire on anyone you know?
I think A LOT of people who know me will tell you that there is a lot of me in Tess. My friends say when they read the book, they can hear my voice in their head as Tess speaks. A lot of the things Tess does in the book, I did when I was a kid.

Then with the other characters, there are a lot of ‘bits’ of them that come from real people. Toby has some elements about him that are based on a friend of mine. So does Kathy. I actually have a brother called Dane who had a dog just like Butthead when we were kids. So I think when I write, I’m a little bit like Doctor Frankenstein. I take bits of different people I know and then sew them all together to make new characters.

Writing a book: Pen and paper? Or write it straight onto the computer?
OMG, I CANNOT write with a pen and paper. Even when I was at school, I always got in trouble for my handwriting. I was the LAST kid to get their pen licence and if you go back and read my school reports they say ‘Nat still does not join her writing’. To this day I cannot do running writing, I always print. I always write in capitals and when I write in a birthday card, my hand aches for a week after. The only way my writing can keep up with my brain is if I’m typing. If I was born 100 years ago I would never have written a book because I would never have been able to do it with a paper and pen. So without a doubt, I’m a straight-into-the-computer kind of gal!

What’s your million-dollar tip for young writers?
Just write! Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation for now. Just get the idea out. You can come back later and fix all that stuff up. I’m not the greatest writer, I know that. But I have really great ideas. Fortunately I have editors and publishers who help me put all the commas and stuff where they are supposed to go. And you have people to help you with that too. But you’ll have nothing to fix if you don’t write it first. So get your idea down on the paper/screen and don’t let all that other stuff stop you. I still, don’t know, where all, those, pesky commas are, supposed to go,,,,,,

What are you working on next?
Right now, like RIGHT THIS SECOND, I am working on the follow up to Secrets Of A Schoolyard Millionaire. It is called The Power Of Positive Pranking and it’s coming out in June 2020. It’s not really a sequel so much, but it does happen in the same world as Secrets Of A Schoolyard Millionaire (the town of Watterson and Watterson Primary School) and you will see some of your favourite characters make a comeback. It’s a story told from the perspective of a very minor character who made a small appearance in the first book — ooooohhhhh the mystery!


Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat AmooreAwesome extras:

Click here to read a sneak peek of the book

Click here for Teachers’ Notes by Melissa Kroeger at Children’s Books Daily

Click here to visit Nat Amoore’s website

Click here for the One More Page podcast (where Nat Amoore is one of the hosts)

Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire is out now! Look for it at your nearest bookshop or library. 

Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Deb Fitzpatrick

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

Deb Fitzpatrick

It’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 Deb Fitzpatrick. 

Deb Fitzpatrick lives and works in Fremantle, WA and she writes novels for adults, young adults and children. Deb’s sixth novel, The Spectacular Spencer Gray, was published in mid 2017.

Last week Jen Storer asked Deb:
“How long do you spend planning a book before you start writing it? Also, do you put people or animals you know into your stories? ”


Deb answers:

I’m a pantser, I’m afraid, (that is: I fly by the seat of my pants and make it up as I’m going along, unlike a planner, who, well, plans and is sensible and orderly and grown up). So, I do very little planning for a book before I start writing it. I just launch on in and I love seeing what unfolds.
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Teachers are often rather appalled when I admit this to kids, which I do at every opportunity. Kids seem to love that I’m barely more mature than they are. I make up my stories as I’m going along, and if, in the course of the writing, I need to stop and think things through, I just do it then. Of course, this does sometimes mean that I have to go back and rewrite bits of my story, but I’m okay with that. Can I tell you a secret? This must only be read in a barely-heard whisper … I get bored with writing a story that I have planned too closely. Writing to a plan, for me, takes away the magic of discovery that is creative writing. Shhhhh!!! Don’t tell your teachers!
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I put versions of my two wonderful children in some of my books, but I always ask their permission before going ahead. Sometimes they don’t want certain things shared, and I respect that. I also get my kids to read a manuscript before I submit it to my publisher — so they can give me feedback, which I use!
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Check out Deb Fitzpatrick’s website to find out more about her and her books!
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Beyond our Garden Gate by Sian Turner and Irene KingAnd now Deb passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Sian Turner. Sian is a WA writer and her second picture book will be published in November 2017. (More about that next week!)

Deb asks:

“I love that nature is such a big part of Beyond Our Garden Gate. Is this important in all of your books? Can you talk about your own experience of nature as a child?
 
Also: do your children help you write your books, or give you ideas?”

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Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (While you’re waiting you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Jacky Ha Ha

REVIEWED BY AZUKI, 10, NSW

Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Kerascoet Kerascoet, Little Brown & Co, ISBN 9780316262491

Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Jacky is known for her pranks, jokes and her stutter. Ever since she introduced herself as “My name is Jacky Ha-ha-hart,” in primary school, people made fun of her. She always played along, but middle school is a whole new area of trouble. She starts off with twenty detentions and is left with two options: get a double detention at home or go into a school play directed by a new teacher. But Jacky has another problem. Her loving mother is in Saudi Arabia because of war!

My favourite scene was the food fight at McDonalds. It started off as a rhyming competition and the loser was supposed to pay for all of the milkshakes. But in the end, everyone starts throwing pepper packets, squirting ketchup and mustard … even spraying Coke everywhere!

I also love the bit where Jacky and the people in the play put on a show for Jacky’s unwell Nona (her Italian grandmother) and the people in the old folks’ home. It is so heart-warming because her Nona is happy after the show. She couldn’t wipe the smile off her face.

The message of the book is that it’s ok to be yourself. Don’t let people mould you like some kind of clay. Cherish your personality because it doesn’t matter if other people don’t like it. I also learnt to not let the little things seem big. You have to let it go and just flip the page.


Azuki has had work published at Alphabet Soup before — you can read it here. If YOU would like to send us a story, drawing, poem, or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy writing!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Demon Dentist

REVIEWED BY CADENCE, 8, QLD

Demon Dentist by David Walliams (book cover)

Demon Dentist by David Walliams, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 9780007453580

Cadence reviewed her own copy of this book.

David Walliams’ fascinating chapter book Demon Dentist combines horrific details, very cheerful endings with parts that would make you desperate to cry in an instant! Demon Dentist is a very emotional book. It includes petrifying moments, depressing chapters and pages that would blow your socks off by the way the mood changed from paranoid to like the way you just ate your favourite food! The interesting characters will dazzle you.

Alfie has already had an appalling time since he has lost his mother and now his father has been put in a wheelchair due to his shallow breathing. Now his extremely shy principal allows some new dentist — Miss Root — into their school. Ever since Miss Root arrived, the shortest girl in the school ‘Gabz’ has been stating that a witch had been flying around town stealing teeth and returning them with revolting items like ‘bats wings, fresh eyeballs’ and so on.

The first thing you noticed about Miss Root were her sparkling white teeth, and then to her black eyes that were as black as the darkest hour of midnight. With Alfie’s awesome eyes he even spotted a splat of red blood on Miss Root’s blinding white shoes. Although Miss Root sounds as nice as ever, why would she give away ‘MUMMY’S’ toothpaste that burned through stone and give free lollies that looked as if they were loaded with tons and tons of sugar.

This novel is really well written. This narrative gives you a bit of shock, happiness, and is yet very intriguing. David Walliams’ Demon Dentist should make you feel like you’re in the story. I would highly recommend this to people of all ages and even people who don’t like reading, because this fantastic book would definitely hook you in, make you want to just read and find out what’s going to happen and even want to read this whole novel over and over again.


This is Cadence’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 book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: Raymie Nightingale

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 10, WA

Raymie Nightingale

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo, Walker Hardback, ISBN 9781406363135

Matilda borrowed this book from her local library.

Raymie’s father has run away with a dental hygienist. Raymie can think of only one way to get him back … she has to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire Competition so he can see her picture in the paper. She thinks that will make him come home. To win the competition she has to learn to twirl a baton, and she has to do good deeds.

Now she has a problem — how can she complete these good deeds? And her new friends Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski are also entering the competition. Louisiana really wants to win. And Beverly is planning to sabotage the competition.

Louisiana’s grandma is my favourite character, and I love the part where she yells, ‘Quick, get in the car, Marsha Jean is hot on our trail!’

This is the third book of Kate DiCamillo’s that I have read — I also enjoyed Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Tale of Despereaux. I recommend Raymie Nightingale for ages 8+. It shows that to have a good friendship you need to be a good friend.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  Lily in the Mirror. 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 reviews by Matilda

Book review: Lily in the Mirror

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 10, WA

Lily in the Mirror by Paula Hayes

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

Lily in the Mirror by Paula Hayes, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925163872

Lily likes visiting her grandpa because her annoying big brother isn’t around, and there is always cake. Then she makes a big discovery in her grandparents’ rosy room: there is a mirror that has a girl in it (a girl who is also called Lily) and her grandpa doesn’t know. When Lily goes with her grandpa to visit Grandma in the hospital, her grandma is sick and losing her memory. But her grandma does remember Other Lily — the Lily that’s in the mirror.

This is a chapter book fantasy story. It’s a a weird story in parts. As well as the strange mirror with Other Lily in it, Lily finds a fresh finger and a fresh toe in the rosy room … and they’re not attached to anybody! You want to keep reading.

I recommend Lily in the Mirror for ages 7+. It’s creepy but good.

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

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

Book review: The Secret Island

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 12, WA

The Secret Island by Enid Blyton

Joseph reviewed his own copy of this book.

The Secret Island by Enid Blyton, Hachette Children’s Books, ISBN 9781444921106

This is an intriguing adventure story about four children from two farms who are all treated very badly. Together Mike, Peggy, Nora and Jack plan to escape to a secret island in the middle of a lake. They have to survive alone and be prepared if someone comes looking for them!

Some of the best aspects of the book are the description of the island, and when Jack goes to market. Enid Blyton really made me feel as if I was on the secret island drinking cool spring water. And when Jack went to market, I was always on my toes and thinking Jack might be caught.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as I love adventure books where basic survival is needed. I would recommend this book to readers who love an adventure book where you want to turn every page! It would be suitable for children aged 8 and over.

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

Posted in authors

Oliver Phommavanh : what’s funny?

Oliver Phommavanh

Today we welcome Oliver Phommavanh as a guest on Alphabet Soup — he’s on a blog tour to celebrate the launch of his latest book The Other Christy.

Oliver’s books make us laugh, do you recognise some of these?

And now — over to Oliver Phommavanh!


Hey creative writers out there!

Kids always ask me, how do you make something funny? Normally I would reply by saying anything can be funny. But what if I replied by throwing a cream pie in their faces or if I screamed like a cockatoo who’s just woken up from a nightmare (which is like all the time, have you seen their hair?)? Then that might be funny. Okay, scary for the kids, but I’m laughing.

You see, a good place to start is to think about what’s the opposite of normal, or something unexpected. A lot of funny stuff comes when it’s a surprise and it’s least expected. Do you expect a T-Rex to moo like a cow? Of course not (I hope). But that’s what’s going to surprise the reader and hopefully make them laugh.

The Other ChristyIn my latest book, The Other Christy, Christy is a shy girl who loves to bake. And she’s being pushed around by another girl named Christie, who is a real meanie. Whenever it’s Christie’s birthday, she brings in a cake to the class and Christy is always left out. So when Christy decides to bake a delicious triple-choc cheesecake for her own birthday to share with her class, what do you think she’ll do? Maybe Christy won’t let Christie have a slice. Maybe Christy will give her a poisonous cake, or even worse, give her a bowl of fruit salad instead.

But Christy does something unexpected. The total opposite of normal. She decides to give Christie a slice, which surprises Christie and it’s the start of a strange friendship.

Anybody can come up with some opposites. Think about jobs, like a butcher who’s vegetarian. A doctor who’s afraid of blood. Have a go with thinking about what opposites these jobs might have:

A hairdresser

A teacher

A knight

We can find opposites with animals or things too. Think about a lion, what are they normally known for? Being brave? Being vicious? What is something unexpected that a lion could have?

So next time you are stuck with making up a funny character, start with someone or something ‘normal’ and flip it around with something unexpected, the opposite of what they could be. Then maybe if you see me, you might throw a cream pie at my face. I’ll be ready though, with my spoon in my pocket. Happy writing!


This isn’t the first time Oliver has visited us, make sure you check out his earlier posts: ‘Three Quick Questions’, and ‘Meet the Author’.

You can find out more about Oliver Phommavanh and his books on his website. This post was one stop on a blog tour to celebrate the launch of THE OTHER CHRISTY — published in June 2016.

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

Book review: Figgy and the President

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 10, WA

Figgy and the President

Matilda reviewed her own copy of this book.

Figgy and the President by Tamsin Janu, Scholastic Australia, ISBN 9781742991559

This is a sequel to Tamsin Janu’s first book, Figgy in the World. Figgy is a determined girl who is good at making friends. One day she is walking through the market when she meets some Obrunis (white people) who ask if she will be in a movie they are making. Soon, Figgy’s whole town asks for her autograph. On top of that, Figgy’s mama has come home — after 10 years — and she is having a baby! Figgy is unsure if she wants her mama to be home because she wants to stay living with Grandma Ama, and she’s secretly worried that her mama will love the new baby more than her (Figgy). Then Nana (who is Figgy’s best friend) goes missing.

Because of the title, you might expect that Figgy meets the president of Ghana. This is an extreme understatement. But she does have to help rescue the future president … (The future president is very good at making speeches.)

I recommend Figgy and the President for ages 7+, and also for people who like an exciting adventure story.

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