Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Iona Presentation College

Book review: Girl of the Southern Sea

REVIEWED BY STEPHANIE, 11, WA (IONA PRESENTATION COLLEGE)

Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman

Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman, UQP, ISBN 9780702262937

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

When Nia’s life is turned upside down, can she still find the strength to keep going and persevere? I love how Nia is faced with so many difficult challenges throughout the book and how she gets through them all. 

Her mother died giving birth to her younger brother, Rudi, her Bakap (dad) is always getting drunk and her best friend is making her keep a bad secret. Yet, Nina still has time to work the fritters cart, to help pay the rent, and look after her brother, Rudi. I think Nia is the strongest character from any book I have ever read, she is smart, helps others and is very devoted to her family. 

If I had to rate this book I would give it 100 out of 10,  that is how good it is. I loved learning some Indonesian words, I feel that it was a great touch to put Indonesian words in a book based in Indonesia. Overall, this is one of the best books I have ever read. I hope I can be as strong as Nia when life faces me with challenges.

Read our interview with the author of Girl of the Southern Sea.


Stephanie 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!

Posted in info

Top reads: November 2020

It’s the last day of November and that means it’s time for some recommended reads from the members of our Top Reads team. Top Reads is a list of books nominated by the kids reading them. Every month (from February to November) we post the books our Top Reads Team loved reading during the preceding month.

Today’s post is the final Top Reads post for 2020. We hope you have a stack of great books to read over the summer holidays and we’ll be back with more recommended reading in 2021. Here are this month’s recommendations:

You’ll find a recommended list from our Top Reads Team on the last day of every month (February to November). If you’d like even more recommendations, browse all through all our Top Reads ever!

*All our Top Readers are kids aged 13 and under. No grownups allowed!

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

Book review: A Hidden Enemy

Kobe recommends SURVIVORS 2: A HIDDEN ENEMY by Erin Hunter

REVIEWED BY KOBE, 9, WA

Survivors: a Hidden Enemy by Erin Hunter, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 9780062102607

Kobe reviewed her own copy of this book.

A mysterious book prowls through the tall grass. It pounces on a startled reader. The reader screams with surprise. After the reader had a cool down from the fright, the reader had a look at the cover. It couldn’t be, it was the book! Survivors: A Hidden Enemy, written by Erin Hunter the famous author. The reader started to read. Then after the reader finished, she wrote a review of what she thought of the book.

Survivors: A Hidden Enemy is written by Erin Hunter, the writer of the series Warriors and Seekers. This story is about dogs and about wolves. It is suitable for young readers because it doesn’t include a lot of violence and a lot of death. It is a brilliant book and it has a lot of exciting things in it too! It is so good I don’t know how good I should say it is! It has lots of climaxes in it as well as lots of problems.

My favourite part was when Squeak wanted to outsmart a wolf and then Mother Dog told Squeak not to try, because it was funny how Squeak and Mother Dog had opposite thoughts! I thought it was funny because it reminded me of when I had an argument with my friend about flipping a bottle and whether having it land on its bottom was skill or luck.

I hope you will read this book and enjoy it because I loved it a lot.

Now the reader had finished the review and she made lots of people read the book she read. Enjoy an epic journey by the side of a scruffy little dog and see amazing sights no one else will ever see in their life!


Kobe is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read all her reviews hereTo send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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

Book review: Annabel, Again

REVIEWED BY HANNAH, 12, QLD

Annabel, Again by Meg McKinlayAnnabel, Again by Meg McKinlay, Walker Books Australia, ISBN 9781925381542

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

‘Seven bags of pistachio nuts, twenty packets of flower bulbs, and every single book in the house, all 782.5 of them, in alphabetical order is what it takes.’

After her best friend Annabel moves to Queensland permanently Olivia sets off on a mission to ‘forget’ her. That is until she walks right back into class like it never happened after just one year. It’s Annabel, again, but this time … it’s a whole lot different!

Meg McKinlay, author of the award-winning A Single Stone, initially wrote this story in 2003. She believes that ‘language reflects the world’ so she made changes to address the advancement of technology over the years. Meg only wanted readers to focus on the heart of the story.

The book is written from the perspective of Olivia, showing her frustration over her once-best-friend Annabel, returning but now getting close to her once-enemy-Summer. This novel took quite a while to progress into the action. I felt myself neglecting to read it until I had reached the real core of the events, then I couldn’t put it down! I read most of the book in only one night (a new record for me!). I absolutely loved the way the emotions of Olivia were portrayed. I actually found myself feeling the energy of jealousy and resentment in favour of the main character. I wanted to jump into the book, be in the action, stand alongside the characters and resolve the conflict myself.

The whole storyline really is about such a simple yet understated aspect of life. As a tween, this type of thing isn’t new to me. People talking behind other’s backs, excluding friends and hating on people are all regular occurrences. To read about exactly this was quite thrilling and definitely entertaining!

I would recommend this book mostly to children aged 10 to 13 who like a quick read. It would also be great for holiday reading – which is coming up very soon!

Get excited for this new release of Annabel, Again.


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!

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

Book review: The Wreckers’ Revenge

REVIEWED BY HANNAH, 12, QLD

TThe Wreckers' Revenge by Norman Jorgensen (book cover)he Wreckers’ Revenge by Norman Jorgensen, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925815450

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

The Wreckers’ Revenge, by Norman Jorgensen, is a sequel to the very successful first book in the series The Smuggler’s Curse. The Wreckers Revenge was inspired by two boys from the Cocos Islands who, after hearing one of Jorgensen’s stories, attempted to find William Dampier’s missing treasure. It is not necessary to have read the first book to thoroughly enjoy The Wreckers Revenge, which is set in the early 20th century, beginning with the anticipation of whether Red Read (the main character) is to be expelled from Christian Brothers College. After a series of crazy events – involving the nasty acts of Brother Christian – the infamous Captain Black Bowen, Red’s Guardian, comes to change the day, whisking young Red off to once more become a loyal crew member of the mighty Black Dragon. But don’t get too comfortable on this ship as there is nothing but action and adventure to be had on these decks.

In my opinion, I thought that the book moved at a manageable pace for a wide range of readers and it wasn’t over-complicated. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters as the story developed and it was interesting as each character had their own lovable and different features. Every sentence had a drip of anticipation and I really did find it quite hard to put the book down.

It would be a perfect holiday read and even a great book for adults to read to children as well. I recommend this book to 10–13 year olds as there is quite a lot of violence in it and I believe that these ages would be able to manage that.

In conclusion, it’s a really great book and is worth checking out.

Read a sample chapter of The Wreckers’ Revenge at the publisher’s website.

Download Teachers’ notes for this book from the publisher’s website.


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

Posted in authors, poetry

Lorraine Marwood: writing a verse novel

Today we’re super excited to have Lorraine Marwood visiting Alphabet Soup to talk about writing verse novels. Lorraine is an award winning Australian writer of novels, verse novels and poetry for children.

Lorraine’s latest book, Leave Taking, is about a boy and his family who are leaving their farm forever after the death of Toby’s younger sister.

Leave taking by Lorraine Marwood. Book cover.

What bought you to write Leave Taking as a verse novel?

That’s an interesting question. Often I’m asked if I write ‘normal’ stories, meaning all prose. The answer is yes I do — not everything I write is poetry or verse novels, except when the subject matter calls for a stronger emotional framework, then I use poetry. Sometimes it’s my natural voice; sometimes I sketch a character out in prose poetry much like an artist might sketch a character. Because Leave Taking has an emotional tug of saying goodbye to both a beloved place and a beloved family member, my natural instinct was to treat the story in a special prose poetry way.

For me this technique is quick and it also provides different layers for the reader to climb on and it allows us to cry or laugh at the time the reader feels a heartstrings pull.

A verse novel way of writing is like wearing a piece of comfortable clothing; I can confidently build an atmosphere and that is a huge gateway for me to enter the story. I have to feel the right atmosphere to plunge in.

What do you find most challenging about writing verse novels?

This way of writing does have pitfalls. For me it’s probably not to strike out in prose too much when it’s a blend of poetry and prose together.  And to keep that consistency of words to a line and to write more rather than less, which I tend to do as a poet. I try to paint a bare sensory picture for the reader to experience and that allows them to come to the story with their own ideas and reactions.

Do you have a tip for young writers who’d like to have a go at writing a verse novel?

  • Start out with a tale you know well and cut it down and put your own slant on it.
  • Try for short sentences and short phrases.
  • Try to give lots of senses and details.

Here’s a start of a well-known tale — continue on! Using first person voice is a good choice for a verse novel.

Aladdin

I am waiting, watching.
My mother said, ‘Go and hunt
for bargains in the market.’

There are shouts of stall holders,
banners flapping in the breeze.
‘Pies, fresh bananas, best in town!’
‘Silk, wool, rugs, soft and hardwearing!’

And amongst all the bleats of sheep,
or goats, I hear a musical voice;
‘Lamps, I buy old lamps, I pay good money!’
Now you continue on — try for 7 or 8 words a line.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on next?

I have written a ‘normal’ big book, a fantasy, a genre I love. I have written another verse novel, which is under contract with University of Queensland Press, and always I write poetry and have some school writing workshops coming up.

Thanks for asking me these insightful questions.  And happy verse novel writing everyone — have a go!

Interview answers © Lorraine Marwood 2019.


Leave Taking has been shortlisted for the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award (Younger Readers category), AND shortlisted for the 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

You can read earlier interviews with Lorraine Marwood here.

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

Book review: A Wrinkle in Time

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'EngleREVIEWED BY MATILDA, 12, WA

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Penguin Books Ltd, ISBN 9780241331163

Matilda borrowed this book from the library.

This is a science-fiction novel about a family whose dad is missing. The little brother discovers three ladies who seem to be able to travel to other dimensions, and they tell Charles Wallace that they know where his father is.

I like time-slip novels — this is sort of a dimension-slip novel. I really enjoyed it because it was so different from our world, and I liked the characters in the other world.

The copy of the book I read was a movie tie-in, and had photos from the movie in the middle pages of the book. That was annoying because I had an idea in my head of all the characters and then suddenly I came across the movie photos and they were completely different. (But I’d still like to see the movie.)

Kids who love weird fantasy adventure books will love this.


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 reviews by Matilda

Book review: Goldfish Boy

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson ((blue book cover showing a crowd of people and Matthew has a goldfish bowl on his head)REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 12, WA

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson, Scholastic, ISBN 9781407170992

Matilda borrowed this book from the library. 

This is about a boy (Matthew) who has OCD and doesn’t like germs at all. He doesn’t like to leave the house.

Then the toddler next door goes missing, and Matthew was the last person to see him. Matthew feels he has to find out where the toddler is and starts trying to solve the mystery.

I liked that this wasn’t just a standard mystery/detective story, it had added layers because Matthew had his own problems to deal with too.

Readers aged 11 and older who like detective stories will enjoy The Goldfish Boy.


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: The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

REVIEWED BY TILLY, 8, QLD

Book cover of The Secret Horses of Briar HillThe Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd, ill. by Levi Pinfold,
Walker Books, ISBN 9781406367584

Tilly reviews her own copy of this book. 

It is December 1941, World War II, Briar Hill Hospital.  A girl named Emmaline has a secret: there are winged horses in the mirrors.

The main characters are Emmaline, Foxfire and the Black Horse.  Emmaline is passionate, persistent and courageous in her attempts to save the magical winged horse Foxfire.  Foxfire is in trouble as the Black Horse is hunting Foxfire.

I really like the black and white illustrations, they are beautiful!  The illustrations help paint a magical picture in your head while reading the book.

It is a fantasy book written through the eyes of Emmaline.

I like this book a lot. I recommend this book to children who have a wild imagination from 8 years of age.


This is Tilly’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, Recommended reading

Book review: The Sisters Grimm series

The Sisters Grimm (cover of book 1) by Michael Buckley, ill Peter FergusonREVIEWED BY MATILDA, 12, WA

The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson, Abrams Books.

Matilda borrowed this series from her school library.

Daphne and Sabrina Grimm are normal girls that live a normal life, until suddenly their parents disappear. After being in the foster care system for two years the girls are finally placed with their grandma, where they discover that fairytales are real …

I absolutely loved everything about this series and I couldn’t put it down. The plot is quirky but it is written in a wonderful way. These books are definitely my favourites so far this year. I was kept in suspense all through the books, and I really felt as though I was there.

I recommend this book for kids aged 10+, and for readers who love adventure stories and fairytales.

5 stars!


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!