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

Book review: The Book of Secrets

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 11, WA

The Book of Secrets by AL TaitThe Book of Secrets (The Ateban Cipher book #1) by A.L. Tait, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780734417671

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

The Book of Secrets is the first in The Ateban Cipher series. It’s about a young monk who has been living in the abbey all his life, and has never been outside the abbey walls. Then he finds Brother Benedict bleeding and maybe dying, and Brother Benedict hands him a book. What is the secret of the book? Why is it in a code he can’t distinguish? And who is this Aidan he has to take it to?

I loved this book because at first it seems magical and absurd … but it could actually happen. My favourite character is Gwendolyn, because she is determined and independent, and does everything to help other people. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the next book in the series.

I would recommend this book for readers aged 9 and older who love fantasy and adventure.

Extras:

Read the first chapter!

Teachers notes, available at the publisher’s website.

Read an interview with the author.


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 authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Yasmin Hamid

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

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 Yasmin Hamid. 

Yasmin grew up in East Africa with her siblings, English mother and Sudanese father. She has been in the same book club group for almost twenty-five years.

Yasmin’s first children’s novel — Swimming on the Lawn — was published in 2017.

Swimming on the Lawn by Yasmin Hamid

 

Last week Aśka asked:

To someone like me — who grew up among grey blocks of flats in Eastern Europe — your childhood sounds absolutely fearless. Was there ever anything that you were afraid of? How did you overcome that fear?


Yasmin answers:

Yasmin Hamid in a garden. Photo courtesy Fremantle Press.
Yasmin Hamid, author

This is a very interesting question. I don’t remember ever being afraid when I was a child. I think it was to do with the place where I lived at that particular time (open spaces, lots of freedom to roam the neighbourhood, climb trees and and be away from home for hours on end without supervision). There wasn’t any hint of stranger danger and there was rarely any interference from adults.

I remember doing things that involved an element of risk like climbing up onto our house roof and weighing up the possibility that if I jumped off and flapped my arms, whether I could fly a bit before I fell onto the strategically placed mattress! Needless to say, I always knew I couldn’t and would climb down again after spending time looking over the garden from a different perspective.
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Read a sample chapter from Swimming on the Lawn and download teachers’ notes.

And now Yasmin passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Sherryl Clark. Sherryl writes picture books, junior fiction, novels, verse novels, and books for young adults.

Yasmin Hamid asks:
I know you have travelled to many different countries, but do you find it difficult to write books that are set in an Australian landscape when in your mind you have the embedded landscapes and terrains of the New Zealand you grew up in?

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 illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Aśka

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

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 Aśka.

Aśka in a purple shirt pressing a big red NO button

Aśka is an illustrator and science communicator. She has a degree in Arts and Quantum Physics and works at Scitech in Perth — as well as working with kids’ product design, graphic novels, animation, graphic design and e-publishing. Phew!

Last week Sian Turner asked:

Wow! You have travelled to some amazingly diverse and interesting places, Aśka.

I understand that these experiences have been a rich source of inspiration for your art. Can you elaborate on some of your favourite travel destinations? How have you found that these places have influenced your creativity?


Aśka answers:

I’ve never really thought about how different places I’ve travelled to and lived in have influenced my work. It is an interesting thing to ponder.

I have had a go at studying different forms of art in different places. For example, when I was staying in Thailand I learned Chinese painting. It is an art form where no pencils are allowed, and there is no erasing or undoing what you have done. You make marks with a chunky paintbrush on the thin rice paper to create an image and if you make a mistake you need to start all over again! Even though I don’t paint so much anymore, I still find this practice very useful as it requires commitment and confidence when drawing, which I believe shows up in your work as an illustrator, no matter what technique you use.

But it’s not just learning local techniques which can change the way you draw. It’s also observation. Certainly every location looks different and this isn’t just in art, but in the most everyday situations. For example, the way a yoghurt aisle looks in the supermarket, or the image of the green and red person for pedestrians at traffic lights. It quickly becomes apparent that each place in the world uses images in a slightly different way. Like the cute and perfectly made mascots of uniformed woman and man in front of a Tokyo police station, to the playful and roughly hand painted shopfronts of Accra.

So through travel and seeing so many different ways in which people live, I started to think about how important these visual elements are when creating my own characters and settings.

After all, every new adventure we have, big or small, expands our way of seeing the details in our world a little more. And the details are where I believe the true magic of the world lies.

Check out Aśka’s website where you can find artwork, mini comics, download free ebooks, teachers’ notes and more! www.askaillustration.com/


Swimming on the lawn by Yasmin HamidAnd now Aśka passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Yasmin Hamid. Yasmin grew up in East Africa and now lives in Western Australia. Her book — Swimming on the Lawn — was published in 2017.

Aśka asks:

To someone like me, who grew up among grey blocks of flats in Eastern Europe, your childhood sounds absolutely fearless. Was there ever anything that you were afraid of? How did you overcome that fear?

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!)

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

Book review: Pepsi the Problem Puppy

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 11, WA

Pepsi the Problem Puppy

Pepsi the Problem Puppy by Sandi Parsons, ill. Aśka, Faraway Nearby Ink, ISBN 9780987615701

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

Rosie has always wanted a dog but when her dad brings home a mischievous puppy called Pepsi, she realises what a big responsibility keeping a dog is. Unfortunately, Mum doesn’t like Pepsi destroying everything, running through the house (while destroying everything), and having accidents inside. Rosie will have to find a way to train Pepsi or the puppy will be taken back to the shelter.

Every few pages there are humorous black-and-white illustrations. Six to eight year olds will love the humour and the detailed stories about Pepsi being naughty. Granny’s failure to get Pepsi’s name right (due to her bad hearing) is also funny.

This is a book about everyday life and will be a favourite for kids who love dogs and wish for one of their own (or who already have a naughty puppy of their own).


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 authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Cristy Burne

PASS THE BOOK BATON

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 Cristy Burne. Cristy is an author, a past editor of CSIRO’s Scientriffic magazine for kids, a regular contributor to Crinkling News and Double Helix mag for kids/teens, and has worked as a travelling performer in the Shell Questacon Science Circus. Her latest book is To the Lighthouse

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Alice Pung asked:
You mention finding a plastic head in the rubbish bin as one of the inspirations for your Takeshita Demons books. This is fascinating! Could you tell us the true story about the head that inspired the books?!


Cristy answers:

Cristy BurneMany years ago, when I was living in Japan, I was walking home from work when I received a huge shock. It was a freezing, wintry day, and the time of year when villagers put their large rubbish out on the verge, ready for council pick up. I didn’t have a whole lot of furniture in my house, so I was keeping an eye out for anything useful I might bring back. There were old wooden bookshelves, comfy chairs, storage chests, even what looked to be a pristine condition antique sewing machine … I wanted it all!

However, at that time in Japan, it was considered poor manners to collect ‘rubbish’ from off the verge. And anyway, these things were too heavy for me to lug home.

Then I spotted it. In a cardboard box, next to an old set of wooden drawers. Human hair.

It was straight and shiny. Thick, black human hair. Sticking out of the top of the box.

I gulped. I panicked. I looked around to see if anyone else had seen it. Human hair!!

But there was no one else in the street. No one at all. So I stepped closer to the box and peered inside.

Skin!! Through the shining hair, I could see the pale skin of a scalp!

I looked around again, starting to freak out. Should I call the police? Scream and run? What if the murderer was watching me right now? What should I do!?!

I knew I shouldn’t panic, so I took a deep breath, steeled myself. And I did what any ordinary, sensible person would do. I bent down to the box, grabbed a handful of that thick, shining hair in my fist, and lifted it up …

… and an entire head came with it! Was it a woman? A man? I couldn’t tell, but its eyes were staring right at me. PANIC!!

And worse, there was more hair in the box below. I grabbed another handful and pulled up another head. And another.

In all, there were three heads in that roadside box, all identical, all with lush black hair. All, thankfully, plastic. I guess they were old hairdressers’ dummies? Anyway, they’d been thrown out, so they were mine now!

I took them home, washed their faces, shampooed their hair, and stuck them in a pretty row in my front window, for passers-by to admire. They looked so realistic! It was the funniest thing ever to sit and sip tea and secretly watch the reactions of people in the street. (I recommend you do this anytime you want a good laugh.)

A few months later, I heard about the Japanese nukekubi—a mythical creature whose head detaches from its sleeping body so it can fly around and terrorise small puppies and children. And I started to wonder: what if these heads weren’t hairdressing dummies? What if they were nukekubi heads, still in search of their bodies? And so the idea of an adventure series featuring Japanese mythology was born. Takeshita Demons was the first book in that series, and my first published book (yay!).

And what about the heads?

Well, when I left Japan, I was too embarrassed to bring all three back in my suitcase. So I only brought one. And I still have it now. As I type, it’s staring at me, from across the room. Staring and maybe waiting, for just that right moment to spring back into life … ? I don’t know.

But I do know having your own plastic head is a great way to meet friends, dream up practical jokes, and get inspired to write a book!

Check out Cristy Burne’s website for more about her and her books.

 


How to BeeAnd now Cristy passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Bren MacDibble. Bren’s latest book is How to Bee, published in May 2017.

Cristy asks:
I love that you have introduced the real-life issue of honey bee losses in your fictional novel, How to Bee. Can you please tell us more about how this issue grabbed your interest and its role in inspiring your story?

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators.

See you next week!

Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton, poetry

Pass the Book Baton: Sally Murphy

PASS THE BOOK BATON

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 Sally Murphy. Sally has written over forty books for children including picture books, novels, non fiction, and verse novels. Her poetry has been published in magazines, anthologies and online. Sally’s latest book is Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise — book three in a series about a girl with parents who are celebrity tv chefs.

 

Sally’s next book — coming soon! — is called Looking Up. You might recognise some of these other books by Sally Murphy:

Last week Gabrielle Wang asked:
I would love to know how you began. I’m interested in hearing about that transition between being unpublished to being published. Did it take you long? Did you ever want to give up? Did you have many rejections?

Sally answers:
Where did I begin? Gosh that’s a hard one — I was always a writer. I started writing ‘stories’ before I could actually write anything legible, and as I grew up I didn’t really stop. I made up poems and stories all the time. I always knew I wanted to be an author, though by the time I left school I was less sure about how I would achieve that and earn a living.

So, although I kept writing I also did other things: became an English teacher, got married, had children. And I wrote in my spare time, and I submitted manuscripts, not really knowing a lot about the industry. I was rejected repeatedly. But persistence paid off. First I had a few poems published in small publications. Then, by chance, I saw an advertisement for teachers to write educational resource books and the next thing I knew, I had my first book contract. I was published!

It was a few more years, still writing and bringing up children (I have six) before I realised my dream of having fiction published. The educational books gave me the confidence to keep going, and I spent a lot of time studying market guides, and researching publishers and publishing on the internet, as well as improving my writing by writing, rewriting, getting critiques from a critique group, attending conferences and workshops and so on.

Looking Up by Sally Murphy
Looking Up (coming soon!)

My first trade publication came about because I saw online a call for manuscripts for a new chapter book series. I read the guidelines carefully and also read the few titles which had already been published in the series, to get a feel for what the publisher (Banana Books) wanted. Then I wrote, revised and submitted two manuscripts. The day that one of those was accepted was amazing.

Now, twenty years from my first educational book being published, I’ve had over 40 books (trade and educational) published. I still get rejections — more rejections than acceptances. And every time I get one I feel sad. But I also know that no piece of writing is wasted. Published or unpublished, that manuscript has added to my skills, a bit like sportspeople learn from every game or every training session.

Do I ever want to give up? Yes. When I get lots of rejections. Or when I can’t get a story to work. Or when I get a negative review. But the feeling never lasts long. I’m a writer. Writing is what I do.

Visit sallymurphy.com.au to find out more about her and her books.


Dropping InAnd now Sally Murphy passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Geoff Havel. Geoff’s most recent book is Dropping In; an action-packed novel that explores friendship, bullying, and living with a disability.

Sally asks:
What is the thing (or things) you are most proud of in your writing career to date?
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Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
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See you next week!

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Posted in authors, illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Gabrielle Wang

PASS THE BOOK BATON

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.)

Gabrielle WangToday the book baton is passed to author and illustrator, Gabrielle Wang. Gabrielle writes and illustrates picture books and novels, including two series in the Our Australian Girl series. Her latest novel is The Wishbird. Gabrielle says her Chinese heritage influences all her work and she likes to include Chinese philosophy and folktales in her novels. Keep an eye out for her new book The Beast of Hushing Wood, which will be published in April 2017.

Here are some of Gabrielle Wang’s books:

Last week, Michael Gerard Bauer asked:
In general I’d love to know how being an illustrator impacts on your writing. For example, if you are writing a novel, do you find yourself creating illustrations for the characters or scenes even though they might not be included in the published work? Have characters or stories ever started from something you have drawn? Is visual imagery an important part of your writing style?

Gabrielle answers:
While working on a novel, I don’t think about the illustrations. I do think in pictures and scenes though. Being a visual person, the very first thing I need to come up with when I begin a new novel is the setting. Only then can my characters begin to act out their story.

The Beast of Hushing Wood
The Beast of Hushing Wood will be published in April 2017.

In my forthcoming novel, The Beast of Hushing Wood, the woods play a major role. It is a character with its own moods, mysteries and emotions. Because of this it was important for me to travel to the USA to do research. I needed to immerse myself in place — to walk, feel, smell, touch and taste the woods before I could write about them.

Once I’ve completed the novel and it has been through all the major editing phases with my publisher, I then go back through the text wearing my illustrator’s hat. If a particular scene stands out and excites me then that’s the one I will illustrate. At the same time, I need to be practical and make sure that the illustrations are evenly distributed throughout, especially those that are full-page.

Because painting gives me such joy, I illustrate almost everyday. It’s a form of relaxation. I don’t know what I’m going to paint until I begin. I like illustrating animals so many story ideas come out of these illustrations. One day I would like to publish a picture book.

Visit gabriellewang.com to find out more about Gabrielle Wang and her books.


Sage Cookson book 1And now Gabrielle Wang passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Sally Murphy. Sally has written over forty books for children including Pearl Verses the World, and a new series about the daughter of celebrity tv chef parents.

Gabrielle asks:
“I would love to know how you began. I’m interested in hearing about that transition between being unpublished to being published. Did it take you long? Did you ever want to give up? Did you have many rejections?”
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Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
 ..
See you next week!

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