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!

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

Book review: The Lost Twin (Scarlet & Ivy Book 1)

Scarlet & Ivy The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly

REVIEWED BY MATILDA, 12, WA

Scarlet & Ivy: The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly, HarperCollins, ISBN 9780007589180

Matilda borrowed this book from her local library. 

Ivy was always the quiet twin, the mirror image, so when Scarlet disappears, Ivy really misses her. When Miss Fox (the principal of Scarlet’s school) turns up at Ivy’s front door, things start to get suspicious …

Why should Ivy have to pretend to be Scarlet?

I really loved this book, as there were so many twists in the plot. One moment you thought they were nearly at the end of the mystery, and the next moment something happens to change your mind. I would definitely recommend this book for readers who love mystery, and readers who love the St Clare’s and Malory Towers books [by Enid Blyton].

Readers aged 9 to 14 would enjoy this series. 4.5 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!

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!