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!

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!