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.
 ..
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?”
..
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
 ..
See you next week!

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Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Michael Gerard Bauer

 

PASS THE BOOK BATON logo

 

This is our first Pass the Book Baton for 2017! What is Pass the Book Baton? Every Friday we feature a book creator who answers one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.) Make sure you check out all all the posts from the Pass the Book Baton series so far.

To start off this year’s series, the baton is passed to Michael Gerard Bauer.

Michael Gerard Bauer

 

Michael Gerard Bauer is the author of many books for children and young adults. His latest book is a young adult title — The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy and me and he has a picture book coming out soon (stay tuned!). You might recognise some of these books:

Last year Wendy Orr asked:
I’m curious whether, like me, you draw on different parts of yourself to create your characters (even if other people might not be able to see that ‘seed’ that started the process). Do you use any techniques to find these beginnings, or does the character appear to grow spontaneously, and you only recognise later the bit that sparked its creation?

Michael answers:

Bauer's latest young adult novel

I think I do draw on different parts of myself to create characters but I don’t think in most cases that I do it deliberately or consciously. I can certainly see myself, or aspects of myself, in main characters like Joseph in The Running Man, Corey from Just a Dog and Ishmael from the Ishmael series. Even the character of Maggie from The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy and Me shares quite a bit in common with me — although I’d have to admit, there’s also a fair bit of me in The Pain! Having said that, I don’t ever see myself as being those characters, despite any similarities that might exist in our personalities and attitudes. I doubt that I could write about, or would want to write about, a central character to whom I couldn’t relate or empathise.

I really don’t apply any techniques to help find character beginnings. My characters seem to emerge and grow from the situations that I imagine them in and that’s more of a spontaneous thing. So with Joseph in The Running Man it started with me imagining a boy living next door to a mysterious and reclusive neighbour and wondering how he would deal with each situation as it arose. As a writer you find out more and more about your character as you develop your story. I think the part of you that is in the character is probably the strongest and most obvious at the start, and as you unearth the story and the character is placed in different situations, they take on different layers and dimensions and so they grow away from that seed of you to become unique identities in themselves.

Ultimately I believe the best thing you can do when developing characters is to stop thinking about them as characters but rather think about them as real people. Try to imagine their life outside the limits of your story for example and how they have become the people they are. When you stop looking at them as your ‘creation’ and give them room and freedom to grow, they tend to take on a life of their own and often reveal themselves to you in surprising ways.

Want to know more about Michael Gerard Bauer and his books? Visit his website: https://michaelgerardbauer.com/


The WishbirdAnd now Michael passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Gabrielle Wang. Gabrielle is the author of picture books and novels, including two series in the Our Australian Girl series. Her latest novel is The Wishbird.

Michael asks:
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?
..
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
 ..
See you next week!

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Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Catherine Carvell

PASS THE BOOK BATON

Catherine CarvellIt’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Alphabet Soup features a book creator every Friday 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.)

Catherine Carvell takes the book baton today. Catherine is an Australian author living in Singapore (but soon heading back to WA!). Her first book is Darcy Moon and the Deep-Fried Frogs, a humorous adventure story about a girl with a mission to save the swamp.

If you like the sound of Darcy Moon you can read a sample chapter of the book.

 

Last week Oliver Phommavanh asked:
What is one thing you’d like kids to walk away with after they’ve read your book?

Catherine answers:
I tried to make Darcy Moon and the Deep-fried Frogs as funny as possible, with lots of disgusting and embarrassing situations to make kids cringe and laugh. So the one thing I’d like kids to walk away with after reading this book is … a smile!

Darcy Moon and the deep fried frogs.


The Smugger's CurseAnd now Catherine Carvell passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Norman Jorgensen. Norman is the author of many books including The Last Viking, and The Last Viking Returns. His latest book is The Smuggler’s Curse.

Catherine asks:
Your latest book was released in October and what an adventure!
My question to you is, have you based any of  The Smugglers Curse on real life? And if so, which bits are real?
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
See you next week!

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Posted in authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: AL Tait

PASS THE BOOK BATON

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Alphabet Soup features a book creator every Friday 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 bestselling author AL Tait takes the baton. AL Tait is the author of The Mapmaker Chronicles — a series full of danger and adventure.

The Mapmaker Chronicles

Last week Paula Hayes posed a question (actually two questions!) for AL Tait. She asks:

Q. Which book in your Mapmaker Chronicles series have you enjoyed writing the most?

A. It’s funny, but kids always ask me which of the three books are my favourite, and I always give the same answer: I love them all. But then, I qualify that answer. I love the first book a little bit more because that’s where I met all of my characters for the first time. As someone who doesn’t plot very much, I’m really watching the story unfold and the characters develop in much the same way as the readers are.

Q. Does creating a series get easier or harder to achieve?
I think the most difficult part of any series is the middle. But then I feel the same way about every book I write — the middle (act two) is the most difficult section to write. I’m in the process of writing a brand new series at the moment and I’ve whisked my way through book one, and am about to climb the mountain that is book two. Writing a series does teach you the value of at least having an outline to work from, even if you don’t plot every detail.


BrobotAnd now AL Tait passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — James Foley. James is an illustrator and an author-illustrator. His most recent book is a graphic novel, Brobot.

AL asks:
You started out as an illustrator — what made you decide to write In The Lion and Brobot yourself? As an author-illustrator, do you start with the words for a story or start with the pictures?

Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators. See you next week!


Visit The Mapmaker Chronicles website for more about AL Tait and her books. You can read an earlier interview with AL Tait at Alphabet Soup, too.

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