authors, illustrator, interviews

Sean E Avery on Frank’s Red Hat

Sean E Avery is a teacher, sculptor, designer, and the author-illustrator of Harold and Grace, All Monkeys Love Bananas, and Happy as a Hog Out of Mud. Today we’re pleased to chat to him about his latest picture book, Frank’s Red Hat, which is out in Australia, Korea, France and Denmark!

From the publisher:

Frank is a penguin with ideas. Mostly terrible ones. That’s why his fellow penguins are nervous when he shows them his strange new creation. Something they’d never seen or expected to see in their cold and colourless Antarctic world — a red hat.

How did you come to set a book in Antarctica?

I wanted a black-and-white setting that I could slowly introduce colour to! Antartica fit the description perfectly. 

Do you know how to knit?

I do not. My boss (the principal at the school I work at) tried to teach me once but I gave up in a huff. I may have had a small tantrum and thrown my knitting needles over my head in frustration.

Can you tell us a bit about the illustration process for Frank’s Red Hat?

I use lots of different media – paint, crayons, pencils etc – to create textures that I scan into my computer. From there, I can cut the shapes I need from the scanned textures and arrange them to make, rocks, snow, water, seals, and penguins of course! 

Do you have a writing tip for kids who’d like to write their own books?

Write a little bit every day for a few months. It’s very hard (and not much fun) to try finish a whole book quickly in a week. If you work on something slowly, but consistently over a long period of time; the result will be better.

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

I have three books coming out next year. Two of those are out next year. One is called Friendly Bee and Friends – a graphic novel about an annoyingly friendly bee who tries to make friends with every bug he meets. The other is a picture book called Mr Clownfish, Miss Anemone and The Hermit Crab which is an underwater adventure. 

Frank’s Red Hat is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.

Image shows the cover of a picture book: Frank's Red Hat by Sean E Avery. The illustration is of a flock of penguins and only one penguin is wearing a tiny red beanie.


Take a look inside the book!

Visit Sean E Avery’s website for more about him and his books

authors, interviews

Sharon Giltrow on Get Ready, Mama!

Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia and now lives in Western Australia with her husband, two children, a tom cat and a miniature dog. She works in Early Childhood Education and Teacher Education Support, working with Young Children with Developmental Language Disorder. Her debut picture book was Bedtime, Daddy!, illustrated by Katrin Dreiling. Today we’re chatting to her about her new picture book, Get Ready, Mama! illustrated by Arielle Li.

From the publisher:

Getting Mama ready for the day can be a challenge… you’d better watch out that she doesn’t sneak back into bed, try to distract you with cuddles, or … wait, is Mama watching TV?! 

Your first picture book was Bedtime, Daddy! Did you have the idea for a series of books about family members when you wrote the first book or did the idea for a companion book come after the first book was out?

Bedtime, Daddy! is a role reversal book where the child (actually a bear) has to put the daddy to bed. The idea came from my own family. Once I signed the contract for Bedtime, Daddy! I thought writing a series of books using the same structure but different family members would be a great idea. I wanted one about a mum and about the other end of the day, getting up, so I wrote Get Ready, Mama! which was recently published 3 ½ years after the first book. I also wrote a story about taking a grandma shopping and a grandpa to the beach. Those two will be published in 2022 and 2023. So, my picture book family series is now complete. (Wait a minute – what about the aunty and uncle?)

Are you a morning person or a night owl? (Do you spring out of bed in the morning yourself?)

I am a morning person or as a like to call myself an early bird, although at times I am also an exhausted pigeon. I don’t spring out as bed as quickly as I use to, it’s more of a slide, but I do like to get up before everyone else in the house. Then I can have a few minutes of ‘me’ time.

Did you work with the illustrator (Arielle Li) during the book’s creation?

Anouska, the editor at EK Books, encouraged Arielle and I to work together from the beginning of the publishing process. She shared Arielle’s initial character sketches with me and as a team we decided whether the characters would be guinea pigs or humans. We chose humans! I’m glad we did after seeing the child and mama’s amazing facial expressions in Get Ready, Mama! Then Arielle started working on the storyboard and again shared it with me. Throughout the whole process I was able to suggest changes. There weren’t many as Arielle did such a fantastic job interpreting my text. Once the changes were made, I put my text onto the storyboard to check how the story flowed. Finally, as a team we decided on a cover.

Do you have a tip for kids about writing illustrated stories or picture books?

After you have your idea, spend some time brainstorming the idea and in particular the characters. I do this for about 20 minutes every day for a week before I start writing. Here are some questions I use when I am brainstorming.

  • What does your character love or hate?
  • What is their nickname?
  • What kind of being are they?
  • What is their age?
  • What is their physical appearance?
  • Who are their family members?
  • Do they have any pets?
  • Who is their best friend/s?
  • What items do they carry in their backpack?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • What does your character want more than anything?
  • What are their fears?
  • What is their favourite food?

Can you tell us something about your next writing project?

I am currently writing my third book in my early middle grade series The Utility Belt. Books one and two release in 2022 and 2023. But I don’t want to give too much away.

I am also enrolled in a graphic novel course; I want to learn how to write (and possibly illustrate) a graphic novel. I already have a great idea, now to develop my characters – stay tuned!

Get Ready, Mama! is out now. Ask for it at your favourite bookstore or local library.


Image shows the cover of a picture book: Get Ready, Mama! by Sharon Giltrow and Arielle Li. The cover illustration shows a mother still in bed, cuddling her teddy. There's a child standing next to her bed in a school uniform and with neatly tied plaits. The child is holding a white button up blouse on a coat hanger. Next to the bed is a white dog with brown patches and a pink tongue lolling out. The mother in bed has tousled hair and doesn't look alert. The dog and the child look enthusiastic and full of energy.

Take a look at some pages inside the book

Make your own Get Ready, Mama! mini colouring book

Download the Teachers’ Notes for this book

Visit the author’s website for more about Sharon Giltrow and her books

Book reviews by kids, Glenridge Elementary School

Book review: Back to School, Splat!

Image shows the cover of a children's book: Splat the Cat, Back to School, Splat! by Rob Scotton. The cover illustration shows a black cat with a pink tummy. He's wearing scuba goggles, a snorkel, a colander for a hat, and carrying a soccer ball, & a wooden sword. There is a small grey mouse sitting atop the ball. Behind him is a small white cat in a pink top and wearing a pink bow on her head.


Splat the Cat: Back to School, Splat! by Rob Scotton, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 9780061978517

Callie reviewed her school’s copy of this book.

Do you like books with cats that act like humans? Then I think you should read Splat the Cat: Back to School, Splat! In this book, Splat the Cat goes to school looking happy and comes back from school looking sad because he already has homework.

I think you should read this book because Splat the Cat is so funny. In this story he has homework on the first day of school and his tail dragged behind him as he walked home. The second reason you should read this book is because his little sister is so sweet and cute, for example she gives him a new soccer ball and gives him cupcakes. The third reason you should read this book is because he goes to CAT SCHOOL! These are some of the reasons you should read this book.

I hope you read this book right away. Do you want to find out more about this book? Visit your local library. I recommend this book for kids ages 7, 8 and 9. I give this book 8 out of 10 stars.

Second grade students at Glenridge Elementary School (Missouri, USA) are guest reviewers at Alphabet Soup. Click here if you’d like to read more book reviews by Glenridge Elementary School. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

authors, interviews

Jeanette Stampone on Shadow and the Girl

Jeanette Stampone was born and raised in a spooky three-hundred-year-old English house. Jeanette now lives in a small country town in Western Australia with her husband and two boys. Shadow and the Girl is her debut picture book, illustrated by Demelsa Haughton.

From the publisher:

A giant girl towers over Shadow. Driven by fear, Shadow runs. And so does the girl. But can they really run from each other?

How long did it take to write Shadow and the Girl?

Nearly five years!

I first had the idea back in 2017. It was about a monster living under a child’s bed. I decided to change the monster to a shadow, but still had lots of trouble getting the story to flow.

So, I then completely changed the scene and took Shadow outside to a park. That’s when it really began to work. I sent the manuscript to a few publishers, but not many because I was worried the story was a bit too different. I eventually put it away and worked on new ideas.

But then in 2019, I saw Red Paper Kite were open for submissions. They were looking for quirky and unusual stories. I sent it in and … YAY! It got accepted. I feel like my story was just waiting for the right publisher.

Shortly after I signed the contract, coronavirus hit and the book release got delayed, which meant more waiting. But finally, in 2022, it was ready for print! It’s taken a long time but every stage has been exciting.

Did you have contact with the illustrator, Demelsa Haughton, while the book was being illustrated?

We really only made a few comments on each other’s social media posts. But other than that, no direct contact. My publisher worked closely with Demelsa and occasionally I was asked my opinion on her work, but that was very rare. I actually loved having no contact with her because it meant she was free to use her own creativity without me influencing it too much. She ended up making the book even better than I imagined!

How do you go about writing the first picture book draft?

So this is what normally happens:

  1. Random idea pops into my head.
  2. Idea swirls around my head, getting in the way of anything else I am trying to do!
  3. Get out my notepad and write a summary of the idea.
  4. If I am happy with the summary, I hop onto the computer and ‘grow’ the idea. I add more sentences and not worry too much about it being perfect. I just want to get the basic story down at this stage.
  5. Read through my story and chop, change, and polish until I’m reasonably happy.
  6. Finally, take the story to my critique group for feedback!

Do you have a tip for kids whod like to write their own picture book?

Imagine the illustrations as you write but try not to describe exactly what would be happening in the drawings. Let the illustrations tell one story and your writing tell another story.

So instead of saying something like, It was sunny and Ella smiled, you could describe her physical and emotional feelings like this: The sun warmed Ella’s face and her heart sang with joy.

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

I have a book coming out with Wombat Books, The Dragon Guest Handbook. It’s a fun but meaningful story and I’m really looking forward to seeing it in print. I have been so busy with the release of Shadow and the Girl that I haven’t had a lot of time to work on new stories, but I do have a big list of ideas. Hopefully I can start working on a few of those soon because they’re all in the swirling around my head stage!

Shadow and the Girl is out now! Ask for it at your favourite bookshop or local library.


Shadow and the Girl by Jeanette Stampone and Demelsa Haughton. The cover illustration shows a girl with plaits, wearing a white dress and a red cap, sitting back to back with a shadowy figure. They both have their feet in water. Behind them are alpine-looking mountains with snow on their peaks.

Peek inside the pages of Shadow and the Girl on the publisher’s website.

Watch an animation by Jana Kaminski (this is a video on the publisher’s Facebook page)

Visit Jeanette Stampone’s website for more about her and her writing.

Book reviews by kids

BOOK REVIEW: The Colour of Music

Image shows the cover of a children's book: The Colour of Music by Lisa Tiffen and illustrated by Matt Ottley. The cover is predominantly yellow and the illustration shows a child with brown skin and wearing headphones and dancing with eyes closed . At the bottom of the cover is a close up view of the scroll-end of a violin.


The Colour of Music by by Lisa Tiffen, illustrated by Matt Ottley, MidnightSun Publishing, ISBN: 9781925227871

The publisher provided a review copy of this picture book.

The Colour of Music shows us what music can be like for people with synaesthesia.  When some people listen to music they just enjoy the beautiful sensation, and other people see colours and pictures in their imagination. Reading the book has meant I can listen to music in a new way. 

The illustrations are colourful and have lots of feeling.  I recommend this book for any kids that love music. 

This is Jamie’s first book review for Alphabet Soup. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by Iona Presentation College, Book reviews by kids

Book review: When We Say Black Lives Matter


Image shows the cover of a picture book: When We Say Black Lives Matter by Maxine Beneba Clarke. The cover illustration shows a black mother and child against a blue background. The child is carrying a handmade sign taped to a stick. The sign is facing against the child's leg, so we don't know what's written on it yet.

When We Say Black Lives Matter by Maxine Beneba Clarke, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780734420428

Alphabet Soup provided a review copy of this book.

I enjoyed this colourful book. The topic is important and current as it talks about how black lives matter.

This story is told by a black child’s parents and reminds us all how important it is to consider everyone the same way and how sad and painful it can be for people when they are not treated as everyone else is. 

The colours and pictures in the book draw the reader’s attention, as they tell a story and show life in every illustration. Each page of this book has one word in a different colour and it underlines important values such as respect, knowledge, joy.

This book will surely spark a lot of conversations in every family. I rate this book 5 stars as it approaches the ‘black lives matter’ topic gently and positively.

Preview some pages from When We Say Black Lives Matter at the publisher’s website.

Iona Presentation College students are members of Alphabet Soup’s review team. This is Chloe’s first review for Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Rory

Book review: Stellarphant


Stellarphant by James Foley, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781760990732

The publisher provided a review copy of this book.

Stellarphant is an inspiring story to teach young children about persisting. Stella the elephant wants to become an astronaut but there are many things that hold her back such as she needs a spacesuit, a rocket, space education and crew!

It’s an ordinary Monday at 9am when suddenly an elephant bursts into Space Command asking to be an astronaut! Stella doesn’t understand when the recruiter says she can’t. Stella then sets to work trying to become an astronaut but along the way she faces many challenges. Once again, she asks the recruiter one more time to get his response …

My favourite part in Stellarphant is when Stella is determined to become an astronaut by working hard because if you work hard, you can get anything! Also, I liked the timeline at the end of the book listing all the animal things that have been into space. Did you know that in my birthyear (2011) a bobtail squid was sent into space! Also, the weirdest one I read was in 1989 fertilised chicken eggs were sent into space!

Overall, I’d rate Stellarphant ten out of ten because it’s inspiring, funny and reaching for the stars!

Take a sneak peek inside Stellarphant!

Read our interview with the author-illustrator, James Foley

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

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Kobe

Book review: Ling Li’s Lantern

LING LI'S LANTERN by Steve Heron and Benjamin JohnstonREVIEWED BY KOBE, 9, WA

Ling Li’s Lantern by Steve Heron, illustrated by Benjamin Johnston, MidnightSun Publishing, ISBN 9781925227673

The publisher provided a review copy of this book. 

This joyous and beautiful story is about a Chinese girl named Ling Li. She had two brothers, Jingming the oldest, Miao in the middle, Ling Li was the youngest. Their dad was Da Zhi who was considered the wisest man whoever lived. At times, Da Zhi would present a challenge to nurture his children’s wisdom. In the story he gave the toughest challenge.

Early in the morning, he asked his three children to meet him at the bridge by the three pagodas. Then he told them to spend a sum of money in a small cloth pouch to fill one of the three pagodas with anything in a day. After that, the children set off. In the book I thought that they’d all finish at the same time.

I think Ling Li did the best job because she filled the whole village with something everyone appreciated. This story also makes perfect sense because you don’t have to save all the money to fill a thing up, it’s actually better if you fill one thing up, while you fill up something else as well.

I hope that children will learn a valuable lesson from this story and that they will use this story to guide them to having true wisdom. I am certain that you will also find this story useful and amazing and be ready to be sent to your future wisdom.

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!

illustrator, interviews

Tom Jellett on Shoo You Crocodile!


Tom Jellett, illustrator
Tom Jellett at work (photo by Alexander James)

Tom Jellett is a Sydney based illustrator. For over twenty years he has illustrated a number of books for children including My Dad Thinks He’s Funny by Katrina Germein, Why I Love Footy by Michael Wagner, Whale in the Bath by Kylie Westaway and the Besties series with Sporty Kids author Felice Arena. His latest picture book is Shoo You Crocodile! (with text by Katrina Germein).

Shoo You Crocodile! by Katrina Germein and Tom Jellett

From the publisher:

Shoo You Crocodile! is a fun, raucous tale for imaginative young readers and small, brave adventurers. The story offers space for play, real and imagined stories, and families can use the book to play their own make-believe monster games and learn about rhyming words. 

On with the questions!

What’s your favourite illustration tool when illustrating picture books?
It has to be pencil. Prismacolor ones are my favourites … I go through a lot of them, though I found sharpening them by hand slowed me down quite a bit. I only recently bought an electric pencil sharpener ($10 from Officeworks! Insane!). It has changed my life.

When you agreed to illustrate Shoo You Crocodile! what was your first step when you sat down to get to work?
The first step, after having read the manuscript a few hundred times is to start figuring out the story within the story, for example, where the story is set, who is being chased … is it a real crocodile or is it a game? Is it set in a zoo? In a jungle? I was pretty certain early on I wanted a ‘real’ crocodile in there so I started with that and ended up with museum … once these things are decided then I can start drawing.

Did you like to play monster games yourself as a child?
I’m not sure about games, but I used to like old scary movies when I was younger. When they were in black and white they were even scarier. I was probably a bit of a scaredy cat … even Doctor Who used to scare me … still does, actually …

Do you have a tip for children who would like to try drawing ‘monster-type characters?
SHARP TEETH BIG CLAWS. The other good tip I find helpful is to start with real animals, and take bits from here and there. I think I stole this tip from Sendak’s drawings in Where the Wild Things Are. If you look at the wild things they are all sorts of bits and pieces … I think one had a parrot’s head, another looked like a bull … all mixed up!
Can you tell us a bit about your next project?
It’s not out for a little while yet, but I just finished a book which has no story at all, but is all about funny sounding words. (Some rude ones possibly … )


Shoo You Crocodile is out now! Ask for it at your bookshop or order it from the publisher. 

Shoo You Crocodile! by Katrina Germein and Tom Jellett
Read our 2017 interview with Tom Jellett (his comic-book style answers are fantastic!)
Visit Tom Jellett’s website for more about him and his books.
authors, illustrator, interviews

I Would Dangle the Moon: an interview with Amber Moffat


Amber Moffatt is a writer and visual artist based in Perth, Western Australia. If you live in WA and you’ve been to the AH Bracks library in Melville you might have been lucky enough to see her illustrations decorating the windows for Book Week 2019! Amber recently launched her first picture book, I Would Dangle the Moon, in Western Australia and in New Zealand. She regularly runs art workshops for children inspired by the artwork from the book.

What would you do if you could pluck the moon from the sky? Would you scoop it up in an ice cream cone, or ride it like a snail shell across the night sky? This picture book will spark your imagination. 

Today Amber Moffat stops by to chat to Alphabet Soup about creating I Would Dangle the Moon.

I would dangle the moon by Amber MoffatYou’re an author AND an illustrator. When you were creating I Would Dangle the Moon, which came first – the words or the illustrations?
The words came first, but I did have a sense of the images in my mind too. The idea of a snail taking the moon for its shell and slithering across the night sky was the seed the story grew from.

How long did it take you to go from the story idea to the published book?
It took a really long time – three years! The initial text was developed quite quickly but it took a much longer time to develop the storyboard and find the right style of illutstration. I was really lucky to have author and illustrator Briony Stewart as my mentor for a year, and that helped me get the concept ready to submit to publishers. From when my publisher, MidnightSun Publishing, contracted me, it took nine months to complete the final artwork for the illustrations.

What have you been reading recently?
I’ve been enjoying Trouble in the Surf, written by Stephanie Owen Reeder and illustrated by Briony Stewart. The way Briony has used colour in the illustrations is really beautiful, and I keep going back to it to admire her technique.

When you’re doing illustration work, what’s your favourite medium?
Acrylic paint is definitely my preferred medium. I like the way it dries fast and you can paint over it easily. I also like to be able to scan images and alter them digitally. I often use computer editing to piece different paintings together and play with scale and composition.

Are you able to tell us something about your next writing project?
The picture book I’m currently working on explores the science of light, and it’s been a new experience for me to convey scientific ideas in the form of a picture book. I am also working on a novel for young adults, in which medical science is important to the story, so that seems to be a theme for me at the moment.

Amber reading with some helpers at the book launch
Amber Moffat (with some helpers) at the book launch.

I would dangle the moon by Amber MoffatAwesome extras:

Click here to WIN a copy of the book

Click here for a little peek at some of the illustrations from the book.

Click here to read a review of I Would Dangle the Moon (review by Anishka, age 9)

Click here to visit Amber Moffat’s website.

I Would Dangle the Moon is out now! Find it at your nearest bookshop or library.