Book reviews by Hannah, Book reviews by kids

Book review: The Wreckers’ Revenge


TThe Wreckers' Revenge by Norman Jorgensen (book cover)he Wreckers’ Revenge by Norman Jorgensen, Fremantle Press, ISBN 9781925815450

Hannah received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

The Wreckers’ Revenge, by Norman Jorgensen, is a sequel to the very successful first book in the series The Smuggler’s Curse. The Wreckers Revenge was inspired by two boys from the Cocos Islands who, after hearing one of Jorgensen’s stories, attempted to find William Dampier’s missing treasure. It is not necessary to have read the first book to thoroughly enjoy The Wreckers Revenge, which is set in the early 20th century, beginning with the anticipation of whether Red Read (the main character) is to be expelled from Christian Brothers College. After a series of crazy events – involving the nasty acts of Brother Christian – the infamous Captain Black Bowen, Red’s Guardian, comes to change the day, whisking young Red off to once more become a loyal crew member of the mighty Black Dragon. But don’t get too comfortable on this ship as there is nothing but action and adventure to be had on these decks.

In my opinion, I thought that the book moved at a manageable pace for a wide range of readers and it wasn’t over-complicated. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters as the story developed and it was interesting as each character had their own lovable and different features. Every sentence had a drip of anticipation and I really did find it quite hard to put the book down.

It would be a perfect holiday read and even a great book for adults to read to children as well. I recommend this book to 10–13 year olds as there is quite a lot of violence in it and I believe that these ages would be able to manage that.

In conclusion, it’s a really great book and is worth checking out.

Read a sample chapter of The Wreckers’ Revenge at the publisher’s website.

Download Teachers’ notes for this book from the publisher’s website.

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

authors, illustrator, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Kylie Howarth


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 picture book author and illustrator, Kylie Howarth. Kylie’s books have been published in Australia, New Zealand, France and the USA. She grew up in the country with a dog, sheep, orphaned kangaroos and even an echidna.

Last week Geoff Havel asked:
How much of your love of stories and your ability to write them comes from your own childhood on a farm and how much comes from being surrounded by children now?

Kylie Howarth answers:
I do draw from my own childhood and now more than ever appreciate all the experiences my parents gave me. Not every kid had pet kangaroos or spent a year traveling around Australia. As a child I loved drawing and have always been fond of animals and the beach, which are both reoccurring themes in my books.

That being said I am now focused on creating stories that my children love. Their interests and personalities are definitely the biggest inspiration for my work. They contribute so much to my books too as I am constantly tweaking text and layouts based on their reactions and feedback. We also create paintings together in our backyard art sessions, which I then scan and use as textures in my illustrations.

For more info about Kylie Howarth and her books (and colouring sheets and craft activities), visit

Celebrating Australia: a year in poetry (cover)And now Kylie Howarth passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Lorraine Marwood. Lorraine is an award-winning children’s author and poet. Her most recent poetry collection is Celebrating Australia: A Year in Poetry.

Kylie asks:
“Which of your poems or books means the most to you?”
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
See you next week!




authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the book baton: Norman Jorgensen



Norman Jorgensen in Northumberland. (Photo © Jan Nicholls.)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.)

Norman Jorgensen takes the book baton today. Norman is the award-winning author of many adventure-filled books. His books are inspired by travelling, old movies and old books. His latest book is The Smuggler’s Curse.

You might recognise some of these page-turners:

If you love a good swashbuckling adventure you can read a sample chapter of The Smuggler’s Curse thanks to Fremantle Press.

Last week Catherine Carvell asked Norman a question:

Your latest book The Smugglers Curse 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?

 Norman answers:

That’s an interesting question. The Smuggler’s Curse is high adventure, and a lot of the action is total fantasy, however, it is grounded in real history, and the locations are very real. I visited all the places mentioned in the story and then had to imagine what they would have been like back in 1895 when the story is set. Sometimes it was easy. The headhunters’ long house in Sumatra did not look like it had changed at all in 120 years. To my surprise and concern, there were still skulls hanging from the rafters.

Looking at old photographs, Broome and Albany and Cossack, and even Fremantle, were much the same now as back then, except for paved roads and cars, of course. I expect, too, they now smell a lot better, no longer having open sewers and outside dunnies, and no open drains in the streets, or mountains of horse manure that would have littered the roadways. Modern Singapore, on the other hand, bears no comparison with Colonial Singapore. It is a rich, bustling city where once it was a sleepy mosquito-infested outpost.

I set the book in first-person, pretending I was Red, the hero, and he is a bit like me in that he is scared of all sorts of things. We both hate heights, sharks, soldiers with bayonets trying to skewer him, and falling from the masthead, but Red tries to be brave no matter what the circumstances.

The skipper of the Black Dragon schooner — Captain Black Bowen, the notorious smuggler — I based on movie star called Errol Flynn who was a swashbuckling hero back in the days of black and white movies. I loved his movies Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk and many others. Real life? Probably not, though he was a famous adventurer in real life.

The sailing scenes are definitely real. When I was about 12 years old, my father and I made a dinghy, and we used to go sailing together on the Swan River, and sometimes the Indian Ocean. Like the Black Dragon in the Andaman Sea, we were once caught in a fierce storm, washed way out to sea and nearly killed. The excitement and terror I wrote about Red feeling on the deck of the Dragon were based on that experience.

I hope you enjoy reading about Red’s adventures and imagining all the places he gets taken while on board the Black Dragon.

Happy reading,


You can read earlier interviews with Norman Jorgensen here and here.

a single stoneAnd now Norman Jorgensen passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Meg McKinlay. Meg is the author of many books including A Single Stone, Ten Tiny Things, and Duck for a Day.

Norman asks:
Having now won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award, as well as just about every other award in Australia for A Single Stone, do you have a new book in mind … or are you creating several projects at the same time?
Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
See you next week!