Posted in Beaconsfield Primary School, book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Where There’s Smoke: book reviews by Beaconsfield Primary School students (Part III)

Where There’s Smoke, by John Heffernan, ISBN 9781862918665, Omibus Books.

Reviewed by Harry, age 11, Beaconsfield Primary School.*

Where There's Smoke (cover)This book is great if you love stories which are based on Black Saturday’s bushfires and even still it’s great for adventure lovers.

Luke and Sarah have arrived at a small town called Edenville. Luke has already had a fight with someone, which isn’t surprising because he’s had fights before at other places. Luke’s friend Tiny had lived in a small town in Russia which had been invaded by Russian troops, so he went to live somewhere else. Tiny has a big heart and predicted that a fire will happen but no-one believed him.

This is such an emotional book it just brings you in. Every chapter makes you want to read more because it leaves a question waiting to be answered. The characters are good because you’ve got all variety like: mean people like Brian, kind-hearted people like Tiny, and just ordinary people like Luke.

I recommend Where There’s Smoke for any gender and for people over nine years of age. I personally rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

*Beaconsfield Primary School is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. A review copy of Where There’s Smoke was provided by the publisher.

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Posted in Beaconsfield Primary School, book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Where There’s Smoke: book reviews by Beaconsfield Primary School (Part II)

Where There’s Smoke, by John Heffernan, ISBN 9781862918665, Omibus Books.

Reviewed by Tyler, age 11, Beaconsfield Primary School.*

Where There's Smoke (cover)Recently my class read a book called Where There’s Smoke. This book is written by John Heffernan and shows you all the qualities you need to live a happy life.

Where There’s Smoke tells the story of a family living in a small town called Edenville where they are on the run from their father and husband. Luke is a regular boy, about twelve years of age, who has a friend named Tiny who is really tall and has a heart as strong as a tiger. Tiny pretends to be Nina’s—Luke’s mum’s—boyfriend so that Nina’s ex husband doesn’t follow or hurt them. When everything seemd to be cruising around well Tiny, who is Russian, gets a bit worried about a bushfire coming. The fire came and it didn’t want to leave. Some people left and some people stayed and fought. Tiny saved a boy and got third degree burns. When everything seemed to be a disaster Luke finally got something he’d waited for, a call.

This book is great and each chapter gives you a thrill of adrenalin and wants you to read more. It is emotional and very descriptive using metaphors and similes that would blow your mind. I hope to be reading more from Mr Heffernan soon.

*Beaconsfield Primary School is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. A review copy of Where There’s Smoke was provided by the publisher.

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Posted in Beaconsfield Primary School, book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Where There’s Smoke: book reviews by Beaconsfield Primary School students

Where There’s Smoke, by John Heffernan, ISBN 9781862918665, Omibus Books.

Reviewed by Alexandra, age 10, Beaconsfield Primary School.*

Where There's Smoke (cover)For the last few weeks, our class has been reading Where There’s Smoke, by John Heffernan. All or most of the class really enjoyed it.

Where There’s Smoke is about a boy called Luke and his mum, Nina. They had been running away from Luke’s dad until a friend of Nina’s (Tiny Cob) told them about Edenville, the place that becomes their new, safe home. In Edenville Luke makes friends with Sarah and develops a very close friendship with Tiny Cob. But when a bushfire comes, how can Luke help the town of Edenville? The place that he now calls his home.

This book was a great book that I really enjoyed. I think it made me understand things like: The house is the place that people live in, the home is the people that live in it. Where There’s Smoke also is an adventurous story as well as the type of book that helps you learn things.

All together I think that Where There’s Smoke is a wonderful book for all ages, out of ten I would rate it nine and my standard is very high. I would like to read another one of John Heffernan’s books one day.

*Beaconsfield Primary School is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. A review copy of Where There’s Smoke was provided by the publisher.

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Posted in book reviews, teachers' resources

Book Review: Brain Drain

"Brain Drain by Christine Harris"Brain Drain by Christine Harris, ill. by Gus Gordon. Published by Hodder Headline Australia, ISBN 9780733612763

Reviewed by Elliana*, 9, WA

Brain Drain is about a young boy called Hamish. Hamish has a sister called Lucy. One day Hamish had too much time on the computer playing silly games when he got brain drained and the computer swapped brains with him. Lucy told her parents but they didn’t believe her. How can Lucy get old Hamish back and not acting like a computer anymore?

I think this book is suitable for girls and boys aged 9+ because they might find this book a bit confusing. I give this book 3/5. I liked the book because it was funny and silly.

[Brain Drain is out of print but your local library may have a copy.]

"Undercover Readers Club logo"*Elliana is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. A review copy of Brain Drain was provided by the author.

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Pippa, Christmas

Book review: Quentin Blake’s A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Here’s a review from one of our Undercover Readers—just in time for Christmas!

Quentin Blake’s A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, ill. by Quentin Blake. ISBN 9781843651215, Anova Books.

"Quentin Blake's A Christmas Carol (cover)"Reviewed by Philippa, 9, WA.*

In this book, a crotchety old man, Ebenezer Scrooge discovered the true meaning of Christmas. But only after he is haunted by three ghosts!

It is written in an old-fashioned style but I like it, it’s a really good story. I especially love the illustrations. Quentin Blake is a great illustrator. My favourite illustration is the Ghost of Christmas Present because he looks a bit like Santa Claus.

I think that 9 to 99 year olds would like this book.



"Undercover Readers Club logo"*Philippa is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. The book reviewed here is Philippa’s own.



Posted in Beaconsfield Primary School, book reviews, Book reviews by kids

Book reviews by Beaconsfield Primary Students

Today we hear from two year 5 students at Beaconsfield Primary School in WA. We sent the class a copy of Emily Rodda’s The Forests of Silence for review. Here’s what two of the students had to say.

The Forests of Silence, by Emily Rodda. ISBN 9781865046730, Scholastic Australia.

"The Forests of Silence cover"1. Reviewed by Jye, age 11, Beaconsfield Primary School.

The Forests of Silence, a short novel by Emily Rodda, is a fantastic fictional tale of fantasy and is great for eight to nine-year-old readers.

This story begins when prince Endon’s father, the mighty king, dies of a terrible sickness leaving a startled Endon the last surviving member of his great sovereign family and as ruler of the mighty city of Deltora. As “tradition” goes, Endon must wear the magical belt of Del upon kingship. But when his childhood friend, Jarrod, does some research on the mysterious belt, he finds that it must be worn at all times. Jarrod desperately tries to warn Endon but the evil governor, Prandine, stops him in his tracks. Upon banishment, Jarrod is forced to take refuge in the strugglingly poor city of Del.

Many years later, Jarrod marries but still awaits the king’s great and famous golden arrow; a call for help. One day, finally, a glimmer in the morning sky excites Jarrod and he joyously sprints to the castle walls to find a cleverly disguised map. He quickly follows it to his old friend. But something has gone terribly wrong and all hope for Del is almost lost for the seven stones on the belt of Del have been scattered across the land to far away and dangerous places.

This book is of the quest for the first gem. The quest is left to Jarrod’s son, Leif, and with an unlikely companion, he sets off to his first destination of danger; The Forests of Silence.

I found this book a bit short for I like to read the two hundred pages or more novels. I also thought it was kind of kiddie and predictable for a ten year old but it was alright.

I might have liked to read it on my own. It was rather short for my tastes and I think almost everyone in my class thought it was very predictable. But it was alright and it had a good storyline. I give it a five out of ten.

"The Forests of Silence cover"2. Reviewed by Erin, age 10, Beaconsfield Primary School.


The Forests of Silence is about a boy named Lief who is told he has to go on a quest to find a precious gem to defeat the Shadow Lord.

This is an adventure-filled novel about two young boys named Jarrod and Endon who grow up together as young boys in a palace till they are men.  Endon’s dad, who is king, died and straight away Endon was crowned king.

Jarrod is told to leave the palace for something he didn’t even do. About ten years later Jarrod and Endon married a lady each and later Jarrod and his wife tell their son Leif he will have to go on a dangerous quest to seek seven precious gems to defeat the Shadow Lord.

The Forests of Silence is a fantastic story if you like adventure and fantasy. It is a short and easy to read. From about the age seven to ten children will love this book. I enjoyed it but it is easy to predict in some parts of the story.

People will enjoy the Forests of Silence. It looks like a book for boys but I enjoyed it. I would not read the whole series because I’m not into fantasy books. I hope everyone who reads this book will like it as much as I do, maybe more.

*Beaconsfield Primary is a member of our Undercover Readers Club. A review copy of The Forests of Silence was provided by the publisher, Scholastic Australia.

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Posted in book reviews, teachers' resources

Picture book review: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, by Sue Whiting, illustrated by Sarah Davis.

CD (included)* narrated by Antonia Kidman. Published by New Frontier Publishing.

"Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, book cover"


It’s a fairy tale book with a CD, about two adults that work as candy makers, their names were Marcus and  Mary.

The King comes and tastes the lollies, he loves them so much he says he’ll take fifty jars.

Marcus was worried how they would make them in time and a fairy overheard.

But will the fairy come to save the day?

I liked the book because I liked the happy ending and the colourful pictures.

[If you’d like to take a peek at a few pages of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, then visit the illustrator’s website. *CD includes the music of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, from The Nutcracker Ballet by Tchaikovsky. ]

"Undercover Readers Club logo"Olivia is a member of our Undercover Readers Club, a book reviewers’ club for kids. (The book was provided by the publisher, New Frontier Publishing.) If you or your class would like to join the club, you can download an information pack (PDF) from the magazine’s website. Membership is free!

Posted in info, teachers' resources

Books our visitors read

Now the ‘Lights Out’ visitors are gone, we thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of the children’s books that they liked reading undercover, and the ones they thought they’d like reading if they were reading after lights out today. So here’s a list! (Some of them might be out of print, but libraries will often have a copy of books that are out of print. Check your school library or your local public library. Ask your librarian!)

  • The Museum of Mary Child by Cassandra Golds
  • Swallows & Amazons series,
  • Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
  • The Queen’s Music
  • Deb Abela’s ‘Max Remy’ series
  • Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven series The Famous Five series, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Enchanted Wood, The Folk of the Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair series.
  • The Nancy Drew Mysteries
  • Roald Dahl books: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG
  • The Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren
  • Dr. Suess, in particular Green Eggs and Ham and Horton Hears a Who, and Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
  • Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are
  • Whiteoaks of Jalna Chronicles’ by Mazo de la Roche
  • Artemis Fowl
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • The Shark in Charlie’s Window
  • The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
  • Thai-riffic by Oliver Phommavanh
  • Zac Power
  • Specky Magee
  • Bonnie and Sam
  • Captain Underpants
  • CS Lewis’s Narnia series, including The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Jaguar Warrior by Sandy Fussell
  • Silver Curlew by Eleanor Farjeon
  • David Grimstone’s Gladiator Boy series
  • Little Women
  • Black Beauty
  • What Katy Did
  • Heidi
  • My Friend Flicka
  • Thunderhead
  • Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace, the adventures of a young teen in 1907.
  • The Works of Lewis Carroll
  • Hardy Boys
  • Nancy Drew
  • Nine True Dolphin Stories by Margaret Davidson
  • Fast-talking Dolphin by Carson Davidson
  • Mrs Piggle Wiggle books

What about you? Do you have any books you’d recommend? Tell us in the comments!

Posted in authors, Events, illustrator, info, teachers' resources

The celebrations are over!

Well, the Undercover Readers Club is now officially launched. In case you missed it — we’ve had children’s authors, poets and illustrators visiting the blog to talk about what they used to read undercover when they were growing up.

Tomorrow we’ll post a list of all the books mentioned, in case you’d like to look for them the next time you’re at a library or book shop.

And if you came late to the tour, here’s a list of all our visitors. Thanks for helping us launch the Undercover Readers Club. Hurrah!

~ Rebecca

Authors, poets and illustrators who visited:

Sheryl Gwyther
Aleesah Darlison
Katrina Germein
The Book Chook
Sandy Fussell
Sue Walker
Dee White
Chris Nixon
Kathryn Apel
Jackie Hosking
Hazel Edwards
Wendy Orr
Duncan Ball
Karen Collum
Robyn Opie
Angela Sunde

Posted in authors, Events, info, teachers' resources

“Lights Out!” (Angela Sunde)

Today we welcome the last of our ‘Lights Out!’ visitors to our blog. Angela Sunde is here to tell us what she used to read after ‘lights out’ when she was a child. Angela Sunde’s book Pond Magic, is an Aussie Chomp and will be published by Penguin Australia in September 2010.

"Pond Magic" cover

As a child I was a little scared of the dark. It’s not surprising really. You see, after lights out, when Mum and Dad were watching TV in "Angela Sunde photo"the lounge room, my brother would slither into my room on his stomach and pop his head up next to my bed with a wicked grin. Then, when my face was as pale as the flannelette sheets tucked under my chin, he would point to the top cupboard above my wardrobe doors (a cupboard I was too small to have ever seen inside) and tell me “A witch lives in there”.

After many interruptions to their evening viewing, Mum and Dad replaced a light bulb on the wall above my bed with a red globe. It was warm and soothing and I could easily see my brother’s bottom as it slunk into the room, sticking up in the air like a shark’s fin (enter Jaws music here).

What the red light globe also allowed me was the pleasure of reading in bed. Every book and comic had a red tinge, but I could read for hours and fall asleep with adventures and words spinning through my head. Mum knew of course. The pile of reading material under my bed must have been a sure giveaway. She warned me I would damage my eyesight and I promised the red light was only there to keep away my fears, not to read.

That was a lie.

I devoured every book in the school library and my cousin’s collection of Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’. A trip to the shops meant a detour to the bookstore, where I purchased the classics: Little Women, Black Beauty, What Katy Did, Heidi, My Friend Flicka and Thunderhead, and read them all by the red light of my room.

A favourite of mine was Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace, the adventures of a young teen in 1907. But my large volume of ‘The Works of Lewis Carroll’ took pride of place on my bookshelf. The illustrations by John Tenniel had me in raptures and one year a friend and I went to a fancy dress party as Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

I never owned a picture book and coveted my cousin’s Green Eggs and Ham. Nowadays if I were caught reading after lights out, it would either be a picture book or a mid grade/YA novel. Adult fiction doesn’t excite me, even though I joined a book club to force myself to read it. It seems the young reader in me is still alive, tucked up in a flannelette sheet, reading under a red light.

© 2010 Angela Sunde

Visit Angela Sunde’s blog for more information about her and Pond Magic!

"Undercover readers logo"Alphabet Soup magazine has been celebrating the launch of Undercover Readers (our new reviewers club for kids)!  If you’d like to join the Undercover Readers Club, you’ll find an information pack you can download from the Alphabet Soup website. As part of the celebrations, we had a different children’s author or illustrator visiting Soup Blog each day until 29 June 2010 (that’s today!) to talk about what they used to read after ‘lights out’ when they were growing up. You can read back through the blog posts if you missed any!