Book reviews by kids

Book review: Rescue on Nim’s Island

Rescue on Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr, pictures by Geoff Kelly, Allen and Unwin, ISBN 9781743316788

rescue on nim's island


Matilda borrowed a copy of this book from her local library.

I read this book because I like all the other books I’ve read by Wendy Orr so far.

There are scientists coming to the island. So far Nim, Jack and Alex have kept the island a secret but now Jack has discovered something on the island and he wants other scientists to come. One of the scientists brings a daughter called Tiffany and when everyone goes exploring in a cave, Tiffany gets stuck …

Rescue on Nim’s Island is not a follow-on book from Nim at Sea, it follows on from the second Nim film (Return to Nim’s Island) instead. I was surprised that it didn’t follow on from Nim at Sea.

People who like to take risks will like this book because Rescue on Nim’s Island is full of risks. It would suit kids 8+.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  Fantastic Mr Fox (audiobook). If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: Nim at Sea

Nim at Sea by Wendy Orr, pictures by Kerry Millard, Allen & Unwin, ISBN 9781741148619

Nim at sea


Matilda borrowed a copy of this book from her local library.

I’ve watched the movie Nim’s Island and I saw this book in the library, so I borrowed it. Now I’ve read Nim at Sea, I will have to read Nim’s Island.

In this book, Nim tells Alex in a really angry way that it would be better if she was off the island. So Alex goes. Jack still thinks Alex is on the island and Nim is going to get into really big trouble. Then Selkie (a sea lion friend) gets captured by the Troppo Tourists — can Nim get Selkie back? Can they all be together as a group again?

I really like the bits when Fred (the marine iguana) sneezes and everyone says “Yuck, Fred!” and I like feeling inside the story and wanting to encourage Nim.

Kids that like books with lots of adventure should read Nim at Sea. (So should kids who love Nim’s Island.) This book is great for kids aged 8+.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  The Red Wheelbarrow. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!


Four bookish events! (NSW, VIC, QLD)

poster for book event wendy orr

You are invited to celebrate the publication of Rescue on Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr!

When: Saturday 26 July 2014 at 2pm
Where: Petersen’s Bookshop, 103 High St, Hastings VIC 3915
RSVP: by Wednesday 23 July 2014



poster hasel and rose book launches

Three cities, three book launches for Hasel and Rose by Carline Magerl!

Caroline Magerl will be demonstrate her watercolour technique, accompanied by clarinetist Janet Brewer. (And you could win the demonstration watercolour as a door prize!)

Here’s where to go.

Thursday, August 7 at 6 pm
Books Kinokuniya,
level 2, The Galleries,
500 George St, Sydney

Saturday August 9 at 3 pm
Little Book Room
759 Nicholson Street, Carlton North

Friday, August 22 at 6 pm
Black Cat Books
179 Latrobe Terrace, Paddington


Return to Nim’s Island – interview with Wendy Orr

Wendy signing copies of The Nim Stories. Photo by Ryan Makepeace.
Wendy Orr signing copies of The Nim Stories. Photo by Ryan Makepeace.

Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea are definitely in our pile of favourite books. (Nim’s Island was featured in our first ever issue of Alphabet Soup!) You probably know that Nim’s Island was made into a movie starring Abigail Breslin, and now the second Nim book has also been made into a movie called Return to Nim’s Island — and it’s out in Australian cinemas this school holidays. We asked the author Wendy Orr if we could talk to her about what it’s like to have your book made into a film. And here she is!

When did you first hear that Nim at Sea would be made into a movie, too?

Paula Mazur, the producer of the first Nim’s Island, wanted to do it as soon as she read the book when it was published in July 2007. However there were complications with the Hollywood studio and so three years ago she took it to an Australian company. They worked very hard to organise everything and in May 2012 we knew that it was going to be filmed. (Though I think everyone still had fingers crossed!) The filming started in August 2012.

There is a different Nim (Bindi Irwin) cast in this second movie. Were you allowed to choose the actors? Did it feel strange to see a different Nim?

It’s a lot like illustrators for the books I write — I’m not allowed to choose but if I suggest something the editor or producer is happy to think about it before making up their minds. They know a lot more than I do about the right illustrator or actor. I’ve been very lucky, with both illustrators and actors, and they’ve all felt very right for the parts. Of course, even though Abigail Breslin is a wonderful actor, by the time filming started [for the second Nim movie] she was 17, which is much too old to be Nim. But Bindi Irwin is absolutely perfect for the role — she loves animals and is used to handling them, and she’s incredibly strong and physically fit, just like Nim. That’s important to me, so I was delighted with the choice. It was also nice to hear that she’s always identified with Nim quite strongly and tells me the books have always been favourites.

I thought it would feel strange to watch different actors, but in fact it all seemed completely natural. And because no actor could ever be completely identical to the character I imagined, it’s actually made it easier to go back to the characters in my head as I work on the third book.

Do you ‘see’ the characters in your head while you write?

For me, writing a book is a combination of watching a movie in my head, and feeling it in my body — not exactly as if I’m living it, but the way you feel the action in a dream.

Did the movie make any big changes to the book? (without giving too much away for movie-goers-to-be!)

This movie had to make very big changes to the plot! The problem is that when I write a book, it doesn’t cost any more to print if my characters stow away on cruise ships than if they spend the whole book sitting in their bedrooms. But movies are different, and so the producer and directors have to decide how they can make a good movie, follow the story — and not spend more money than they have. So in this movie, Nim is very much the same character, just a bit older, and the feeling matches the book. Then they took two very important things from the plot: Nim making a human friend, and animal poachers threatening Selkie and other animals. But the story after that is quite different.

(It’s okay, Nim certainly doesn’t spend the whole movie in her bedroom!)

As the book’s author, did you have a role to play in the making of the movie?

I was a consultant, which means I read it at different stages and sometimes suggested some small changes. It was a bit like being an editor, which was a nice change for me. I also watched some of the filming, but that was just fun. I don’t know anything about filming, so the most useful thing I can do is stay out of the way.

You attended the premiere of Return to Nim’s Island at Australia Zoo. What was it like to be watching the movie of your own book?

The premiere of a movie is always incredibly exciting. It’s like getting the first copy of your new book, except with a huge party instead of a parcel in the mail. This one was exciting for all those reasons, but since I spent the whole day at the zoo first, with Bindi and Toby Wallace (Edmund), it was also really fun. I think these pictures will show why.

Wendy Orr with Toby and Bindi. Photo by Ryan Makepeace.
Wendy Orr with Toby and Bindi. Photo by Ryan Makepeace.
Wendy Orr with Bindi at the premiere of Return to Nim's Island. Photo by Ryan Makepeace.
Wendy Orr with Bindi at the premiere of Return to Nim’s Island. Photo by Ryan Makepeace.
At Australia Zoo for the movie's premiere. Photo by Ryan Makepeace.
At Australia Zoo for the movie’s premiere. Photo by Ryan Makepeace.

Watching the movie of my own book is very strange, and quite emotional, especially the first time. It’s almost like looking at a family video, because it’s very familiar but different to actually see it on the screen. I thought it was good; I could see the audience enjoying it; sometimes I was afraid about what was happening next, even though I knew; sometimes I was amazed at the beautiful images — but mostly I just felt happy.

Will there be more Nim books?

Yes! My publisher would be very cross if I said no, because they have given me a contract for another Nim book, which I think will come out next year. It doesn’t have a proper title yet.

At the top of this post we can see a photo of you signing copies of The Nim Stories. Is it a bindup of Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea or a different book again?

Yes. It’s got the new cover but the two books are just the same, with the same illustrations.

OK. I have to ask … Can the movie EVER be as good as the book?


Or maybe yes …

A movie can never be as good as the movie you make in your head when you love a book so much that you feel you’re inside the story — when you read about ice and feel cold even though it’s hot where you are, and when you see and hear the characters as if they’re alive.

But on the other hand, a movie could be a better movie than the book is a good book. [At Alphabet Soup we know that Nim at Sea is a good book and we’re sure that Return to Nim’s Island will be a good movie. So we’re glad they won’t have to compete!]

We’re looking forward to seeing Return to Nim’s Island these school holidays. In WA we haven’t started school holidays yet — so all you Nim fans on the east of Australia get to see the movie before us. Lucky you! (Will you write us a review?)

And for more about Wendy and her books (and Nim!) visit Wendy’s website and her blog. Happy holidays!

© April 2013 “Interview with Wendy Orr” – text copyright Rebecca Newman & Wendy Orr (

Three Quick Questions: Wendy Orr (#3)

All through October, Alphabet Soup is celebrating turning three. We have heaps of writers and illustrators stopping by to answer THREE QUICK QUESTIONS and today’s visitor is Wendy Orr, author of Nim’s Island, Raven’s Mountain and many more.

Nim's island (cover)"Raven's Mountain (cover)"


1. Where do you like to write?

I’d love to say that it’s sitting on my favourite log out in the bush—but it’s actually at my desk. It’s a lot easier for my imagination and mind to fly free if my body is comfortable and in a good posture for writing—boring but true!

2. Can you name a book you’d recommend to our readers?

I’ve just finished City of Lies, the second in The Keepers trilogy by Lian Tanner. It was just as wonderful as the first (The Museum of Thieves).

City of Lies (cover)

3. Can you offer a word or phrase that kids could use for inspiration if they have writer’s block?



Find out more about Wendy Orr and her books—visit her website and her blog and check out the Nim’s Island blog, too. (Plus, read our May 2011 Q&A with Wendy Orr.)

© October 2011 “Three Quick Questions with Wendy Orr” by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)

(Psst … check back tomorrow, when author Susan Stephenson—aka The Book Chook— answers our Three Quick Questions.)

Book reviews by Rebecca

Book review: Raven’s Mountain by Wendy Orr

Raven’s Mountain by Wendy Orr, Allen and Unwin, ISBN 9781742374659

This book was selected for review from the editor’s own collection.

"Raven's Mountain (cover)"

Raven isn’t thrilled about moving—and leaving her friends behind. When her step-dad decides to take Raven and her sister Lily mountain climbing they aren’t thrilled about that, either. But when Raven gets to the top first, she is ecstatic and does a

crazy jumping, waving my arms, spinning, Top-of-the-World Dance

and that’s when the rock tilts and everything goes wrong.

Raven has to find her way back down the mountain on her own to find help for Lily and Scott before it’s too late. She’ll have to summon up enough strength and courage to keep going. And going.

While Raven is trying to make her way down the mountin, she has a lot of time to think—she worries about Scott and Lily, she thinks about the friends back in Cottonwood Bluffs, her mum, the bear family they saw on the way up the mountain (and the advice Scott gave her about bears), and her dad who left the family when Raven was very young. It’s a physically and emotionally demanding journey for Raven but she is determine to save her sister and step-dad.

I didn’t want to put this book down. It’s highly recommended if you love adventure and stories of bravery … and possibly if you love being outdoors and mountain climbing—though hopefully you’ll never find yourself in Raven’s situation!

© June 2011 “Review of Raven’s Mountain by Helga Visser”, reviewed by Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)
authors, teachers' resources

Meet the author: WENDY ORR

In every issue of Alphabet Soup magazine we interview an author or illustrator. The trouble is, we can only fit some of their answers in the magazine. So we print the full interviews on the blog—we wouldn’t want you to miss out!

Wendy Orr, photo by Roger GouldIn issue 11 we talked to Wendy Orr, author of many books, including Nim’s Island, The Princess and her Panther, and Raven’s Mountain.

1. Where do you live?
On a hill near the sea on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne.

2. What made you become a writer?
I love stories and books so much that I always knew I wanted to write them. My dad used to tell us crazy stories that he made up, and my mum read us wonderful books for bedtime stories, so wanting to write books never seemed like a strange thing to do.

3. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Reading, going for walks (especially on the beach or in the bush, and especially with my dog), seeing my friends and family, doing tai chi, and travelling.

4. Was it easy to get your first book published?
I was quite lucky with my first book (Amanda’s Dinosaur) because it won a competition, and the prize was having it published. The next few were harder!

5. What was your favourite book as a child?
At different ages: Winnie the Pooh; My Son in Law the Hippopotamus; Anne of Green Gables; Swallows and Amazons; Little Women; The Eagle of the Ninth.

6. Where do you get your ideas?
I’m often not sure where an idea has come from until I’ve finished the first draft. Sometimes it’s from something that has happened in my life, and sometimes it’s a crazy sort of thought—which of course has still probably happened from something I’ve seen or heard or experienced in some way. Sometimes it might be by asking ‘What if?’ about something that’s happened. Of course you need a lot of ideas to make a whole book—one idea starts it, but then you need more for how a character looks or acts, or what happens in chapter 3, and what’s exciting in chapter 5, or how everything all comes together in the end … I sometimes think that there’s a little bit of magic in how all these different ideas come together.

7. Do you prefer to write with a pen in a notebook, or on the computer?
On the computer. I use a pen to make notes in a notebook with a pen; often one book will have its own notebook and I jot down my thoughts or try to work something out. But once I start writing the story, I always use the computer. (For one thing my handwriting is so messy that writing a whole story with a pen would be too tiring— and even worse, I often can’t read my writing!)

8. What do you love best about being a writer?
Living inside a story and playing with it till it comes out right.

9. Of your own books, do you have a favourite?
It’s very hard to choose a favourite, because they’re like friends or pets. I sometimes think Ark in the Park is my favourite, because when I read it there are still no words I want to change or lines I’d like to rewrite. But Nim has been my favourite character for a while—except that now Raven’s Mountain is out, in many ways that’s my favourite, because I always feel very protective about a new character about to face world. So that might be why Raven is my favourite character right now.

Nim's island (cover)

"Raven's Mountain (cover)"

10. Are you working on a book at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’m always working on several books at a time. I’ve just finished Raven’s Mountain, which was out in February. The short blurb would be, ‘Three people go up a mountain; one comes down.’ It’s an adventure story about a girl named Raven who goes mountain climbing with her older sister and stepdad—but when there’s a rockfall and the others are trapped, Raven has to face the wilderness alone to try to save them, and herself.

I’m also working on a series of books set in The Rainbow Street Animal Shelter. I’m doing these with an American publisher; in Australia the stories will most likely be collected into one or two books. I’ve just finished editing the second book, MISSING: A Cat Called Buster, and now am waiting for my editor to work on the third book while I rewrite the fourth (FREE: A Lion Called Kiki).

There are also several other books at various stages on my computer and in my head!

11. You write picture books, books for primary school aged kids, and young adult books. Do you have a favourite age group to write for?
If I had to choose one age group, it would be primary school or middle grade readers. But I’m very glad that I can skip around and play with a picture book or plan an adult novel in between.

"The Princess and her Panther (cover)"12. How do you know if an idea is best for a picture book, a middle grade book or a young adult book?

That’s part of the mystery of writing that I don’t understand. As an idea starts to grow into my mind, it shows me the shape the book will be, so that by the time I’m ready to write it, it’s obvious what sort of story it wants to be.

13. Do you have any advice for young writers?
Just keep on writing! Have fun with it; try writing different types of stories with different types of characters. Remember that the first person you’re writing for is yourself—you need to love what you’re doing. When you’ve finished, read it and see if there are any parts that are a bit boring, or don’t make sense—pretend you’re a teacher with a big red pen, be brave and mark everything that isn’t good. Ask yourself if that bit needs to be in the story. If it doesn’t—delete it. If it does—make it better. Does it make you laugh, or cry, or hold your breath? Keep on rereading and rewriting till you’re happy with everything in your story.

And don’t forget to read, and experiment with different types of books. Writers need to see how other writers work—but most of all, we need to love stories.

You can find out more about Wendy Orr and her books on her website. And visit the Nim’s Island blog!

“Meet the author: Wendy Orr” © Rebecca Newman 2011
competitions, info, poetry, teachers' resources

Winter 2011 Alphabet Soup — out now!

Issue 11 cover, Alphabet Soup magazineThe eleventh issue of Alphabet Soup magazine (yay! yay!) was posted yesterday. If you are a subscriber, keep an eye on your letterbox.

Here’s what you’ll find inside the winter issue:

  • Q&A with author, Wendy Orr
  • Meet a beekeeper
  • Writing tips for kids from The Book Chook
  • Stories by Michele Purcell and Emma Cameron
  • Poetry by Edel Wignell, Jackie Hosking and Lorraine Marwood
  • Stories, poems and book reviews by kids
  • Crossword
  • Our winter writing competition
  • Our annual design-a-cover competition

and more!

Later today we’ll be posting the Q&A with Wendy Orr and on Monday we’ll be posting the winning stories from our recent story-writing competition. So stay tuned!

Subscribe to Alphabet Soup magazine

authors, teachers' resources

Literary auction: $$ for Qld Floods

Authors for Queensland is an online auction set up to raise money for the Qld Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal. Up for auction are books signed by the authors and/or illustrators, picture book illustrations, manuscript assessments for writers, author mentorships, Alphabet Soup subscriptions and much more. (Make sure you check with an adult about bidding for items.)

Items that caught our eye included:

  • Signed copies of Wendy Orr’s new book Raven’s Mountain (out February)"Raven's Mountain (cover)"
  • Signed copies of Katrina Germein’s My Dad Thinks He’s Funny
  • Signed copies of Karen Collum’s Samuel’s Kisses
  • Signed copy of The Tomorrow Book by Jackie French
  • A full set of signed Billie B Brown books by Sally Rippin
  • Signed copy of This is the Mud by Kathryn Apel
  • Signed copies of Famous and Chess Nuts by Julia Lawrinson
  • Illustration (unframed) by Judith Rossell from Janeen Brian’s book Too Tight Benito

The auction ends 24 January 2011.

authors, teachers' resources

A new book from Wendy Orr (out Feb 2011)

"Wendy Orr, author"
Wendy Orr, author of Nim's Island, and Raven's Mountain.

Wendy Orr has a new book coming out in February 2011, Raven’s Mountain. You can read a post about the book on her Author Journal.

Here’s a bit about it (from Allen & Unwin’s website):

A gripping wilderness-adventure by the author of Nim’s Island. Raven’s sister and step-father are trapped under rocks on the mountain top, and their lives depend on Raven making it down the mountain to get help. But can she find the way?


When Raven woke up by the lake she just knew this day would be one she would remember forever. And as they climbed the mountain they saw bears—a Mama bear and two cubs. Not just ordinary black bears—two were white, like the Spirit Bears in the north who are said to help people in trouble. Raven is first to make it to the top of the mountain and she’s doing a top-of-the-mountain dance before her sister Lily and stepfather Scott catch up. But suddenly the rock under her feet cracks and she is falling, tumbling, crashing down over the edge of the cliff.

When she finally comes to, no one answers her calls. The rockfall is covering the trail where she last saw Lily and Scott. Eventually she hears her sister through a tiny crack in the rocks, but Scott is lying twisted and unconscious. Raven must find help. But can she find her way down through the forest? And what if she meets the bears they saw on the way up? Or wolves? She has no food, little water, no phone and no compass. And it’s late in the day. Still, Raven will do anything to save her family.

We can’t wait to read it!