Alphabet Soup Issue 1

Do you have a young writer at your house? If so, the seven dollar investment in a copy of new children’s magazine Alphabet Soupis well worth considering.

Alphabet Soup is a twenty our page colour magazine, with a range of content likely to appeal to children aged 6 to 12, especially those with an interest in writing. This debit issue includes an interview with children’s author Jackie French, book reviews, stories and poems and lots of kids writing. There is also a writing competition, writing advice and a nonfiction piece about the workings of a Bushfire Brigade.

There are no gimmicks in the form of glittery toys or enticements to buy the magazine – this is simply a magazine which offers children something to read an encouragement to write. As such it deserves to be read and to do well in a tough market.

Alphabet Soup Magazine, edited by Rebecca Newman
Alphabet Soup Publishing
Available online from

Roland Harvey's Big Book of Christmas

Kids love Christmas, but many children don’t know a lot about the traditions behind the celebration of Christmas. In this child-friendly book, Roland Harvey explores the origins of the Christmas feast, from the story of the first Christmas, to the selection of the date and more, before exploring the different ways that Christmas is celebrated around the world. There are traditional and more modern recipes from each region, for children to test out.

In the second part of the book, there are a wide range of Christmas activities for kids to try out – including making simple gifts and decorations and games to play on and around Christmas. There are also the words and musical notation for a range of Christmas songs, and the bonus of a sheet of gift tags.

This informative number would be a great offering in the lead up to Christmas, and would also be a wonderful classroom tool for exploring Christmas traditions.

Roland Harvey's Big Book of Christmas

Roland Harvey’s Big Book of Christmas, by Roland Harvey
Allen & Unwin, 2008

This book can be purchased from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle, by Glenda Millard

One orange evening,
tiger-striped with blackened trees,
a pig sat, reminiscing.

In the wake of a bushfire which has ravaged his owners’ home, Applesauce the pig struggles to feel any joy in Christmas. Wise Owl tells Applesauce that Christmas comes from the heart, but Applesauce’s heart is heavy. He wants joys for his people, Marigold and Joe. And, in the final pages of this delightful tale, Applesauce learns Owl’s lesson as he sees a Christmas miracle unfold.

This poignant tale is written in prose, yet has a delightful lyrical quality, with every word tenderly wrought. Adult and child readers alike will feel Applesauce’s melancholy in the words, as well as the whimsical yet gently muted illustrations by Stephen Michael King.

This is a book not just for Christmas but for any day – and it is a heart-warming tale with a message for everyone.


Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle

Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle, by Glenda Millard & Stephen Michael King (ill)

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

An Aussie Day before Christmas, by Kilmeny Niland

’Twas the day before Christmas
And in his beach shack,
Santa was snoozing,
Flat out on his back.

‘Shake a leg, love,’
Sheila Claus said.
‘Time to get ready
For the big night ahead.’

It’s the day before Christmas and Santa is in a tizz. He still needs to wrap the presents, check the ute and choose his roos. Will he get everything done in time?

This humorous offering is a poetic prequel to An Aussie Night before Christmas and, like the former, is filled with uniquely Australian references, both in the text and the illustrations. Santa wraps prezzies, dresses in grouse bright clothes and has a cuppa and a lamington before he heads off for his night’s work.

An ideal gift for a young Aussie, and wonderful for classroom sharing in the lead up to Christmas.

An Aussie Day Before Christmas, by Kilmeny Niland
Scholastic, 2008

The Meteorite Kid, by Carol Faulkner

‘It’s mine! I’ve got it. I’ve got it.’
Morgan ran backwards, her gloved left hand stretched high. Wow! That was some hit. The ball was still on the upward rise, cutting through the air over left field. Morgan kept running backwards, her eyes glued to the ball. She had to tilt her head all the way up. So far up in fact, that her cap fell off. Oh-oh, now she was in trouble. With nothing shielding her eyes, the ball suddenly disappeared from view, ousted by the glare of the midday sun.
‘Darn it!’ Morgan held her right hand over her eyes and squinted, but nothing could shut out the blinding whiteness of full-on, in-your-face sun. ‘Come on…come on,’ she muttered. She felt the intense light crippling her eyes but she couldn’t look away. She just had to make this catch. they were one run in front and this was the last ball. The game – the trophy – was riding on it.

Morgan is the only girl in her baseball team. She feels she has to play not just as well as but better than all the boys. So when she goes for the final catch to make the difference between winning and being runners-up in the grand final, she gives it everything. But she misses and instead catches a strange bright blue ball. Despite the apparent randomness of the ball falling into her hands, it seems destined to be hers. Everyone, including Skip the school photographer wants to see it. At first everyone is sure it must be a meteorite, falling as it has from the sky. But Morgan thinks there is more to it. It’s almost as if the ball is trying to communicate with her. The challenge is knowing who to trust and how to best look after the ball.

The Meteorite Kid is a further title in the Lightning Strikes series for reluctant readers from Walker Books. Like other titles in the series, it is fast-paced, high-action and short-chaptered. Told in third person, The Meteorite Kid follows Morgan’s adventures as she determines the right thing to do with this strange and vibrant object. Her task is made more difficult by some of the adults around her. There are those who show less than pure motives in wanting to help her. Morgan’s family are supportive, even when sceptical, and with the help of a new friend, Morgan triumphs. Fantastical but grounded in the real world this is a good fun read. Recommended for upper-primary and early secondary-readers.

The Meteorite Kid, Carol Faulkner
Walker Books 2008
ISBN: 9781921150807

Christmas With the Wiggles

Christmas is almost here, and in the Wiggle House Murray, Sam, Jeff and Anthony are busy decorating the tree and wrapping presents. As their friends arrive to help, the fun really starts.

Sure to please young Wiggle fans, this little book shows the Wiggles dong things kids will relate to – decorating the tree, counting down the sleeps until Christmas, and even poking at presents to guess what’s in them. There are also more Wiggly type activities, such as performing at carols in the park, and Jeff falling asleep. The illustrations are bright and the text is simple. No surpises here – just more of the Wiggly formula which young fans enjoy.

Christmas With The Wiggles

Christmas With the Wiggles
ABC Books, 2008

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

'Sun' and 'Star' by Natalie Jane Prior

This is where the sun shines…

This is what the star sees…

Sun and Star are two small format hardbacks from ABC Books. Sun shows the sun rising and some of the baby animals it shines on. The sun shines on seals, birds, bees and more. Each baby animal is entreated to ‘Rise and shine!’ and to welcome in the morning in their own special way. Last of all, the sun shines into a house on drowsy children. They jump into bed with Mum and Dad and together welcome the day. Sun is a welcome to the morning, and Star is saying goodnight. First, it sees a sailor’s cat and bids it goodnight. Sheep, a glow-worm, a dog and a teddy are all watched by the star as they settle to sleep. Each is gentled to close their eyes for the night. Then it is baby’s turn. ‘Hush, little baby. Close your eyes. Goodnight.’

Sun and Star are simply beautiful. The gentle rhythms of Natalie Jane Prior’s words float along on gentle watercolours through a range of landscapes. The same sun, the same star, look down on town and country, winter and summer, mountain and ocean. Sun shines on rocky ocean and wakes seal pups, shines in a forest and wakes the songbirds. A variety of environments are presented with the animals that live there. Each is greeted with a reminder-rhyme to do their bit in waking up the day. Star journeys through similar, but not the same landscapes to turn down the glow and calm the dog. Both use gentle rhythm and repetition. Recommended for late lie-in-bed mornings, and early peaceful nights.

Sun & Star Natalie Jane Prior Ill Anna Pignataro
ABC Books 2008
ISBN: Sun: 9780733322433
Star: 9780733322440

A Christmas Carol, By Charles Dickens, ill by Robert Ingpen

It is very difficult to write a review of a book which simply takes your breath away, as this one does. It is so awe-inspiring as to make any attempt to comment on techniques used or the quality of the finished product feel a little amateurish. What does one say about a masterpiece?

The book in question is a new release version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Australia’s own Robert Ingpen. This hardcover offering feels like a classic – with a slipcover featuring a miserable Scrooge staring at the reader, and pages printed on strong parchment pages. Most illustrations are coloured, but have muted tones which make them feel as if they were rendered in Dickens’ time, and others are sepia toned. There are double page spreads and smaller illustrations, but every spread has at least one illustration.

At the front of the book, readers are given a glimpse into the history of the story, and an author’s note, as well as a back of book list of further reading and a bonus short story (also illustrated), Dickens’ A Christmas tree.

This is a real collector’s piece, but its collectability should not prevent it also being presented to children to read and to love. It would be a wonderful Christmas gift.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Walker Books, 2008

Letters to Santa, by Andrew Daddo, ill Michelle Pike

Dear Santa
Would you be a grizzle guts if you’d slept through every Christmas? I thought so. I always miss the food!
So I’d like an alarm clock set for dinnertime.
Even better, can you bring the dinner, too?
Thanks, Santa. I promise not to grumble at you. GB

Christmas is coming and, just like every year, letters to Santa are being written. But this year is different – because this tear the letters are from the animals of the world, and they have their own special lists of wants. The Grizzly bear (GB), for example, wants to be woken for Christmas dinner, while the Aussie roo wants some sunglasses for the glare of headlights on the highway.

This solid novelty format picture book is interactive, with each letter in an envelope reminiscent of its country of origin. Letters are slid out of the envelopes, but remain cleverly attached meaning they won’t be lost and are printed on solid card making them difficult to tear. The illustrations are bright and humorous, and there is plenty to explore from the postage stamp endpapers right to a surprise illustration on the back of book imprint page.

Plenty of Christmas fun here, this one will please kids aged four to eight, and possibly older.

Letters to Santa, by Andrew Daddo, ill Michelle Pike
Scholastic, 2008

Octavius O'Malley and the Mystery of the Criminal Cats

I should have known it wasn’t the mice.
You would think that, after all this time, I would have worked out that mice aren’t responsible for every bad thing that happens in the world. After all, I am the smartest rat detective in all of Rodent City.
But if I have learnt one thing in all of my many adventures, it is that everyone makes mistakes. Yes, I mean everyone. Even me – Octavius O’Malley. And this mistake would prove to be the biggest one I ever made. It would cost me almost everything.

Octavius O’Malley returns in his third adventure. The detective rat makes one little mistake and he’s out of a job. No longer Chief of Police, he still has a mystery to solve. He sets up his shingle, co-opts an assistant and Octavius ‘Ocko’ O’Malley is in business. Something is not right. Cobblestones are disappearing from the streets, strange smells are wafting about, there’s talk of a new cult, and the maker of Ocko’s favourite doughnuts has gone missing. It’s something to do with cats, and Ocko sets out to get to the bottom of the whole ratty, catty, smelly, cobblestone-y business. Ben Redlich’s wonderfully wild drawings add to the fun.

Ocko tells his own story, in first person with multiple asides. He reassures the reader that he’s in charge, in control and is generally the best and brightest detective in town. The reader knows better and can groan and eyeroll with Ocko’s over-worked and under-acknowledged sidekicks, Spencer and Patrick the Magnificent. These two are mice and only grudgingly accepted as assistants. Ocko is entertainingly flawed, with an infinite capacity for self-congratulation and an endless hunger for triple fudge chocolate-coated strawberry surprise doughnuts. Octavius O’Malley and the Mystery of the Criminal Cats is full of fun and humour and sure to be a hit with 9-12 year olds.

Octavius O’Malley and the Mystery of the Criminal Cats, Alan Sunderland ill Ben Redlich
Harper Collins 2008
ISBN: 9780207200502