Polly & Buster: The Wayward Witch & the Feelings Monster, by Sally Rippin

Buster shrugs. ‘Not every witch can be a Black Witch,’ he says. ‘But you’ll be special at something, I just know it! And even if you never find that thing you are good at, you will always be special to me.’
Polly feels her heart squeeze with love for Buster. She throws her arms around his big, thick waist. ‘You are the loveliest friend a witch could ever have.’

Polly and Buster have always been friends – but their friendship has to be a secret, because witches like Polly are not supposed to be friends with monsters like Buster. Being secret friends isn’t their only problem. Polly is struggling at school, because none of her spells ever work, and Buster is hiding a secret: he gets bigger or smaller depending on his emotions, which is very un-monsterlike. When their classes cross paths on a school excursion, their secrets are in danger of being revealed, and Polly has to choose between being suddenly popular, or being true to herself – and her friend.

The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster is the first title featuring witch Polly and monster Buster, and young readers will adore the characters, the story and the format: hard cover with gold trim and black and white illustrations. While the story is self contained, readers will be keen to know what happens net and will eagerly await the next installment.

Polly and Buster: The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster, by Sally Rippin
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2017
ISBN 9781760129019

Laugh Your Head Off Again

I’m in the supermarket trying to remember what groceries mum wanted me to pick up, but I can’t think. I can’t breathe. I can’t do anything. i’m busting. And I don’t mean busting. I mean BUSTING!

Andy Griffiths’ hilarious tale of mishap after mishap when a boy finds himself busting for the toilet in the middle of a shopping trip is just one of nine stories by some of Australia’s best – and funniest – authors of young people in this hard cover bind-up for children.

Laugh Your Head off Again features nine humorous stories from authors including Griffiths, Sally Rippin, Morris Gleitzman and Frances Watts, in situations including a corn chip that looks like Justin Beiber, a seagull determined to steal the perfect footy pie, and a school camp on a llama farm. Each story is short enough to be enjoyed in a single sitting and is embellished with illustrations by Andrea Innoent.

Lots of fun for primary aged readers.

Laugh Your Head off Again
Pan Macmillan, 2016
ISBN 9781743549872

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac, by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin & Regine Abos

The Jade Emperor has decided to hold a great race. teh first twelve animals to cross the river will each have a year named after them. the animals are excited – but tehre are thirteen animals competing, so one will miss out. each animal must use their unique skills – or their wiliness – to get themself across the river.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac is a gorgeous version of a classic Chinese legend, which is both entertaining and educational. Wang’s text captures both the excitement of the race and the character of the thirteen animals, and the illustrations are exquisite. A combination of brush and ink, linocut and digital media creates a satisfying whole with rich oranges and golds prominent. The design and layout makes this a real visual treasure.

First released in 2010, and newly released in paperback, The Race for the Chinese Zodiac is suitable for both private reading and classroom use.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac, by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin & Regine Abos
Black Dog, 2012
ISBN 9781742032092

Available from good bookstores or online.

Hey Jack! The New Friend and The Worry Monsters, by Sally Rippin

Jack is feeling a bit grumpy. His best friend Billie is away, and he has no one to play with. So when he and Dad find a lost puppy, Jack is excited. They take the puppy home until they can find its owner. But Jack wishes that he could keep the puppy for himself.

‘If you were my puppy I would call you Scraps,’ says Jack. He imagines all the fun that he and Scraps would have together.

Jack is feeling a bit grumpy.  His best friend Billie is away, and he has no one to play with. So when he and Dad find a lost puppy, Jack is excited. They take the puppy home until they can find its owner. But Jack  wishes that he could keep the puppy for himself.

The New Friend is part of a fun early reader series from award wining author Sally Rippin and publisher Hardie Grant Egmont. Jack is a regular kid who reacts the way many children would when finding a puppy – he wants to keep it. Told in simple language and large font, to be accessible to new readers, the story is supported by grayscale illustrations on most spreads.

In The Worry Monster Jack is back with a new problem – worry monsters. With a spelling test looming, Jack can’t chase the worry away. He is a bad speller and is sure he is going to fail. he doesn’t want to practise for the test, because that will only remind him of how bad he is at spelling. But then he leaves the study too late and his worry only increases.

Both books stand alone, though readers will enjoy following Jack’s adventures in both these and other titles in the series. The bright covers will appeal, as will the fact that they are about situations to which young readers will relate.

Good stuff.

The New Friend (Hey Jack!)

The New Friend

The Worry Monster (Hey Jack!)

The Worry Monster (Hey Jack!)

Both titles by Sally Rippin
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2012

Angel Creek, by Sally Rippin

There in the shadowy depths was a pale, pale child with glass-like eyes that stared up at her, and long white hair that billowed like clouds … ‘You won’t believe this,’ she said, laughter bursting up through her chest. ‘I think … I think we’ve found an angel!’

Jelly is not happy about the new house she has moved to with her parents. The only good things are the old apricot tree in the back yard, and the creek which runs along behind the house. But on Christmas Eve, Jelly and her friends find something trapped in the creek. At first they think it’s some sort of bird – but then they discover, to their amazement, that it is an angel.

As Jelly and Gino look after the wounded angel they start to see that taking something away from where it belongs can only lead to problems – even when you may start out with good intentions. As the angel clings to life, things start to go wrong, seriously wrong in Jelly’s own life, and she and Gino must make some tough decisions to try to sort things out and face the things they can’t change.

Angel Creek is a beautiful tale of growing up, of facing change and of friendship. It is also, of course, about the mystic presence of an angel.

Ages 10 and over.

Angel Creek

Angel Creek, by Sally Rippin
Text, 2011
ISBN This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Peeking Ducks, by Krista Bell & Sally Rippin

Zhang, Mulong and Langshi lived on a quiet stream, not far from the busy Li River. They lived with their mother, their father and their sister, Poh Poh.
For months it has been foggy, dark and cold but now the sun was shining over the mountains.

After a long winter of cold and fog, finally it seems like Spring might be coming. Sick of being restricted by the weather, three young ducklings take advantage of an early spring day to go exploring. Their parents and sister remind them to stay close, but gradually they move further and further towards the big Li River. Along the way they encounter dangers they’d not expected but are assisted by other river creatures. Sally Rippin’s endpapers show misty Chinese mountains and set the scene for the illustrations to follow. Her palette of greens and greys evokes the misty light of the Chinese mountains and the rivers that feed from it. The ducks are brilliant white, perhaps indicating that they still have something to learn about blending in. Peeking Ducks is a large portrait format hard back with lovely heavy paper.

Young children often have no context to understand danger. They don’t know what they don’t know and can put themselves in situations of risk. So it is with Zhang, Mulong and Langshi. All they know is they are sick of being cooped up and want to get out and play. They are fortunate enough that although they encounter potential danger, they also encounter other animals who help them avoid capture. Even little Poh Poh, who at first advocates caution is seduced by the pull of the ‘outdoors’ and the notion at ‘peeking’ at new sights. Krista Bell shows that some lessons can be learnt by experience, while also reminding that sometimes parents do know what they’re warning about!

Peeking Ducks

Peeking Ducks, Krista Bell, ill Sally Rippin
Windy Hollow Books 2010

Reviewed by Claire Saxby Children’s book author.

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

Me, Oliver Bright, by Megan De Kanztow

I live in a city by the sea
Oliver Bright
the World, the galaxy
the Universe

Oliver Bright has an assignment to do. Oliver is in Year 3 and his assignment is to look at his family history. He shares his life, the life of his father and that of his grandfather. The reader learns about Oliver, but also about the changes across the three generations. For Oliver, getting milk is as easy as driving to the shops. For his dad, it was even easier – the milkman brought milk to his door daily. For his grandfather though, it was a bit tougher. His grandfather had to ride his horse to catch the cow and then milk it. Me, Oliver Bright is laid out like a school assignment with sketches and photos alongside Oliver’s handwritten words. ‘Oliver’ uses coloured pencils to jazz up his assignment, adding stars, stickers and even postcards.

Me, Oliver Bright features a main character who at about nine years of age might seem a little older than usual for a picture book. But with the mixture of ‘his’ drawings, photos and postcards, there is broad appeal for readers who can compare Oliver and his family’s experience with their own. Teachers too may use this book to model family history to their class. Observances are recorded without any interpretation, so the reader can decide for themselves which generation had it easiest. It’s certainly easier to buy milk now, but Grandpa had a wider variety of animals in his life. Dad had the freedom to roam and explore with his dog, while Grandad seemed to work all the time. There are plenty of discussion points here, whether between father and child, or class and teacher. Recommended for lower primary school.

Me, Oliver Bright

Me, Oliver Bright, Megan De Kantzow ill Sally Rippin
Omnibus Books 2009
ISBN: 9781862917156

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Four Baby Board Books, by Sally Rippin

What’s That Noise?, Hush Baby Hush, Go Baby Go! and Where is Baby? are sturdy board books in a new series for babies from Allen & Unwin. Sally Rippin authors them all, but illustrates only Where is Baby?, with the others illustrated by some of Australia’s best-known illustrators. Each spread features a baby interacting with their environment. In What’s That Noise? common noises are identified, from the baby crying to washing flapping and more. Go Baby Go focuses on a range of movements, while Where is Baby? uses simple rhymes. Hush Baby Hushlooks at some familiar daily routines. Each book is linked to the others in the series by a common design spotted spine.

What’s That Noise?, Hush Baby Hush, Go Baby Go! and Where is Baby?’ are very first books for babies. They are designed to encourage early interaction with books between parent and child, child and text/illustration. The text is simple and repetitive and the images invite the reader to explore beyond the written word. A range of cultures are depicted. The colours are warm and bright and each title is robust enough to withstand many readings. Backgrounds to each spread are full colour, with Baby the feature of each opening. Each illustrator has interpreted their characters differently yet there is enough similarity to link the books. The three babies who feature in each book greet the reader on the back cover. Recommended for babies and the very young.

What’s That Noise? Sally Rippin ill Lorette Broekstra Allen & Unwin 2008 ISBN: 9781741753899
Go Baby Go! Sally Rippin ill Ann James Allen & Unwin 2008 ISBN: 9781741753882
Hush Baby Hush, Sally Rippin ill Craig Smith Allen & Unwin 2008 ISBN: 9781741753875
Where is Baby? Sally Rippin Allen & Unwin 2008 ISBN: 9781741753868

Too Many Monkeys, by Margaret Wild

Mum, Dad, Eenie, Meenie and Baby Mo live in the jungle in a tree that is just the right size for a family of five. But when Granny and Grandpa come to visit, suddenly the tree is not big enough any more. So begins a funny chain of events as the family move from tree to tree and more and more relatives come to stay. Each new arrival heralds the need for a new move to a tree with more room.

Youngsters will love the silliness of this cumulative story and will enjoy predicting what will happen next. The ending, which shows the extended family finding a whole clump of trees with branches that touch – allowing each smaller family unit their own tree – is not only satisfying in the context of the story, but also gently paralells the human world, where families can be close yet still give each other room.

The gouache illustrations of Sally Rippin are delightful, with the various monkeys coloured in rich blues, purples and reds, and each monkey uniquely defined. The backgrounds are also bright and the book’s cover, with crowded monkeys within a black frame is eye-catching.

Like all of Margaert Wild’s picture books, Too Many Monkeys is bound to be a success.

Too Many Monkeys, by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Sally Rippin
Omnibus, 2004

Gezani and the Tricky Baboon by Valanga Khoza

When Gezani is sent to take a bunch of bananas to his cousins over the hill, he is tricked into giving them to a clever baboon. After he has been reprimanded for losing the bananas, he is laughed at for being so easily tricked.

Gezani is determined to be trickier than the baboon, and soon has a plan for revenge. He will make the baboon sorry for tricking him and win back the respect of his fellow villagers.

Gezani and the Tricky Baboon is an endearing story of trickery and revenge, set in South Africa, where author Valanga Khoza was born. Khoza comes from a family of storytellers and, since arriving in Australia, has used his storytelling skills to perform in schools. His style is aptly complemented in Gezani by the illustrations of Sally Rippin, which are filled with bold oranges, browns and blues.

A perfect read-aloud.

Gezani and the Tricky Baboon, by Valanga Ghoza, illustrated by Sally Rippin
Allen & Unwin, 2003