Sally Rippin, The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster (Polly and Buster #1), Hardie Grant Egmont, 1 June 2017, 288pp., $19.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9781760129019
If anyone can describe the extreme emotional turmoil of being a child and the many issues they try to navigate in their innocence, often because of adult prejudices, it is Sally Rippin.
Polly and Buster are both children; a witch and a monster child. Polly is not a very skilled witch, her class laughs at her, the words in her potions book won’t stay still and she feels hopeless at everything. Buster is Polly’s dearest friend and can always help her feel better about herself. But Buster is ashamed of how his emotions are visible to everyone. When he is happy he grows and glows and when he is sad he shrinks
“as if every last bit of light has been squeezed out of him, and all that’s left is a hard mass of grey fur, twisted and dry as a dishcloth”.
Buster thinks Polly is much better at being a friend than at doing ‘witchy things’ and Polly thinks Buster’s ability to empathise is the sign of a real friend.
But witches and monsters are not supposed to be friends. In Polly and Buster’s world witches are superior to monsters. Polly and Buster live next door to each other and have a special tree they visit every day. They try to keep their friendship a secret, pretending to be strangers when they meet in public places.
At the museum one day, in front of the most popular girl in school, Polly makes a poor decision and ignores Buster’s happy greeting. Buster shrivels and is teased cruelly by his class. Polly, the least magical girl in school, releases a powerful protective spell which is misinterpreted by her new friend as protecting the class from a vicious attack by the monsters. The whole situation escalates and prejudice against monsters in the community increases, becoming a vicious monster hunt.
I will leave you to read The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster to find out if witches and monsters can eventually get along.
I loved this story! With wonderfully developed and engaging characters, Sally Rippin has written a story about friendship and respect that deserves multiple reads. A wonderful read aloud for groups with teacher’s tools available on the Hardie Grant Egmont website. Powerful and relevant to today’s society in so many ways – I recommend this for 8 years – 100 years.
Reviewed by Sharon Smith