Friday, June 2, 2017

The wayward witch and the feelings monster by Sally Rippin

Polly is the wayward witch of the title. She has no skill for spells (or so it seems) and sadly she has no witch friends.  The feelings monster is Buster. He is a monster but he is also Polly's bestest best friend in the whole world.

In this world of witches and warlocks there is huge prejudice against monsters and this was the aspect of this book that I found most interesting.  Think about a passage like this :

"Then Buster stands to one side to let the witches get on first, just as his mother has taught him. And just as his mother has taught him, he is careful to pick a seat at the back with the other monsters  - not in front where the witches like to sit. After all a monster must always know their place."

The idea of a feelings monster is also an intriguing one. When Buster is happy he swells up to an enormous size but when he is sad he shrinks.  Polly goes on a school excursion to the National Gallery where they study portraits of famous humans.  On the same day, Buster, and his class also go the gallery.  Polly knows their special friendship must be kept secret. She says some cruel things about monsters as a way to stay friends with a classmate and Buster hears her.

"Buster is curled up on the hard floor in a great ball.   Polly has never seen him so small and so grey. It's as if every last bit of light has been squashed out of him, and all that's left is a hard mass of grey fur, twisted and dry as a dishcloth."

It is this awful scene that literally sparks wild magic out of Polly.

This is a joyous story with some clever ideas.  I especially love the food.  Polly's mum cooks awful things such as mealworms, thistle and kale salad, and for recess she has bats' ears.  Meanwhile next door the monster family enjoy flummery cake topped with bilberries and slathered with cream and Buster brings jamcakes when they meet up in their special tree.  What a perfect word - slathered. I should also mention Polly's teacher and her wonderful clothes.

"She has curly red hair ... and she jangles with silver jewellery when she walks. Instead of the plain black school cape most of the Academy teachers wear, Miss Spinnaker wears a velvet cape embroidered with colourful threads and studded with little octagonal mirrors.... Polly thinks Miss Spinnaker is glorious."

This is the first book in a new series by Sally Rippin author of the popular the Hey Jack and Billie B Brown books.  Sally has written over 60 books.

Here is an interview with Sally Rippin. You can find some teaching notes here.  You might also enjoy Thalia the Failure by Robin Klein, The worst witch series by Jill Murphy and The power of Poppy Pendle.

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