Title: Polly and Buster: The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster
Author: Sally Rippin
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Published: 1st June 2017
Synopsis: From Australia’s best-selling female author, Sally Rippin, comes Polly and Buster – a brand new junior fiction series about the magic of friendship.
Who ever heard of a witch and a monster being friends?
Everyone knows that witches don’t mix with monsters. Witches are educated, clever, sophisticated. But monsters? Monsters are just uncouth. Some are even dangerous.
But Polly the witch and Buster the feelings monster have been best friends forever.
It’s the sort of friendship that makes your heart squeeze with happiness.
Somehow, they’ve managed to keep their friendship a secret.
Until one day, when everything changes …
Polly and Buster are best friends – but they’re not meant to be. Polly is a witch – albeit not a very good one, and Buster is a Feelings Monster – he changes shape and colour depending on how he feels. He grows when he is happy, and he shrinks when he is sad. Poor Polly and Buster have to keep their friendship a secret, because in the outside world, witches and monsters are segregated, much like an apartheid system, Polly and Buster have always managed to keep their friendship a secret until their worlds collide at a school excursion where Polly is paired up with Malorie Halloway reluctantly, and somehow, Polly’s actions when a group a monsters clashes with her and Malorie, results in an unforeseen friendship, a brutal discrimination campaign, and a heightened sense of wanting to fit in but also wanting to be true to yourself and those you care about. Can Polly find a way to remain friends with Buster and prove that monsters are not as bad as witches think they are?
This lovely book – the first in a trilogy that I have had on my shelf for a couple of years, is filled with all the warm, heart-hugging, squeezy happiness stuff that we want from books. As Polly navigates a world built on discrimination, she also finds that whilst she doesn’t make a very good witch, that she has other talents and her teacher, Miss Spinnaker and Buster will help her and fight against the mob mentality that drove many secondary characters to trying to hurt Buster. It evoked a sense of unease at times, but there was always the knowledge that Polly would help – that her friendship with Buster was more important than what felt like a surface and faux friendship with the other witches, which was based on the version of events that one person gave, rather than the truth.
I felt this book mirrored apartheid South Africa – based on stories my parents have told me growing up there before moving to Australia after I was born. I can sense that there is a quiet rebellion building in this book, because the hints at the end of the book suggest that something big is coming in the next two books, and I think that will make the series powerful and reassure us that friendship and loyalty are the most powerful things and are the things that will help us throughout our lives and in everything we do. We can do anything with the support of our friends, and I think that is something that readers young and old will get out of this book, and I am about to start reading the second book in the trilogy.
Sally Rippin wrote and illustrated this book, and combined the wonderful illustrations with fantastic word art that leaps off the page and highlights the importance of Polly and Buster’s friendship and their oath – that they will always be friends. I love that Sally has done so much with this book, and on the surface it is a simple story, but dig a little deeper and it has layers of friendship, acceptance, and what it means to stand up for people – marginalised people, bullied people – when they are bullied and discriminated against, and I am looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.