Review of School of Monsters Series
Series Title: School of Monsters
Author: Sally Rippin
Illustrator: Chris Kennett
Publisher: Hardie Grant
Age Range: beginner reader, early childhood.
Themes: monsters, friendships, school, spooky, starting reading.
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Sally Rippin has been writing books for children for over 25 years and is absolute kidlit royalty in Australia. Though I adore a wide range of her writing, she is best known for her Billie B Brown and Hey Jack! series, which resonate not only with young readers but also with their parents, caregivers and educators who are looking for accessible and engaging independent reads.
Rippin clearly made a decision to write for those readers for who perhaps fell through the cracks, who read differently from their peers or for whom reading does not come as easily. Her early reader texts are deliberately straightforward in vocab and sentence structure but are rich in child appeal and beautiful storytelling. It would be impossible to quantify how many young readers Sally Rippin has supported. She saw a gap in the market and she absolutely filled it with the stories of Billie and Jack … and so many of us are forever grateful to her.
Once again Sally Rippin has identified a gap – but it’s a gap most authors don’t want to tackle as it’s a tricky and a possibly divisive one (hello ‘reading wars’!). With the ‘School of Monsters’ series, Rippin has penned a series of books for emerging readers, those readers who are smack bang in the middle of sight word *fun* and home reader *joy*.
Welcome to the School of Monsters: the funniest, silliest and most accessible series for first readers! Start by reading only the last word on every line and work your way up to reading the whole story. With tumbling rhymes and an infectious sense of humour, the weird and wonderful students at the School of Monsters are guaranteed to spark a love of reading!
As a parent, a teacher librarian in a primary school and the author of a book on raising readers, I have witnessed time and time again that period where young readers are just about to take off with reading. It’s a backwards and forwards dance for quite some time and it is oh so very hard (but important) to keep little minds loving books and not becoming overwhelmed.
‘School of Monsters’ is a first step towards independent reading – with a trusted adult alongside. To create each of the books in this series Rippin takes common vocab words, adds a dash of spooky, a cup of comedy and blends it all together with rhyme and striking illustrations by Chris Kennett. The result is a pretty darned special mix of instructional home reader and engaging recreational read.
Educators could use these in the classroom context, and very probably will, but they are not part of a commercial reading scheme and actually this is one of the things I love about them. I quite like that these will be picked up in independent bookstores and department stores around the country, rather than residing in the exclusive domain of the educator.
I could talk on this topic for days and you’ll find countless articles on my website and 70,000+ words in ‘Raising Readers’ talking about the importance of reading routines and rituals, reading aloud, modelling a love of reading and supporting or extending your young reader but you might like to start with this week’s guest article by Lana Hallowes, where I share 5 tips for ‘surviving’ home readers.