The Star of the Week
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2015
42pp., pbk., RRP $A7.95
This is the final in the very popular Hey Jack series written for those very young readers who are stepping between “home readers” and “chapter books.” The best friend of Billie B. Brown now has a 20-book series deliberately written for boys who don’t identify with action heroes or spies.
As with the others in the series, Rippin takes a situation that her target audience can relate to and explores it in an imaginative and engaging read. This time, Jack is named “Star of the Week”., a much sought-after accolade but he’s not sure he can carry the responsibilities of the role particularly as his primary duty will be to introduce soccer star Tim Little at the impending school assembly and he is full of nerves and excitement. But then he discovers Aaron crying in the boys’ bathroom because his dog has died and he has a brainwave that might cheer his friend up. It means he won’t get to meet the famous sportsman but…
Rippin says she was inspired by Dr Seuss, Richard Scarry and Joyce Lancaster Brisley (Milly-Molly-Mandy series) when it came to writing both Hey Jack and Billie B. Brown and she was determined they “would begin in second person, contain the language of a school reader and stick to the simplest day to day occurrences of a six to eight year old,” so they would be accessible and appeal to the reluctant reader. She tried them out on her own son, massaging them based on his responses and eventually bringing two series that have been the starting point for so many to fruition. In an interview, she says that she wanted her readers to be someone “who is ready to try their first chapter book. Someone who wants to read about a character they can relate to and who could, very possibly, become their very best friend.”
Having watched both family members and students immerse themselves in both Hey Jack and Billie B. Brown and make enormous steps in their competence and confidence, I think she has hit the mark