Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hey Jack!

Hey Jack! comes out today. Check your local bookstore. Meanwhile, here is an interview I did with Holly Harper for Readings about the Billie and Jack books. I'd love to hear what you think of the new series!

Sally Rippin's series for junior readers Billie B Brown has been such a hit that Hey Jack! - a spin-off series starring Billie's best friend Jack - has just been launched. We chat with Sally about Jack, Billie and writing for children.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?

I am currently working on a new series of early chapter books for kids called Hey Jack. Jack is best friends with Billie from the Billie B Brown series and, being the quieter of the two, I thought it would be nice to be given the opportunity to see the world from his perspective.

In my mind, the Billie B Brown series is an antidote to all the fairy and princess books out there marketed towards girls, whereas the Hey Jack series is for boys who can’t relate to super heroes or sporting stars. While Billie likes to dress-up, she also likes to climb trees and kick a soccer ball around. She is very good on the monkey bars but hopeless at ballet. Jack, on the other hand, might be shy, but he shines in his school musical. He builds excellent Lego castles and even makes his own robot costumes out of cardboard boxes. I hope kids who have read and enjoyed the Billie series will love the Jack series, too.

What has been your favourite experience as a writer?

I have to say writing the Billie B Brown series has been the highlight of writing career so far. I love writing the stories and feel like I’ve tapped into an infinite well of memories to draw on from my own childhood. Most of all, I am overwhelmed by how popular this series has become, and in such a short time. I receive dozens of incredibly cute emails every month from young readers and I can’t tell you how many invitations Billie has received to birthday parties! I am thrilled, too, to receive emails from parents who have told me that the series has inspired their child to read. This is everything I could have hoped for as a writer and I feel enormously grateful.

Why do you write for children?

I like kids. I like the way their view of the world constantly reminds me to be open and inspired and in awe of everything around me. I like their sense of humour, playfulness and innate creativity. I also think having such a strong memory of myself at a young age helps me empathise and understand children and why they do things that from an adult’s point of view may seem incomprehensible. I think it is a great honour to perhaps be among the very first books a person has ever read. Many of the books I read as a child had a profound effect on me. I remember many of them with fondness and many of the characters have stayed with me like old friends. I would love to think that one of my books could have the same effect on a child today.

Describe your main characters in three words.

Jack: Introspective, imaginative and insightful
Billie: Boisterous, bossy and brave

What has been your favourite book of the past month? The past year? Of All time?

Oh, that’s a hard one. Past month: I just finished reading Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder and loved it, but I also recently read The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge and loved that, too – obviously for very different reasons. One took me out of my head, the other lead me into it. Both gave me great insight into what makes people tick.

Past year: Hmmm... Maybe Skellig By David Almond, or When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – two beautiful and wildly imaginative children’s books that I read around the time of writing my own children’s novel Angel Creek and both inspired me greatly.

All time? Oh, way too hard. Recently I’ve been saying To Kill A Mockingbird is my all-time favourite novel, so I’ll stick with that, but I was also blown away by Niccolo Ammaniti’s I’m Not Scared. I love the way that both these stories explore the darkest places of humanity from the skewed and largely innocent perspective of a child.

What’s your favourite place to read?

Bed. Hands down. As long as I can stay awake...

What kind of reader do you think will love your book the most?

I write a wide range of books from picture books to Young Adult novels, but if we are talking specifically about the Jack and Billie series, let’s say a young reader 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.

Holly Harper is a children’s bookseller at Readings Carlton where she organises the kids and Young Adult e-newsletters. She also writes books for younger readers under the name H.J. Harper. Find out more about her Star League series and other books here and follow her on twitter - @hj_harper.

23 comments:

  1. Hey that's brilliant sally! Congratulations and all the very best for little Jack! jx

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  2. Thanks Jen. I have my fingers crossed. x

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  3. Hi Sally, I was really excited to hear about the Hey Jack series when I was in a bookshop today. As a teacher and parent, your Billie B Brown series has inspired many children to read-keep writing as I know the Hey Jack series will be successful too!!! Well done

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  4. Hi there Anonymous,
    Thank you for your kind comment. I really hope kids will like the Jack series as much as the Billie books.
    Best wishes,
    Sally

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  5. Hi there. I bought my son "The Robot Blues" as he is an early reader and loves robots. He LOVES it and so do I. Thank you for providing us with such fantastic books which are challenging and fun for an early reader, and so much better than those aweful home readers we get at school! I had no idea you also write the Billie B Brown series, or that the two are related. My daughter loves Billie, as do her friends. Keep writing brilliant books for kids, all the mums out there appreciate the work you are doing.

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  6. HI Kymmy - thanks so much for your lovely comment. That's great to hear your son is enjoying the Jack series and that your daughter is already a Billie fan. And it feels great to be appreciated. :-)
    Best wishes,
    Sally

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  7. Woot woot, Sally! Can't wait to see it.

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    1. Hi Tania - thanks! Hope you like the series.
      Sally

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  8. Hey, Sally. Congrats on the new book/series. The Robot Blues looks so cute. All the best for its success.

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  9. Hi Sally my son loves the Hey Jack books. He has read them all and is desperate for more. Any idea when you will have more published?
    thanks

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    1. Hi there, that's great to hear your son is enjoying the books. Yes there will definitely be more! They will be coming out regularly every couple of months over the next year or so. I hope he will like the new ones too!
      Best wishes,
      Sally

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  10. Our 6 year old son struggled to find books that interested him and that were at his reading level, until we discovered "Hey Jack". He now has all of them and we look forward to Jack's new adventures.

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    1. That's great to hear. Thanks for letting me know. There are plenty more Jack adventures to come!
      Sally

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  11. Hi Sally, I am a librarian at a primary school in New Zealand. I have purchased all of the 'Billie B Brown' and Hey Jack!' books that are available. They have been a huge hit with the early readers. Some students who are reluctant / lower ability readers are 'hooked' and are desperate for more! I look forward to purchasing the upcoming books to add to our collection. Kind regards, Kathryn

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  12. Hi Kathryn - I have just recently come back from touring New Zealand! I had such a great time there and met some lovely people. I'm thrilled to hear your students are enjoying the series. Thanks so much for supporting my work.
    Best wishes,
    Sally

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  13. Love your work Sally, my son has learning challenges and hates reading, (he's 11yrs old) I'm always buying books that would interest him but to no avail....UNTIL I brought a HEY JACK book "my crazy cousins" and he has read in over and over again, in bed before sleep, he even asks to read to us now. This is a fantastic break through for us. He's excited about the arrival of the next few I have ordered at his request. Thank you very much for your wonderful books, it's changed his life :-)

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    1. Hi there - thanks so much for letting me know. That's such a lovely story about your son. It inspires me to keep writing!
      Sally

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  14. Dear Sally,
    I would really like to thankyou for your beautiful Hey Jack books. my 8 year old son is autistic and having a lot of trouble with reading. He can identify with your books and because of the simple text he has started to read fluently. It is really nice when he looks you in the eyes and discusses the book. Please keep writing them as we have just about got through the whole series so far...

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    1. Thank you for your beautiful comment. I feel so honoured to hear that my books might play a small part in developing a child's love of reading. I will definitely keep writing!

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  15. My 7 year has just started to read one of your books. He absolutely loves it. Looking forward to buying more

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    1. Great! I hope he continues to enjoy them. :)

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  16. Where can I purchase the Hey Jack and Billie B Brown series in the United States? I am a second grade teacher and would love to include these books in my classroom library.

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  17. Hi Ruth, the Billie and Jack books are published by Kane Miller in the US and distributed through Usborne Books. they should be able to help you ou. Thanks for getting in touch! Sally

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