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Sally Rippin – Australian Children’s Laureate 2024-25 Q&A

Sally is Australia’s highest-selling female author, with her fantastic Billie B Brown series having 10 million books in print.

Her work includes the highly acclaimed Polly and Buster trilogy and the popular Billie B Brown and Hey Jack! books, which became the highest-selling series for 6-8 year-olds in Australia within the first year of their release. 

Sally’s vision as a Laureate will create reading to become more accessible to all children. Her driving belief is ‘All kids can be readers!’. Sally is a strong supporter of the inclusion of all types of readers in the classroom and advocates for children who struggle with learning difficulties and how neurodivergence can affect literacy. Sally is determined to change the perspective of reading for children, and that it is not just a life skill but is also essential to their wellbeing.

We can’t wait to witness the next two years of creativity and inspiration from Sally!

The Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation (ACLF) is a nonprofit organisation founded in 2008 with the driving mission to enrich the lives of young Australian children with the beauty and empowerment of fictional stories.

Some of the ACLF’s work includes promoting the importance of reading in young people and highlighting the value of reading for young people in an inclusive way that simultaneously showcases the best of Australia’s children’s literature.

To read more about the significant work the ACLF does for Australian young readers and their Laureate program, you can visit their website here. 

Keep reading to dive into the wonderful Q&A with Sally Rippin that was provided by Hardie Grant Books. 

Q&A WITH SALLY RIPPIN 

Q: Congratulations on being selected as the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2024-2025. What is in store for you as the Laureate?

Thank you! It’s very exciting and such an honour, but most importantly, an opportunity for me to use the platform to highlight some of the things I am most passionate about. My mission statement as Laureate is ‘All Kids Can Be Readers’ and my aim is to shine a light on some of the ways we can ensure our most struggling readers don’t fall through the cracks. My youngest son is dyslexic and has ADHD so found school, and reading, a real challenge. Everything I have written for children over the last fifteen years has been to support kids like him, and my book for adults ‘Wild Things’ highlights some of the things we can do to better support our neurodivergent children during their school years, so that they can thrive, not just survive.

Q: What’s your advice to parents and schools for cultivating a love for reading in kids?

Check your child is receiving explicit reading instruction at school, to start with. Reading will never be fun for a child who is not properly taught. If, despite good reading instruction, your child doesn’t seem to be progressing, it could be time to have them assessed or seek out some extra support. The earlier the intervention, the more chance they will have to catch up to their peers before they have even noticed they are falling behind, which can affect their confidence and self-esteem. Then, ensure children are always given opportunities at home to associate reading with pleasure. Read aloud to them as much as you can, and let them see you reading, too. Let them choose their own reading material, at times, whether this be comic books, car manuals or cookbooks. All reading is reading, and the more practice they get, the better they will get, and will hopefully begin to seek out reading for themselves.

Q: Looking back on your first published book, how do you feel your writing style or focus has changed over the years?

Now, when I sit down to write, I often think less about what I would like to write and more about what my readers would like to read.

Q: What’s the strangest question a child has ever asked you about your books?

Why do we have bones? (Completely random and has nothing to do with anything I’ve ever written!)

Q: What’s the most unusual place you’ve ever written a draft or come up with a book idea?

I often wake up with ideas in the middle of the night and have to quickly jot them down before I forget them. The next morning I’m often disappointed to see many of them are far from the stroke of genius they had seemed in the wee hours!

 

Q:  Which of your characters is most like you?

I would say most of my characters are like me, though often their traits are largely exaggerated. For example, both Billie and Polly care deeply about righting injustices, but are perhaps braver and more outspoken that I would ever dare to be, while Jack and Buster are deep-feelings creatures, maybe more than I’d ever be prepared to reveal in public. Just as the characters who populate our dreams are most often projections of some deep part of our psyches, I would say most of my characters also come from the same place.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to focus on children’s literature?

Trawl through your own childhood memories for inspiration. Not just for memories of things you did, but how they made you feel. All readers want something that feels authentic, and I think the more you can draw from your own experience of the world, the more you will connect with your readers.

Q: Between Laureate events, writing new stories, and being a mum, your schedule must be packed! Do you still manage to find time to read for your own enjoyment? What have you read and loved recently?

No matter how busy I am, I always make sure I carve out reading time for myself. Even if it is only for half an hour a day. I would say it is vital for my work – and mental health! At the moment, I am reading, and loving, Nova Weetman’s beautiful memoir ‘Love, Death and Other Scenes’ about caring for her dying husband through Melbourne’s Covid lockdowns. While it is inevitably tragic and heartbreaking, it is also surprisingly warm, wise, and funny, just like Nova herself, and a love letter to this city we both cherish.

We can’t wait to see Sally achieve all the visions she plans to implement during her time as the current Australian Children’s Laureate.

If you wish to read Sally’s bestselling children’s literature you can visit us online or instore!

To follow Sally’s creative endeavours you can visit her website here.

Or her Instagram page @sallyrippinauthor

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