Monday 11 May 2015

Billie’s Great Desert Adventure

Billie’s Great Desert Adventure by Sally Rippin, illustrated by Alisa Coburn (Hardie Grant Egmont)
HB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9781760124434

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

Billie’s Great Desert Adventure is part of Sally Rippin’s new picture book series, featuring a younger Billie than in her well-known and much loved Billie B Brown junior fiction series.

Here, Billie attends ‘kinder’ or preschool. She excitedly arrives at kinder on a rainy day wearing her duck boots, anticipating puddle jumping and outdoor fun, only to learn she must remain inside. Barricading herself in a pile of cushions, Billie realises the possibilities they hold for creative play when Jack (of Rippin’s ‘Hey Jack’ series) arrives on the scene, excitedly interpreting the cushion pile as a cave. The two then embark on a magical adventure that references Aladdin, complete with treasure, thieves and a magic carpet ride. Reflecting the boundless imaginations of preschool-aged children, the story immerses the reader in a fast-paced, fantastical journey, only ending when Billie and Jack emerge from their cushion cave in time for an all-important snack.

Alisa Coburn’s vibrant illustrations have a timeless, retro feel, and help bring the story to life. The expressive faces of the characters reveal a gamut of emotions from fear to elation as Billie and Jack devise a way to thwart the thieves, further bring the reader along for the ride.

Rippin’s foray into picture books allows a greater exploration of language than the conventions of her read-alone junior series’ both allow. It introduces the 3 to 5 year old set to the worlds of Billie and Jack, paving the way for a love of reading and an eventual confidence to tackle the Billie B Brown and Hey Jack novels. Interestingly, Billie’s earlier dismissal of reading books when she arrives at kinder is counteracted by Coburn’s strategic inclusion of imagery of opened books strewn on Billie’s and Jack’s cushion cave. Just like the kids’ adventure, the books look to be Aladdin-inspired, hinting at the inspiration to be found within their pages.

Billie’s Great Desert Adventure is a charming story that perfectly captures the heightened imaginations of young children.

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