Like Kip, debut author Emma Gourlay grew up with a black dad and a white mum. She now lives in Melbourne and I hope she is writing a sequel to this entertaining novel firmly aimed at middle graders who like humour and fantasy mixed in with their everyday adventures.
Kip is neglected by her dad and is regarded as a bit of a weirdo at school. When she finds an egg she hopes it might turn into an animal she can keep as a pet, and the pet might be a friend, the kind of friend who doesn’t cancel birthdays or laugh behind your back.
When the egg cracks it reveals a magical little creature that could maybe be a kitten but since it has a much longer tail with which it does some amazing things it probably isn’t. Kip calls it Buffel, which is Afrikaans for unicorn, but can also refer to any magical creature that pops into your life. Buffel is totally delightful and provides joy and affection in Kip’s life, two elements hitherto a bit lacking.
When Buffel is stolen Kip is devastated and starts an action packed adventure to try to get him back. She is helped by a new friend and his enterprising Grandad, several ghosts and her own stubbornness, courage and ingenuity.
By the way this story is set in South Africa, near Table Mountain. Since Kip is mixed race and since this story is set before 1991 her life is ruled by Apartheid. While racism is an underlying theme, the book is full of humour and joy. Other themes underpinning the story include parent/child relationships, friendships, and self-belief.
It is written in a refreshingly forthright style which coupled with Gourlay’s zany inventiveness and original voice carries the reader along. I do hope there will be more adventures for Kip and Buffel.