Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Review, Pearl Verses the World

Recently on the Book Chook blog, I mentioned tribes, and how important stories are to them. We all belong to different tribes, or groups, and that very belonging is crucial to our sense of self-worth.

In Sally Murphy's latest book, Pearl Verses the World (Walker Books Australia, 2009), Pearl feels as though she is in a group of one at school. She doesn't belong to the football group or the library kids' group. She can't write the sort of rhyming poetry her teacher wants. She feels as if she is fading into invisibility. At home, her tribe consists of Granny, who lies in bed and drools, and Mum, who can't cope. Yet the constant in Pearl's life is that she belongs to her family of three.

When Granny dies, Pearl is devastated. Granny was the one who taught her that poetry doesn't have to rhyme, and Pearl slowly finds the strength to write a poem that says what is in her heart, a poem that says goodbye to her beloved Granny:
"... She wasn't here
For long enough
But I am glad
That she
Was here
At all."

Pearl Verses the World grabs at your heart from the moment you see the front cover, and notice skinny, knobbly-kneed Pearl with her fine hair escaping from its plaits. Heather Potter's art work really does add another dimension to this book - the line drawings are realistic, but at times whimsical, like when Pearl is desperately trying to rhyme with "-at" words, and Potter depicts her as the Cat in the Hat! The many illustrations make this a great novel for kids who are intimidated by lots of text, as does the free-verse format Sally Murphy has chosen.

Not every child likes to read what I think of as "exploding underpants" books. Not every child is a popular extrovert. Pearl Verses the World is a gentle story about a gentle child. Sally Murphy allows Pearl to speak to us about her life, almost as a stream of consciousness, so that we feel we are sharing her thoughts. We understand Pearl's fear and confusion, and rejoice when Pearl realizes that she is no longer a group of one. Murphy's creative use of language weaves yet another layer into this heart-warming book.

I believe it's important to offer books to children that allow them to consider the big issues in life. Death and dying, feelings of abandonment and lack of power are all issues kids must eventually face. Books like this are empowering, they help a child know she is not alone, and that there are ways of coping, and being strong. Pearl Verses the World would make a great acquisition for libraries, and be an excellent choice for study in the primary school. It is a novel that offers a voice to every child who needs one.


  1. Pearl is on my Must Read list! (And you are so right when you say that not every kid wants to read 'exploding underpants' books ... )
    Oh that little goodbye poem is so poignant.

    Recent blog post: Winter issue out soon!

  2. bookchook06 May, 2009

    I agree, Rebecca. It was so interesting to read a verse novel - I wasn't sure I would like the format, but it definitely won me over and I think it will be a hit with kids.

    Recent blog post: Review, Pearl Verses the World

  3. Dawn@Moms Inspire Learning07 May, 2009

    Pearl Verses the World sounds like a book that every child will be able to relate to. Who hasn't felt "different" at some point?

    Books have the power to teach us about the world, and help us to view life through a variety of perspectives. Children need to learn that other children around the world feel many of the same emotions. That's why I think that Mem Fox's Whoever You Are would complement this book so nicely. And I know you're a fan of Mem Fox, Book Chook!

    I will definitely be on the lookout for this very special book. Thank you, Book Chook, for another great recommendation!

    Recent blog post: A "True Green Kids" Giveaway!

  4. bookchook07 May, 2009

    Dawn, you've nailed it with your comment on books having the power to teach us through the perspectives they offer. Living through an experience vicariously can help prepare us for the real thing.

    This blog is an Outpost of the Mem Fox Fan Club! Thanks for mentioning "Whoever You Are", which I actually still haven't read! Must do, must do...

    Recent blog post: The Book Chook Turns to Art

  5. Are you doing anything special for Children's Book Week next week?

  6. bookchook08 May, 2009

    Australian Children's Book Week is August, but I didn't know about the other one. Thanks for the head's up!

  7. mr fishey27 July, 2010

    =-X i like bogggs and turds and pooo

  8. :* =-O =-X :-[ :-$ :-P :-E


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