Verse Novels: Sally Murphy

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Meet Sally Murphy…here we are together at the launch of her latest verse novel ‘Roses are Blue’.

sally murphy and megan daley Click on title links or cover image to purchase.

‘Roses are Blue’ is a stunning piece of writing and a worthy companion to Sally’s two other must-read verse novels, ‘Pearl Verses the World’ and ‘Toppling.

All three books deal with heavy themes such as chronic illness, dementia and family tragedy but Murphy imbues hope in each story and each is told from the perspectives of courageous but relateable young characters.  Sally deals with some of the darker moments of life with care and at all times she uses her powerful writing to shine the light of hope through the darkness. Her books are for all children – those going through circumstances which may be similar to her characters, and others, who will develop empathy and understanding of the lives of others.

All three books are told in first person narrative using free verse poetry and would be perfect for a comparative study in a classroom in a Year Three – Five classroom. The verse novel format is particularly good for middle primary readers who may struggle with a long and text-dense narrative.

‘Roses are Blue’


Written by Sally Murphy and illustrated by Gabriel Evans.

Themes: family, change, accident, disability, resilience, friendship, care, compassion, empathy, hope.

I read Sally’s latest offering on a plane; I am an out and proud reader of children’s books in public places and no adult cover versions are necessary for me! Like all of her other verse novels, ‘Roses are Blue’ made me laugh and made me cry; Sally balances lightness and dark so beautifully. The writing is exquisite and appears effortless but is clearly painstakingly crafted by a talented wordsmith.

Amber Rose and her family are dealing with tragedy and change. Amber’s mum is profoundly changed following an accident and Amber is very much struggling with some big issues as well as a new home, new school and new friends. Each free verse poem is told from Amber’s perspective and verse novels allow the reader to totally enter the heart and soul of a character and hear their voice. There is no extraneous detail in a verse novel, just carefully chosen words, lines and verses. Amber Roses learns some importance lessons about family, her peers and about resilience.

 I have not got used to my new mum.
Even though I love her
(I absolutely love her),
I miss my happy,
smiling mum.



Written by Sally Murphy and illustrated by Rhian Nest James.

Themes: illness, cancer, bullying, childhood games, friendship, empathy, comfort, support, hope.

Teachers’ Notes are here.

Awards: Winner of the Mary Ryan’s Award (Children’s Book) in the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards 2010 Winner of the Children’s Book Category in the WA Premier’s Book Awards, 2010 Shortlisted CBCA Children’s Book of the Year Awards, 2011 Winner CBCA Junior Judges Project (Younger Readers), 2010

In the words of my dear literary friend Trish Buckley: Cried. Like a baby.

John is obsessed with toppling dominoes. He spends hours setting up spirals, ramps, patterns and lines of dominoes just to watch them topple. Beginning with a small push in the right direction, everything falls as it is meant to. When John’s friend Dom falls sick it is John and his friends’ worlds that fall apart. Can they face Dom and support him through this uncomfortable illness? It’s hard for all at first but John and his friends find a way to comfort Dom and laugh with him again.

‘Pearl Verses the World’


Written by Sally Murphy and illustrated by Heather Potter.

Themes: loneliness, death, grief, family, dementia, old age, grandparents, care, compassion, sadness, poetry, hope.

Teachers’ Notes are here.

Awards: Winner of the Children’s Book category in the Indie Awards, 2009. Shortlisted in the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, 2009. Honour Book in the CBCA Children’s Book of the Year Awards, 2010 Winner Upper Primary category Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year 2010 Winner Junior Judges Children’s Choice Award (Younger Readers), 2010 Winner, Hoffman Award, WAYBRA Awards 2010 Winner Victorian Family Therapist’s Award for Children’s Literature, 2010

My heart broke for Pearl and I cried real tears in front of a real class when I read this book aloud to Year Four for the first time. At home, Pearl has always had her mum and her grandmother. But her grandmother is slowly fading away and her mum is incredibly and desperately sad. At school, Pearl feels as though she is in a group of one and is it any wonder? To make matters worse, her teacher wants her to write poems that rhyme but Pearl’s poems don’t. When her grandmother eventually passes away, Pearl refuses to talk at the funeral. But she finds the courage to deliver a poem for her grandmother that defies her teacher’s idea of poetry – her poem doesn’t rhyme; it comes from the heart.

 In the fiction corner
there are pink books
full of princesses
and girls who want to be princesses
and black books
about bad boys
and brave boys
and brawny boys.
Where is the book
about a girl
whose poems don’t rhyme
and whose Granny is fading?


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Megan Daley Bio

Looking for more great book reviews and recommendations? I’m Megan Daley and you can find out more about me here.

My book recommendations (for babies to young adults) is here and you can peruse ALL of my reviews (searchable by age, genre and theme) here.

Check out my mini ebook, 'What to Read Next' or sign up for my FREE webinar, '3 Tips to Start the Best Book Club Ever'.

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  1. First Review on May 22, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    […] As a bonus,one review – at Children’s Books Daily –  also features reviews of both Pearl Verses the World and Toppling.  You can see what reviewer Megan Daly has to say, and see a photo of her with me at the book’s launch here. […]

  2. Deb @home life simplified on May 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    They sound wonderful. I worry that my super sensitive 10yo would become heartbroken but we may give one of thesevavtry soon. Thanks

    • Anonymous on May 27, 2014 at 8:00 am

      Hi Deb…I have a few super sensitive girls here at school read them here at work and absolutely LOVE them. They are written with such light and hope…just gorgeous! Tear jerkers for sure…but in an incredibly lovley way…YOU read them first!

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