Monday, April 5, 2010

Pearl verses the world by Sally Murphy

Here is another one of those incredibly sad books about the pending death of an aged grandparent. We had a similar theme in Don’t breathe a word and Layla, Queen of Hearts.

Pearl versus the world is a verse novel – this is a format I love to read and so admire. That an author can say so much using such precise words - to me a good verse novel is like very fine embroidery. (See my other blog entries about Sharon Creech and Amy Hest).

Pearl lives in a family of just three people- herself, her mum and her grandmother. Granny is coming to end of her life and this slow deterioration is witnessed by Pearl. Each day the teacher asks the children to write rhyming poetry but Pearl’s world contains no rhyme or rhythm. Pearl is a great writer she just doesn’t fit into these narrow constraints set by her teacher. “There is no rhythm in me. There is no rhythm in my life.”

As Pearl reads her special poem at the funeral I found myself in floods of tears.

She loved mum
And she loved me.
She wasn’t here
For long enough
But I am glad
That she
Was here
At all.

There are some lovely words of wisdom in this book.

Everyday the princess say at her window
Waiting to be rescued by a handsome prince.
I wonder if the prince was as handsome
As Mitchell Mason

He is very handsome
Even though he is not a prince
Just a boy in my class
But I wonder
Why does the prince need to be handsome? I wonder if all princes
Are supposed to be handsome.

And this one :

There is no nicer noise
Than the sound of the bell
At the end of the day.

There are also some salient words for teachers and teacher-librarians in this story. I felt so distressed when Pearl was unable to find a library book in her allocated time. She doesn’t want trucks, trains or transport, and she doesn’t want horses, houses or hyenas. She needs a book to support her through this time of pain and confusion but there is no time to find one.

Pearl verses the world is another title in our Children's Book of the Year competition for 2010. It is good to see a verse novel short listed and I hope it receives an award in August.

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