Review Blog

Mar 21 2011

Pearl by Sally Murphy

cover image

Walker Books, 2010.
(Ages 9+) Recommended. First published in Australia this little gem found its way into my hands following a recommendation from one of the children I work with. Written in blank verse, this is the story of Pearl who lives with Mum and Granny. However Granny is suffering from dementia and is very ill. Pearl finds it hard to let go and resents the daily demands and routines of school when the rest of her life is falling apart. In class she feels alone - in a group of one and is increasingly angry at her teacher's insistence that they write poetry 'with lots of rhyme and rhythm.'
I read this in one sitting and that is part of its appeal; at eighty pages it is a short story, but it's also a giant in terms of scope and intensity. There is strong emotional power and although written sparingly, nothing is glossed over. Pearl's rage and loss, her sense of isolation and the way in which she comes to terms with her changing world are all revealed as is her Mum's grief, which adds greatly to the realism. At the funeral Pearl reads her own special poem for Granny, a poem that doesn't rhyme but which says the things Pearl wants to say.
Heather Potter's illustrations deserve a special mention. They appear on every page and all are of people - Mum, Granny, Pearl and the cast of characters who support her. They fizz with life, giving a sense of comfort and adding hugely to the story's emotional appeal. Aimed at primary aged children, this is gentle enough for youngsters to read independently, but will doubtless generate lots of discussion if read aloud.
Claire Larson

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