Dear Sally Murphy, I love your novels-in-verse!

Murphy, Sally

Walker Books kindly sent me some children’s poetry books to share and review on Poetry Box. I was very excited to see two novels-in-verse by Sally Murphy.  I have a challenge for you below to celebrate!

Sally Murphy is an Australian children’s author, poet and reviewer who lives in a country town in Western Australia. She has six children.

I think her two novels-in-verse are magnificent: Pearl Verses the World (2009)and Toppling (2010).

So what is a novel-in-verse? You could think of it as one very long poem! But it is more than that. It is a story in the shape of a poem. Think of it as a very long story with line breaks (so the words don’t go to the end of the line). This gives the story RHYTHM! You might find lots of other poetry features as well (similes, metaphor, rhyme, alliteration, repetition).


Pearl-190   Pearl-190   Pearl-190

The first book, Pearl Verses the World, is about Pearl. Pearl thinks she is all alone and doesn’t fit into any of the cool groups at school. I love the way ‘verses’ in the title is a pun. It means Pearl writes verses but it also means she is against (versus) the world.

Pearl has an important group though and that is her family: Pearl, her mum and her Granny. Her dad took off before she was born!  And then her Granny gets really, really sick. You will have to read the story to find out what happens.

Pearl is fed up with her teacher trying to make her write poems that rhyme. I am going to read a bit from the book at the Auckland Writers Festival tomorrow! This is what Pearl tells us:

‘Miss Bruff wants us to write poems.

I am.

Miss Bruff wants poems that rhyme.

Mine don’t.

Rhyme is okay, sometimes

But my poems don’t rhyme

And neither do I.’


I agree! Poems can rhyme and be wonderful but poems can notrhyme and be wonderful. Near the end of the book, Pearl remembers her Granny had told her that poems can be written in all kinds of ways. That we all find our own way to write poems. I think that is very lovely indeed. I think we can play with all kinds of things when we write poems, but in the end we discover a way that fits us. That is what I do as a poet!

This what Pearl’s wise Granny said:

‘A poem comes

When it is needed

And writes itself

In the way it needs

To get its point across.’


This is a wonderful, wise, sad, funny, happy, surprising novel-in verse. I do hope you find a copy to read. Maybe it will inspire you to write a story in the shape of poem. Play with the rhythm and play with the line breaks!


Toppling-190   Toppling-190   Toppling-190

The second book, Toppling, also has a title that means lots of different things. This is the story of John who loves dominoes but whose best friend, Dominic, gets very sick. John loves playing dominoes (not the usual game where you match the dots) and building magnificent structures that topple over. He builds bridges, stairs, squares and spirals out of hundreds of tiles. It made me want to try!  And then he topples them over. When Dominic gets so ill you don’t know if he will live, it as though their whole word topples over and all the people in it. John topples, Dominic topples and so does the whole class–especially the bully, Ky!

Poems can be about sad, tough, difficult things as this novel-in-verse is. Sometimes they are about things that really happen to you and sometimes they are about made-up things.

This story is about cancer and that is a big scary subject but what I loved about this story is it helped me see it a bit differently. It wasn’t a big scary monster in the room.

I loved the voice of John. I got caught up in the rhythm of his words and, as I read, I felt sad and glad and sad and glad and glad again. I loved it. This is a book to read and savour.


Why don’t you have a go at writing a LONG story in the shape of a poem?  A story-verse!  You will have to pay attention to the rhythm and the line breaks! You will have to make sure every bit matters. Sometimes a long story has bits in it you don’t need. You will need to listen to every line. Try reading it to someone before you send it to me.


DEADLINE for your Story-Poem Challenge: Wednesday June 4th

Send to Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email. PLEASE say it’s for the Story-Poem challenge.

I will post my favourites from all the Story-Poem Challenges and have a book prize for some poets (Year 0 to Year 8).


1 thought on “Dear Sally Murphy, I love your novels-in-verse!

  1. Pingback: What is a verse novel?

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