Friday, May 8, 2009


INTRODUCING Pearl Verses the World:
a verse novel written by Western Australian author, Sally Murphy, illustrated by Heather Potter and published by Walker Books May 2009

A moving illustrated verse novel about a girl dealing with isolation at school, and with her grandma’s illness at home.At school, Pearl feels as though she is in a group of one. Her teacher wants her to write poems that rhyme but Pearl’s poems don’t. At home, however, Pearl feels safe and loved, but her grandmother is slowly fading, and so are Mum and Pearl. When her grandmother eventually passes away, Pearl wants life to go back to the way it was and 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.A powerful and moving story about the loss, grief and isolation that children can feel as well as touching on the sensitive issues of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease from a child’s perspective.

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For this stopover on Sally's blog tour I thought it may be fun to use verse format for the interview itself so I emailed Sally and asked:
'How would you feel
an interview
on the verse format actually done
in verse? '
I’m happy to do this,' Sally bravely responded.
I sent her six questions.
Back came Sally with: 'Hi Mabel!
Here are my answers.
Answering in verse was definitely a challenge.
You’ve kept me thinking!'
Goodmorning Sally!
Welcome to TALES I TELL. You've been on quite a journey these past days responding to comments and questions about your just released verse novel: Pearl verses the World.
Now to my questions:

1. A question of layout:
If word followed word,
crowding each line
to fill every space on the page
would the verse novel
cease to be verse?
Line length in verse
does matter.
Lines start and end

where needed
for emphasis
for rhythm
for impact.
But line length
is not the only difference
between verse and prose.
Important too are all the elements of poetry:
and so much more.
2. Narrative
setting out on no great adventure,
no mystery to be solved,
or cause to fight

or poignant tale of unrequited love.
Word pictures and
poetic imagery.
Is there more?
So much more.
A verse novel
must be two things -verse
and novel.
Without a plot
it will simply be verse
and the reader would not want to read
from page to page.
Whilst single poems can be wonderful
a verse novel
must have a story which
develops from beginning to end.
It might be a mystery
a cause
a love story
or something else.

For Pearl, it is a little girl’s
for peace of heart
which drives the tale.
3. Verse Novel:
a first person character study?
that unburdens the heart
and lets X explore
the all about ‘me’-
... feelings
... ... memories
... ... ... dreams?
Whilst it is true
that most verse novels
are written in first person
and present a character’s take on life
the verse novel does more
than a simple character study would.
The reader, too, plays a role,
along with the character
as she
works through
whatever plot is thrown at her.
4. Verses versus Versus!
An underlying ambiguity
these words.
Verse is,
of course,
another word for poetry
or a part of a poem.
Versus means ‘to oppose’.
Pearl is a verse novel
and Pearl herself writes verse
but, at the same time
she feels
that the whole world
is against her.
She has so much to deal with:
and poems that don’t rhyme.
It’s no wonder she feels
it is her versus the world.
The title is a pun
reflecting this –
and the delightful cover image
echoes this struggle.
5. Aware of
the ebb and flow
of Pearl’s observations
and changing moods -
does verse
carry these better than prose?
I am not anti prose –
perhaps if I were
the title would be
Verse Versus Prose.
But for this story, verse was needed.
The form allowed me to snapshot
Pearl’s life
and to explore her emotions
and responses
which were
as important as the plot.
6. Granny said:
A poem comes when it’s needed?
Miss Bruff, that:
Sometimes a poem just is!
How was it for you, Sally?
Did your verse novel explode
from within?
Until Pearl came to me,
late one night,
I had never tried
to write a verse novel.
But Pearl came, and whispered in my ear
as I was preparing for bed.
I wrote the verse down
and tried to forget
but soon more verses came
and I realised I had a story
which had to be written.
Writing in this form did not prove hard
but writing about such emotional events did.
I cried
and cried
as I wrote this book
but, in the end
I smiled.

* * * * *
M: Well, Sally, we're done! This has been a wonderful exchange.
S: Thanks for your time in hosting me.
M: It's been a pleasure to have you here. Enjoy the rest of your tour

Stopovers for Sally's Tour
with her Children's Verse Novel:
Pearl verses the World

01 May, 2009 Guest Blogger at
02 May, 2009 Interview and Review at
03 May, 2009 Associated writing activities at
04 May, 2009 Reader's Snapshot. Interview at
05 May, 2009 Clare Saxby at
07 May, 2009 Alice May at
09 May, 2009 Verse Novel Format at [That's here!]
10 May, 2009 Article at

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