INTERVIEW with Sally Murphy

Today I’m thrilled to be sort-of interviewing Sally Murphy about her recently released verse novel for middle grade readers. I say sort-of because I didn’t actually do any interviewing. I feel very strongly that Pearl Verses the World is a book which speaks equally well to two very different audiences – older readers (such as myself) and younger readers (such as #2 son). So after reading the book together, I asked #2 to think of some interview questions he would like to ask Pearl and Sally.

What transpired was an eye-opener for me personally – not only an insight into how a young person interacts with Pearl Verses the World but also how my own child, who has had little experience of illness and death, reacted when confronted with such big issues in narrative.

However, I couldn’t convince him it was a verse novel. ‘Poem book’ he insisted.

Pearl Verses the World is a sensitive and skilful look at greif, loneliness, illness and death. But at the same time it is hopeful and uplifting, a celebration of family and friendship. But I digress. I’m not reviewing today, I’m introducing Pearl and Sally through nine-year-old eyes.


1 How old are you? I am 9 and I think you are the same age as me.
Yes, I just turned 10, though I didn’t get to have a big party or anything because of Mum being so busy with Granny. Still, I didn’t mind – all I wanted was to spend time with Granny and see her smile.

2 At the start of the book, why don’t you have any friends? You seem very nice.
You know how sometimes when you feel sad or grumpy you tend to stick to yourself? And sometimes when you’re feeling that way, without meaning to you shut other people out. So you don’t smile at them, or talk to them, or even feel like sitting with them at lunch or recess. That’s what happened to me. I just stuck to myself because I was so sad, and then I felt like I had no friends.

3 Why doesn’t Lucy Wong like you any more?

We used to be best friends, but these days she wants to play out in the playground, and I just don’t feel like playing those games at the moment. And I haven’t been a very good friend to her – she has tried to include me in things but I haven’t joined in. I hope we will be friends again.

4 What is wrong with your grandmother? Does she have an illness or is she just sick because she is old?
Granny is pretty old, and when people get old they can have all sorts of illnesses. One of Granny’s problem is dementia – which is when you start to lose your memory. At first it was just little things – like he’d forget where she put her teeth, or she would put the milk away in the oven – but then she started to forget more and more things, and by the time she died she didn’t seem to even remember who Mum and I were. That was sad for all of us.

5 Are you scared other people might die? What if your mum died? Who would look after you?

Sometimes, yes, I worry about other people dying. And if I think about Mum dying it is really scary, because we don’t have a lot of other relatives, but Mum has friends so maybe one of them would look after me. I might ask Mum about that – she always listens to me when I am worried, so she might tell me what she thinks would happen.
But mostly, since Granny died I know that life does go on after someone you love dies. Sometimes I am really sad that she has gone – but I am glad that she was my granny and that I had a chance to know and love her.

6 Do you think Prudence will become your friend?
I think we might not be enemies any more. She was quite nice when I came back to school after Granny died, but I don’t think we will ever be best friends. She is a bit too goody-goody for me. I like to have fun.

7 What is your cat’s name?
Narelle. If you say it really fast it sounds like the sound a cat makes.


8 I like how some of the words are like pictures – they wind and curve around. They are big and little. Was that your idea?
No, it wasn’t my idea. When I wrote them, I wrote them on separate lines to emphasise them, but it was the designer and editor who used the different fonts and shapes. I like it too.

9 Do you know anybody called Pearl? Where did her name come from?
No, I don’t know anyone called Pearl, but it is a name I like. I chose it because I wanted a name that was a bit different. Pearl is a different sort of a girl and deserved a unique name.

10 Are you a poet? My mum is a writer but she isn’t a poet.
I am a poet, but I don’t only write poetry. Most of the other books I have written are prose, but I have also written a picture book (called Pemberthy Bear) which was a rhyming poem, and a book of performance poems (called Assembly), which also mostly rhymed.

11 Are you going to write another poem book?
Yes! I have written another verse novel, called Toppling which Walker Books will publish in 2010. I have also written lots of poems about different topics which I have made into a collection, but I don’t know yet if that will be published or not. I have my fingers crossed. I think kids like reading poetry and I certainly love writing it.

Thank you for taking the time to think up such good interview questions. I really had to think hard to come up with clever answers.

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2 responses to “INTERVIEW with Sally Murphy”

  1. Three cheers for sort-of interviews! I really enjoyed the questions to Pearl, and her answers, too. They made me realize all over again how much I like Pearl as a person. Perhaps she might tell us another part of her life one day.

  2. Sally Murphy says:

    Thanks for having me here on the blog. I really enjoyed your son’s clever questions – and had to really think hard to come up with clever answers.

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