Worse Things by Sally Murphy

The thing I love about verse novels is that they pack so much emotion and imagery in to so few words. Each chapter or poem is like a snapshot of the character’s life. Worse Things is Sally Murphy’s fourth illustrated verse novel and this story is proof of her mastery of this form of storytelling. Sally takes us inside the lives and minds of three very different kids whose stories intertwine.

Jolene is the daughter of two doctors. Her mother is always busy but lives her life vicariously through her daughter. Her mum’s dreams of hockey stardom were shattered when she was younger and she just wants her daughter to excel in the sport. Jolene hates hockey. She also hates that her father is saving lives on the other side of the world rather than being at home with her. Blake is footy-mad but his season is over when he fractures his arm. He doesn’t feel included with his footy mates and doesn’t know who he is without footy. Amed is a refugee who has spent most of his life in a refugee camp. He now lives in Australia with his Aunty but he knows very little English. This leaves him feeling left out and struggling to make friends. There are always worse things than a nagging mum, missing out on footy or not having friends.

I loved each of the characters because they are all dealing with their own issues. My favourite character was Amed because he had been through a lot in his life and he was able to put things in to perspective more than Jolene and Blake. I especially loved this thought from Amed:

‘If I could talk to you
I might explain
just what it’s like
to be an outsider since birth
to be so outside
you wonder if you will ever be safe.

And then
when you finally are
to find yourself kept separate again
by the invisible fence of language.’

Sally’s writing is just so beautiful and her imagery so rich. This is a story that works so well in verse form, and like many stories told in verse, it probably wouldn’t have the same impact as a novel. Sarah Davis’ bright, graffiti-style cover will make the book jump off the shelf too.

Grab yourself a comfy spot and an hour or two to savour this wonderful book.

Sage Cookson series by Sally Murphy

Australian author Sally Murphy has recently launched her fantastic new series of books following the adventurous life of Sage Cookson.  Sage isn’t your average 10-year-old.  Her parents are television chefs who travel around Australia and the world meeting lots of different people, sampling the food and learning new cooking techniques.  They then share their new knowledge with their huge TV audience.  This means that Sage gets to travel with them, tasting lots of yummy food herself and getting into all sorts of adventures.  There are two books in the series so far:

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In Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape Sage and her parents visit a chocolatier to film a segment for their TV show. Things go drastically wrong when the competitive spirit gets the better of the chocolatier. 

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In Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth Sage and her parents visit a bakery to film a segment for their TV show. They are all in for a bit of a surprise when a treasured ring goes missing.

These books are perfect for early readers who are growing in confidence or for slightly older children who want a quick read.  The font is large, the chapters are short and there is lots of action to keep readers engaged.  I really like the way that Sally has given Sage the sense of a normal life by connecting her with her friend through the text messages they send to each other.  They are perfect for fans of Billy B. Brown but especially for kids who love cooking and baking and are fans of the many cooking shows on our TV screens.  Each book includes a recipe at the end (relevant to the story) that kids can make themselves.

If you’re looking for a fun new series for 7-10 year olds then Sally Murphy’s Sage Cookson series is perfect.

Check out www.sagecookson.com.au for more information about the books and some great recipes to try.