Pearl Verses the World

Overview

At school, Pearl is a group of one, and at home her beloved granny is fading. A poignant gem of a tale about independence, grief, and finding your place.

Pearl likes to write poems, but despite the insistence of her teacher, Ms. Bruff, Pearl's poems don't rhyme, and neither does she. She wishes she could grow gills so she could stay underwater in swim class without drowning. And she hasn't a clue why perfect Prudence bumps her desk and sends her pencils flying. Pearl thinks ...

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Overview

At school, Pearl is a group of one, and at home her beloved granny is fading. A poignant gem of a tale about independence, grief, and finding your place.

Pearl likes to write poems, but despite the insistence of her teacher, Ms. Bruff, Pearl's poems don't rhyme, and neither does she. She wishes she could grow gills so she could stay underwater in swim class without drowning. And she hasn't a clue why perfect Prudence bumps her desk and sends her pencils flying. Pearl thinks there's no nicer sound than the bell at the end of the day, even though back at home, Granny, always a crucial part of their family of three, sometimes doesn't recognize Pearl, and Mom is tired from providing constant care. In a lyrical novel told with clear-eyed sympathy, humor, and heart, Sally Murphy follows a girl who holds fast to her individuality even as she learns to let go-- and in daring to share her voice, discovers that maybe she's not a group of one after all.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Potter's evocative pencil-and-wash drawings, with their excellent renderings of facial expressions and mood, wonderfully complement Murphy's thoughtful narrative in depicting the emotions of a scene. Altogether, the tale has much to offer in terms of grappling with personal identity as well as the death of a beloved. A tender, therapeutic treatment of loss, perfect for children dealing with the baffling complexities of adult dementia.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Children's Literature - Patrice Russo Belotte
The first three stanzas of Pearl's story will plant a twisting, empathetic, knotted seed in the heart of any reader. Children and adults will immediately be drawn into Pearls' world and want to read on to discover how someone can survive young, emotional turmoil. At school, the world is very lonely for Pearl. Her peers become enemies for no reason, a tree is more of a friend at recess, and her teacher is always asking something of Pearl that she hates to put forth—in particular, rhyming poems. Not all poems have to rhyme, but Miss Bruff wants rhyme. Pearl knows better, because she has learned more than school will ever teach her from Granny. Pearl's story is, sadly, very common. She is growing up the daughter of a single-mother and raised in a home with an elderly, and now very sick, grandmother. Pearl's mother is trying to take care of her sick parent, while also providing for her daughter. Pearl is constantly reminded of how life used to be when Granny was well and an active caretaker. Pearl's sadness and desire brings with it a sense of maturity and understanding, which is why she is so isolated at school. Her classmates cannot understand the world in which Pearl is living. When Granny dies, Pearl has to abandon the hope and desire she's hung on to in order to make peace with the world around her. Told through free-verse poems, and accented by black-and-white illustrations, Pearl's story is a touching, heartfelt, and relatable modern-day account. Reviewer: Patrice Russo Belotte
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—"My poems don't rhyme, and neither do I." Pearl feels lonely. She doesn't fit in with the ballet girls, the library kids, the bus kids, or the rough kids. She can't write the rhyming poems that her teacher prefers. She longs to be at home with her mother and her Granny, where she feels safe and loved. These days Pearl's mother is always tired, and readers learn that she is caring for Pearl's ailing Granny "…I think she's in there. If only she could come out to play." The possibility of moving her into a care home is mentioned, but before Pearl can figure out how to "save" her, her grandmother dies. Children will grieve with Pearl and share in her special moment when she reads a poem (that doesn't rhyme) at the funeral. Her freedom to express her feelings marks a new time in her life of openness and a sense of beginning to connect with the people around her. This gentle, tender story is written in verse to wonderful effect and the plot moves along as freely as the words flow. Visually, this book is tremendously accessible, even for younger readers. Words like "swirling" and "swinging" are set in different type, as if they are moving on the pages. Potter's artwork melds well with the text; children will be able to understand Pearl's emotions better by looking at the expressive faces, and the illustrations serve as a counterpoint to the poignant, delicate narrative. This book is strongly recommended for a study of aging, dementia, and grief. It would be well placed in school counselors' offices as well as in public libraries.—Alison Donnelly, Collinsville Memorial Public Library, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763648213
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 8/23/2011
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 1,479,175
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 600L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Sally Murphy writes reviews for READNG TIME, the magazine of the Children's Book Council of Australia, and runs a website that reviews Australian books. PEARL VERSES THE WORLD won the 2010 Australian Family Therapists' Award for Children's Literature as well as the 2010 Australian Speech Pathology Book of the Year Award for Best Book for Language Development. She lives in Wheatbelt, a tiny town in Australia.

Heather Potter is an illustrator based in Melbourne, Australia.

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