Reviews: Three More Titles in the Sage Cookson Series

I previously reviewed Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth as ‘zesty and refreshing’ (here), and the next three titles in this lively series are no different. Sally Murphy pours heart and spirit into her chapter books for emerging readers as she takes her ten-year-old protagonist on more cultural, and culinary, adventures.

In Fishy Surprise, Sage is excited to be able to take her best friend, Lucy on their next trip, where her famous chef parents, the Cooksons, will be filming in Crystal Bay. White sandy beaches, turquoise seas, and lapping up the goodness of the best fish and chips in Australia sounds like the ultimate in travel adventures. But despite Sage’s media-shy character, she seems to uncannily draw plenty of attention when she gets herself into ‘fishy’ situations. Sabotage and jealousy of someone from the past cause clashing waves, but her calm, rational thinking sees Sage thankfully escape the unsavoury ordeal.
Friendship, rivalry and personal safety lead as the prominent themes in Fishy Surprise. It is told with energy and a propriety that children from age seven can understand. I’m sure it’ll hook them from the beginning!

Singapore Sensation delves into the mystery of the pink haired woman who seems to be following the Cooksons from their home town to Singapore. Sage’s suspicion of the shady Nancy from the previous stories is aroused, especially when TV chef Mum, Ginger’s cook book manuscript goes missing. In between the chaotic worries of cook book theft and plagiarism, we are delighted to some sensational Singaporian delights of satay skewers, curry and prata breads, tranquil rivers, old colonial buildings and Sentosa Island theme parks. Finally, Sage’s answers are uncovered – perhaps next time she won’t jump to premature conclusions.
Singapore Sensation explores all things ‘sensations’, including a myriad of fascinating sights, the tastiest treats, and an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows. It is engaging, whimsical, and straightforward to read for those youngsters hungry for a cultural, and suspenseful, experience.

Sage’s confidence in the spotlight is tested in Literary Launch as she faces the terrifying prospect of public speaking. Highly relatable, I’m sure, to many readers, the nine short chapters capture a glance at the thought processes and preparations necessary to overcome this apprehension. With a school presentation and her Mum’s cook book launch fast approaching, the household is buzzing with nervous excitement. The sensitive girl wants everything to run smoothly, and when cracks, and crumbs, begin to appear, Sage is unsure if she can cope. Disaster with cupcakes and congestion of traffic might just ruin Mum’s big day. But what better way to deliver a great outcome than by volunteering to speak at the launch… with practise under her belt, she’ll nail that school assignment.
This story is about learning to deal with stressful situations and challenging oneself in managing personal hurdles. Literary Launch is a light-hearted, enlightening and encouraging story that middle graders will speak of highly.

The Sage Cookson series showcases a delightful character in Sage; a real kid who makes mistakes but also makes the best of every situation. They are best read in succession to follow Sage’s journey and to reflect on the connections from one book to the next. Celeste Hulme‘s black and white sketched illustrations delightfully pronounce the mood of each chapter, and the handy recipes at the conclusions, and on the website, brilliantly engage the audience with this series. Recommended for budding chefs and travel adventure lovers.

New Frontier Publishing, 2017.


Review – Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth by Sally Murphy

Sometimes, you just need some good food, good spirit, or a good book to make your day, or week, or holiday season. Well, how about all three rolled into one? Sally Murphy’s Sage Cookson early reader series certainly satisfies. Here’s the latest book, ‘Ring of Truth’.

imageA bright, eager to please young Sage is the luckiest daughter of world famous TV star chefs, enjoying an exciting life of adventure, travel and delicious culinary delights. Content to take a back seat from the limelight, Sage Cookson is off on another enlightening trip with her parents to watch the filming in the beautiful Harmon Island. There they meet two sisters who will feature on the show; pastry chefs of the most scrumptious pastries, pies and bread. But the success of the segment, and Sage’s good-natured reputation, hang in the balance when one of the sister’s treasured emerald ring goes missing. Can Sage clear her name? Will they go on with the show? There is one ‘pie’-ticular piece of evidence that will reveal the truth.

Within the ten short chapters is a plot that is straightforward and easy for early readers to grasp. Charmingly, the peppering of feeling and warmth throughout adds that extra flavour of drama and emotive goodness. Murphy cleverly integrates themes of friendship, sincerity and modesty within the exhilaration that unfolds in the final scenes. And decorated at each chapter heading are the rich, black and white pencil shadings of illustrator Celeste Hulme, tantalising our senses for what’s ahead.

imageInfused with zest and a sense of refreshment, Ring of Truth satisfies its readers with honesty, passion and aplomb. This series is a treat for all chefs in the making from age seven.

Check out Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape, and Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise, out January 2017.

New Frontier Publishing, September 2016.


Lest we forget – ANZAC children’s book reviews

And the Band Played Waltzing MatildaA couple of months ago I revisited an iconic song by Eric Bogle, finding new breath in Bruce Whatley’s picture book, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda. Bogle found the words and Whatley the images that profoundly capture all the raw emotion, loss and resilience that epitomises the Great War of 100 years ago.

This collection of titles does the same. All commemorate actual events of WWI. Many embrace the incredible ANZAC legacy. Each is a significant work of art and testimony to real-life heroes who gave their youth, their souls, and tragically, their lives in the quest to protect sovereignty and country.ANZAC Ted Hero Plain as Day

‘Not everyone wins medals, some heroes never do’, but this small collection deserves your attention as absolutely as those we’ll be commemorating during the 100th year Anniversary of World War One (and the Centenary of the Landing of Gallipoli this year). Because they should be remembered.

Ride Ricardo RideAs the war first erupted in Europe, so we begin with the picture book, Ride, Ricardo, Ride! by Phil Cummings and Shane Devries. A young Italian boy’s love for riding his bike under the clear quiet skies of his village is shattered when the shadows of war appear. Devries’ splendid illustrations saturate the pages of Cummings haunting tale of human endurance. Evoking eloquence and beauty out of destruction and despair.

Omnibus Books March 2015

1915Mid-primary reader series, Australia’s Great War landed last year with Sophie Masson’s, 1914 and is followed this year by Sally Murphy’s, 1915. Each honour events specific to that time in history in spirited, easy to read novels that unite an absorbing mosaic of factual occurrences with engaging fictional characters typical of that era. Thoroughly engrossing with further releases due each year until 1918, this series provides an awesome framework for primary students to become intimately acquainted with the machinations and characters of the First World War.

Scholastic Press 1914 – 1918

the-last-anzacOur oldest living ANZAC, Alec Campbell may no longer be able to march but the true-life story of his meeting with a young boy a year before his death is perceptively depicted in Gordon Winch’s picture book, The Last ANZAC. Alec ‘the kid’ Campbell’s encounter with James, is faithfully portrayed with the help of Harriet Bailey’s expressive illustrations, alternating back and forth from the deserts of Cairo and trenches of Gallipoli to present day suburbia. Ideal for the expanding minds of 5 – 7 year-old history scholars. Visit Romi’s full review, here.

New Frontier Publishing March 2015

ANZAC Ted and Belinda ANZAC Ted is the debut picture book of author illustrator, Belinda Landsberry and encompasses two of my great loves: teddy bears and beautiful picture books for kids.

Landsberry uses gorgeous water coloured illustrations to complement a gently rhyming tale of a little boy’s beloved toy. But, Ted is a teddy bear of rather diminished appeal having survived the ANZAC campaign with the little boy’s digger grandfather. Worn, torn, and scary looking, he may score zero cute and cuddly points in the Toy Show at school but he is and was the unsung hero and much cherished mascot of the Gallipoli diggers who more than earns a place in this little boy’s heart. ANZAC Ted gets my vote too. Perfect for reading aloud with someone you cherish or soaking up the atmospheric sepia illustrations alone.

EK Books 2014

The ANZAC PuppyThe Anzacs of course included the New Zealander’s so it is only fitting that popular Kiwi author, Peter Millet and illustrator Trish Bowles are able to share their remarkable picture book story based on another real life war hero, Freda.

The ANZAC Puppy is a tender rendition of the interwoven lives of Lucy, WWI solider, Sam and Freda, a harlequin Great Dane puppy who grew into a loyal and much loved good-luck mascot of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade 5th Battalion. Sam’s tale brought tears to my eyes and will warm the cockles of your heart. It parallels ANZAC Ted in many ways thanks to the stirring sensitivity the creators use to express these tales of nostalgia. My primary-schooler is always a bit dubious about reading ‘another wartime story’. Thankfully, picture books like ANZAC Ted and The ANZAC Puppy have assured her that not all conflict ends in tears and heartache.

Scholastic NZ Mach 2014

My GallipoliThe majority of these Anzac tales will suit primary aged readers. My Gallipoli by Ruth Starke and Robert Hannaford is an exceptional picture book with more sweeping appeal.

This phenomenal, clothbound presentation marries fictional characters with direct accounts in an epistolary chronological description of the months immediately before the first landing at ANZAC Cove to the Allied retreat in 1915, then onto to present day commemoration ceremonies.

Starke is genius at capturing the moment even if it did take place a hundred years ago. She masterfully connects the reader to all those touched by the doomed campaign to capture the Dardanelles: the diggers, their families, the Turkish countrymen, the nurses, the COs and, the war correspondents. First person recollections plunge us into their places of battle and pain with powerful precision. Hannaford’s  fine charcoal, watercolour, and gauche portraits anchor their thoughts with tangible identities.

My Gallipoli reaffirms the futility of war but also underlines the courage, the tenacity and the hope that were crucial to the survival of thousands of men (and women) at that time.Each page, each Gallipoli recollection is a complete superb story unto itself.

My Gallipoli is a picture book of substantial implications for students of history and art and a glorious record of our inglorious past. My pick for in depth and animated Centenary discussion.

Working Tile Press March 2015



Doodles and Drafts – Roses are Blue Blog Tour with Sally Murphy

Roses are BlueI promised myself I wouldn’t cry. Well, maybe a few tears towards the end might be acceptable, but of course, I was dealing with another verse novel by Sally Murphy, so dry eyes were definitely no guarantee.

Sally Murphy with gabriel evans croppedIt’s not just the subject matter of Roses are Blue that tugs at ones heartstrings. Murphy is simply master at massaging sensitive issues into refined, understated yet terrifically moving poetic verse. Her words whisper across the pages with the soft intensity of a mountain breeze. They are beautiful and arresting; a joy to read.

There are no chapters in this novel. The story ebbs and flows organically in a pleasing natural rhythm. Gabriel Evans’ tender ink and painted illustrations cushion the gravity of the story even more allowing the reader to connect with Amber and her world visually as well as emotionally. Youngsters cultivating their reading confidence will appreciate this generous visual reinforcement on nearly every page.

Amber Rose’s world is turned upside down when tragedy strikes her family leaving her mother devastatingly ‘different’. Overnight, everything is altered: there’s a new school, new friends, new home, new secrets and perhaps hardest of all, a new mum to get used to. Amber vacillates between wanting to fit in and appear normal, aching for how things ‘used to be’ and trying to reconnect with her damaged mum.

As Amber’s mother struggles to free herself from her new entrapment, so too does Amber fight to hang onto to their special shared love until, like springtime roses, hope eventually blooms. Roses are Blue addresses the complex issues of normality, family ties, friendships and maternal bonds with gentle emphasis on how all these relationships can span any ethnicity or physical situation.

To celebrate Amber’s story, Sally Murphy joins me at the draft table with a box of tissues and a few more fascinating insights on Roses are Blue. Welcome Sally!

Q. Who is Sally Murphy? Please describe your writerly self.

My writely self? I try hard to think of myself as writerly – but often fail miserably because I think of other writers as amazingly productive, clever , creative people, and myself as someone slightly manic who manages to snatch time to write and is always surprised when it’s good enough to get published.

But seriously, I suppose what I am is someone who writes because it’s my passion and I can’t not do it. I’ve been writing all my life, pretty much always for children, and my first book was published about 18 years ago. Since then I’ve written picture books, chapter books, reading books, educational resource books and, of course, poetry and verse novels.

Q. I find verse novels profoundly powerful. How different are they to write compared to writing in prose? Do you find them more or less difficult to develop?

I think they’re very powerful too. It was the power of the first ones I read (by Margaret Wild) that made me fall in love with the form. But it’s this very power that can make them hard to get right – you have to tap into core emotions and get them on the page whilst still developing a story arc, characters, setting, dialogue and so on.

Are they more or less difficult? I’m not sure. For me I’ve been more successful with verse novels than with prose novels, so maybe they’re easier for me. But it is difficult to write a verse novel that a publisher will publish – because they can be difficult to sell.

Q. How do you think verse novels enhance the appeal and impact of a story for younger readers?

I think they work wonderfully with young readers for a few reasons, which makes them a wonderful classroom tool. The fact that they are poetry gives them white space and also, room for illustration and even sometimes text adornments.

What this means is that for a struggling reader or even a reluctant reader, the verse novel can draw them in because it looks easier, and gives them cues as to where to pause when reading, where the emphasis might be and so on. They will also feel that a verse novel is less challenging because it is shorter – there are less words on the same number of pages because of that white space.

But the verse novel can also attract more advanced readers who recognise it as poetry and thus expect to be challenged, and who can also see the layers of meaning, the poetic techniques and so on. Of course, once they’ve started reading it, the reluctant and struggling reader will also see those things, meaning there is a wonderful opportunity for all the class to feel involved and connected when it’s a class novel, or for peers of different abilities to appreciate a book they share.

Sally & Pearl & TopplingQ. Judging by some of your previous verse titles, Pearl Verses the World and Toppling, you are not afraid to tackle the heftier and occasionally heartbreaking issues children encounter. What compels you to write about these topics and why do so in verse? Do you think a verse novel can convey emotion more convincingly than prose alone?

Afraid? Hah – I laugh in the face of danger! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself). But seriously no, I’m not afraid, because I think these are issues kids want to read about. All kids experience tough times – sometimes it’s the loss of a loved one, or illness, or a tragedy like Mum being sick/injured/absent. Other times it’s a beloved pet dying, or a best friend who suddenly doesn’t want to be friends. Either way, these tough times can feel like the end of the world. I think when children read about tough topics they connect with empathy or sympathy, and thus have the opportunity to experience vicariously something which they may not have. And if they have been through those really tragic tough times, or they do in the future, I hope they’re getting the message that life can be tough but you can get through it. Terrible things happen in the world – but good things do too. It’s really important to me that my stories have happy times too, and even laughs.

For me the verse novel form enables me to convey that emotion, but I don’t think it’s the only way it can be done. If you look at the Kingdom of Silk books by Glenda Millard, for example, you’ll see how brilliantly prose can be used to explore emotional situations.

Q. Many verse novels I have read are in first person. Is this a crucial element of ensuring stories in verse work well or is it something that you fall into naturally?

Off the top of my head I can’t think of any verse novels written solely in third person. There’s no rule that they have to be in first, but I do feel they work best that way for me, although I’m looking forward to experimenting with point of view in a verse novel I’m planning. I think first works so well because it creates an intimacy which the poetic form enhances.

Q. I particularly loved your reference to the Bobby Vinton 1962 hit, Roses are Red. What inspired you to use these lines in Amber’s story?

It’s actually a bit of a nod to Pearl, from Pearl Verses the World, who writes a roses are red poem about her nemesis Prue – but surprisingly no one has asked me about the connection before. I was looking for something for Mum to sing, and there it was. Of course the fact that Mum loves to garden, and their surname is rose means it all ties together nicely.

Gabriel EvansQ. Gabriel Evans’ illustrations are very endearing. How important do you think it is for illustrations to accompany verse stories?

For younger readers, some visual element is essential, and I am delighted with the way Gabriel has interpreted the story. Who couldn’t love his work? Again, the illustrations can help struggling readers connect with the story, but they are also important for all levels of reading ability. Some people are much more visual learners and thinkers than others, and seeing the story really enhances the experience. And gosh, they’re so gorgeous!

Q. What’s on the draft table for Sally Murphy?

A few things. I’m working on a historical novel (prose), several picture books and lots of poetry. I’m also in the early stages of a PhD project in Creative Writing and, as part of this, plan to produce three new works, all poetry of some form, as well as writing about why/how poetry is important.

Just for fun Question, (there is always one!): If you were named after a gem or colour like Amber and her friends, which would you choose and why?

I can choose a name for myself? That IS fun. I was nearly called Imelda when I was born, and (with apologies to the Imeldas of the world) have been forever grateful that my parents changed their minds. Sorry, that doesn’t answer your question. I think if I could name myself after a colour I’d be silly about it and say Aquamarine, because surely then no one else would ever have the same name as me. It’s also a lovely colour, so maybe some of that loveliness would rub off on me and make me lovely too.

Thanks so much for having me visit, Dimity. It’s been fun, and you’ve kept me on my toes!

An absolute pleasure Sally (aka Aquamarine!)

Be sure to discover the magic behind Roses are Blue, available  here now.

Walker Books Australia July 2014

Stick around for the rest of Sally’s beautiful blog tour. Here are some places you can visit.

Tuesday, July 22nd Karen Tyrrell
Wednesday, July 23 Alphabet Soup
Thursday, July 24 Kids’ Book Review
Friday, July 25 Write and read with Dale
Saturday, July 26 Diva Booknerd
Sunday, July 27 Children’s Books Daily
Monday, July 28 Boomerang Books Blog
Tuesday, July 29 Australian Children’s Poetry
Wednesday, July 30 Sally Murphy





Today, award-winning author, Sally Murphy is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about the inspiration behind her latest book, Do Not Forget Australia.

Ideas for stories can come from anywhere. In the past I’ve been inspired by a humorous word combination (Head Hog), a poem out of the blue (Pearl Verses the World) and a fable (The Floatingest Frog). But the seed for Do Not Forget Australia came from a photo.

My then thirteen year old son, Tom, had just been chosen to travel on the WA Premier’s ANZAC Student Tour. At a parent briefing we were shown slides of a previous tour, including a photo of a previous tour group standing in front of a big sign that said Do Not Forget Australia.

The sign, we were told, was at a school in Villers-Bretonneux in France, the main destination for the tour group.  I had seen photos of this sign before, knew a bit about Villers-Bretonneux , but it was only now that I was struck by the fact that this sign, written in English, was hanging in a school in France.  What was the full story behind it, I wondered.

Back at home I started researching, and learnt of the village which Australian soldiers had fought to save, of the men who were buried there, and of the relationship born between the two countries from that day. And I wondered if the people of modern Australia were as familiar with the story as the people of Villers-Bretonneux   were. It was time, I decided, to tell the story to Australian children.

It took quite some time to find a way to share the story in a way that was accessible to children. At first I simply read and researched. I talked about the story with my husband (an unusual thing for me to do in the early stages of a story), and I thought and thought. Then, On ANZAC Day 2008, as I watched the service being broadcast from Villers-Bretonneux   on television (catching a glimpse of my son laying an official wreath), I finally found the way to start the story and sat and wrote the first draft.

That draft was only the first of many.  It was nearly two years before I had a version which was accepted for publication by Walker Books, and another two years before it was ready for publication. Now it’s out – ready to take on the world. I hope that it will be read by Australians young and old, and that they too are taken by the story of friendship between two countries, which is acted out with a focus on two boys (one in each country).  It’s an important story, and I just hope I’ve done it justice.


Do Not Forget Australia is a beautifully told story of two young boys living a world apart, one in Australia and one in France. The stories are linked by the two boy’s experiences of the same war. Both have fathers away fighting, both know what is to be growing up with absent dads.

This story is based on the world’s first tank battle that took place in Villers-Bretonneux on 24th April 1918. The Germans held the village but later than night, Australian soldiers won it back. Twelve hundred Australians died in the battle and the town has not forgotten Australia, naming its main street Rue de Melbourne.

This moving story is about Henri and Billy, two boys who never meet. Great writing and beautiful illustrations draw the reader into the boys’ worlds and bring them and their stories to life.

Instead of a building and children and trees, his school was little more than a pile of rubble. It was as if a giant had squeezed the schoolhouse in its hand and scattered the splintered remains.

Illustrator, Sonia Kretschmar captures the mood and the situation with sensitivity and realism in her compelling pictures.

Clearly, both author and illustrator have meticulously researched for Do Not Forget Australia, and it’s not just an account of history, it’s a beautiful story with messages of courage, generosity and hope.

Do Not Forget Australia is a powerful book with positive themes and introduces young readers to a part of their country’s history in an engaging way.

Sally Murphy is visiting Kids’ Book Capers as part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of Do Not Forget Australia


1st March 2012 Let’s Have Words

2nd March 2012 Kids Book Capers

3rd March 2012 Running With Pens

4th march 2012 Read and Write with Dale

5th March 2012 Karen Tyrrell

6th March 2012 Writing for Children

7th March 2012 Spinning Pearls

8th March 2012 Katwhiskers

12th March 2012 Pass It On

12th March 2012 Kids Book Review

13th March 2012 Under the Apple Tree

14th March 2012 Lorraine Marwood. Words into Writing




Today we’re looking at three very different Christmas picture books. They’re all colourful and entertaining, but the only thing they really have in common is the fact that they feature animals.


Written by Sally Murphy and illustrated by her brother-in-law, David, this story features a kangaroo who looks a little different from his friends. The themes are similar to those in Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer, but this story has an Australian flavour and features kangaroos instead.

Snowy stands out from the other kangaroos because he is the only white one. But he soon discovers that being different is also special, and that maybe he is different because life has something special in store for him. Snowy’s Christmas was a hit last Christmas and has just been released in paperback for 2010.

Kangaroo loving kids will enjoy this feel good story about family, friends and fitting in. David Murphy’s beautiful illustrations are so expressive that it’s easy for readers to know exactly how Snowy is feeling.


As the name suggests, this book features another Aussie favourite. I’d never pictured Santa as a koala until I saw this book, but it works – and a koala in a Santa suit is pretty cute.

The book is written in rhyme and can be sung to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. It even comes with its own CD.

It is cleverly written by Colin Buchanan with a very Australian flavour and features other Australian natives like Echidna and Emu. Glen Singleton’s fun colourful illustrations complement the text and there’s a funny twist at the end.


I’m an animal lover and I have to confess that cats are a particular favourite of mine, so this book was always going to appeal.

It’s written and illustrated by Kevin Whitlark and both the text and the pictures gave me plenty to smile about.

The book is written in the same vein as the Twelve Days of Christmas but features a ‘true cat’ instead of a true love.

I think my favourites were the ‘six furballs feasting’ and a ‘fat mouse in a fur tree’, but all the presents sent by the ‘true cat’ are hilarious and the ending when all the presents have arrived can only be described as a chaos of cats.

Snowy’s Christmas is published by Random House and Santa Koala and The Twelve Cats of Christmas are published by Scholastic.



Like many of Sally Murphy’s stories, Toppling started with a character. John is a boy with the slightly nerdy hobby of domino toppling. He has a very stable, happy home life, and a good strong friendship group at school. But Sally started to wonder what would happen if something went wrong in John’s life.

Using the metaphor of  toppling, Sally decided that John’s best friend is in danger of toppling. He has cancer, and John and his other friends need to figure out how best to support Dominic  while still carrying on with their own lives.

John is a year six boy who is pretty normal. He isn’t a big fan of school, but likes the chance to hang out with his mates. He has a big sister who rubs him up the wrong way.

John is honest and he is a first person narrator who can be self-deprecating, and admits to insecurities.

Toppling is for middle and upper primary aged children but is also being used in secondary schools because of the subject matter and the verse form.

It covers a tough topic, but kids will enjoy that it is a positive story, which offers hope. Also, it has humour,  and lots of slice of life scenes. The verse novel format makes it very accessible to readers.

I found the verse format of Toppling very easy to read and engaging and as Sally says,

When I see how kids love this format I wonder why there aren’t more verse novels made available to them.


I  had fun weaving domino toppling through the book, and trying to weave just a little humour into what was, by necessity, a fairly serious tale. The humour helps to ease the tension.


Writing on such a heart-wrenching topic – childhood cancer – can make the process very emotional. I cried when I wrote it and still get teary when I read certain scenes.

Toppling is published by Walker Books


This book sprang from two words – fluff and gruff – which ended up being the first two end rhymes in the story, which is told in rhyme. Sally wrote the first two lines when they sprang to mind, then had to sit down and plan the rest of the story.

It’s about a teddy bear – Pemberthy – who doesn’t know how to have fun, and a doll, primula, who is determined to get him to join in her games.

It’s mainly for kids aged 2 to 6, although Sally says she has  shared it with much older kids (even high school boys).

It’s a feel-good book, with beautiful pictures by talented illustrator Jacqui Grantford. And, because it is written in rhyme, it makes a good read-aloud for story sessions.

Kids are amazed when they realise that the bear on the cover is an illustration, not a photo. The artist is so clever!

Pemberthy Bear is covered in fluff but, as the opening page reveals, he is mean and gruff.  But really, he isn’t so tough – he’s just shy and a little insecure, and he learns to be braver.

Sally says that the hardest thing about writing Pemberthy Bear was getting the rhyme and rhythm just right. Writing in rhyme is far more difficult than many people think.

I wrote many, many drafts of this story to get it just right.

Pemberthy Bear is published by New Frontier.


Author Sally Murphy grew up writing stories and planning that she would one day be a published children’s book author.  She says that when she grew up she found it a little harder than she imagined to get published.

But I didn’t give up on that dream. I kept writing and submitting and learning the craft and, with persistence, I finally managed to get my first books published.

Sally is the author of thirty books ranging from educational resources, to fiction and nonfiction reading books, picture books and verse novels. The thing she enjoys most about writing is knowing that children are actually reading and enjoying her stories.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than having a young reader telling me they like one of my books. Seeing my name on a front cover comes a pretty close second. It is pretty awesome seeing something I wrote produced as a real book.

On the downside, Sally says, you can sweat for months or years on a story and then not get to see it published.

Sometimes that is really tough. But I have learnt that no piece of writing is wasted, because with every new story I write I get better and better – and some of my early stories which were rejected I look back now and realize they simply weren’t good enough.

Sally says that when she realized she was going to need a day job she became a high school English teacher. She figured that a job which involved books and kids would  be a good start until she became an established author.

I did like being a teacher, but I am not currently teaching, although I still need a part time day job to supplement my writing income. These days I  work in local government, running a community resource centre.

According to Sally, her greatest writing achievement has been managing to get published. She says the fact that a publisher takes a risk investing time and money producing one of your books is a huge achievement for any writer.

Another awesome thing has been the awards and shortlistings which my verse novel, Pearl Verses the World, has achieved. Most recently, that book has been shortlisted for the CBCA Children’s Book of the Year Awards, which is a dream come true for me.


I think each of my books is very different, though I guess many of them show a child character trying to figure out their place in the world, in the midst of whatever problem is confronting them.


Number one tip is to spend as much time reading as you do writing. If you are not reading new release children’s books all the time then you you have little chance of success. You need to both know the market and also watch and absorb what does and doesn’t work in other people’s writing. If you don’t have time to read then you don’t have time to be a writer.

Secondly, develop patience and resilience. Getting your work to publishable standard takes time and perseverance. And getting it accepted is hard. be prepared for rejection, and don’t give up if it takes years to get published. If you are serious about being published, don’t take rejection personally. Your first book may never be published. But by the time you have exhausted all avenues with that manuscript you should have been busily producing the next one, and the one after that.


I have had a little hiatus the past few weeks because I’ve been travelling and got a little overwhelmed with commitments. But I am just about to get back into editing another verse novel which I think is getting close to finished. I am also researching a picture book, and have some rewrites to do on a longer novel.

When Sally is not writing or working her day job, she is busy looking after her six kids (aged 9 to 23), reviewing books (she runs website, blogging or updating her facebook and Twitter accounts.

Learn more about Sally and her work at

We’ll be featuring Pemberthy Bear and Toppling this Friday on Friday Book Feature

Welcome to Kids’ Book Capers

I’m so excited to be one of the new bloggers for Boomerang Books. My new blog, Kids’ Book Capers is going to be full of fun things to do with books, and the people who write and illustrate them.

Today is a special day for Australian Children’s Books with the announcement of the CBCA Shortlistings and Notable books for 2010

Congratulations to all the authors, illustrators and publishers whose books have been recognised in this year’s awards.

So many great books by so many wonderful authors and illustrators. And many of these talented people will be visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about how they write and draw, and create the characters and stories we love.

Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy is just one of this years worthy CBCA winners.

Pearl needs poetry to help her get through the hard things that are happening in her life – the illness of her granny, being accused of stealing someone’s boyfriend, and clashing with her teacher over poetry that doesn’t rhyme.

When you read Pearl Verses the World, you feel as if Pearl sat on author Sally Murphy’s knee and spoke to her – asking for her story to be told.

Sally says,

I had wanted to write a verse novel for some time – it was on my list of vague ‘to-dos’.  I loved the form and thought that one day I would sit down, really study the form in detail, look for books or articles on writing the verse novel and then eventually sit down and have a go at one myself. In reality, this isn’t what happened. Instead, the story came to me in verse from, and so that is how I wrote it. When the verses first started coming, I didn’t realise I was going to sit down and write a verse novel.

Over coming posts, we’ll be talking to other authors and finding out  about books to make you giggle, books to scare your pants off, and books that have just been released.

If you want to find out why some kid’s authors have never grown up, stay tuned to Kid’s Book Capers every Monday and Wednesday, and sometimes on Fridays.