Review: Pearl Verses the World

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Pearl Verses the WorldPearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy
Published by Candlewick on August 23, 2011
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 80
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

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.

When I was a kid, I remember going through similar lessons on poetry, although I don’t think the unit was anywhere near this extensive, and I hated them. Of course, the stress was more on the different kinds of poetry than just on the rhyming ones. Here’s the thing: I don’t understand poetry that doesn’t rhyme. For the most part, poetry just seems (unfairly) to me to be prose that has been formatted differently. Blank verse, especially, confuses the heck out of me logical-minded brain. Even now, I envy Pearl her ability to speak in poetry.

Pearl’s poems are simple and charming. They cover her roving thoughts on her grandmother’s health, death, social groups at school, poetry, gender roles, family and boys. Pearl has a definite personality that comes across in her meandering evaluations of certain topics, like fairy tales: “But I wonder, / Why does the prince need to be handsome? / I wonder if all princes / are supposed to be handsome” (9). She also wonders why the princesses don’t just save themselves. Good question, Pearl. Something tells me she won’t much like Twilight when she reads it.

Pearl Verses the World is a sweet, simple story, ideal for children dealing with the loss of a loved one. Or, perhaps, just for those who love poetry, whether or not it rhymes. As Pearl poets (verbed!), “Rhyme is okay sometimes, / but my poems don’t rhyme / and neither do I” (4). Ergo why I made what is probably the strangest song association with this book for children; I just think Pearl and Eminem would see eye to eye on this point about the art of poetry/rapping.

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