Worse things by Sally Murphy

cover image

Illus. by Sarah Davis. Walker Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781760651657.
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Three stories evolve in this heart thrilling book told in short snappy page long verses, wrapping the reader easily into its rhythm. Blake the football player, bent on a long career in the game he loves, is first and the opening line 'Crack', brings us abruptly to the pain of his broken arm, and moreover the realisation that he is out of the team for a long time. Jolene comes next. A hockey player with a pushy mum wanting the girl to pursue the career she always wanted. And finally refugee Amed, at a loss in his new school, friendless and with only his aunt to live with after his family were all killed, he landing in a refugee camp.
The trio of kids about to go to high school each has problems with isolation. Blake is isolated from his friends through his injury, realising that his life is football; Jolene has come to understand that her hockey team does not like her, she feels isolated from her pushy mum, her father works overseas and her mother is threatening to send her to boarding school a long way from the town of Cowan while Amed is isolated through his lack of English and it is because a teacher suggests Jolene have conversations with Amed to improve his English,that change occurs in all their lives. There are some heart warming sequences in this story which will melt hearts and help readers see the threads which bind us all.
Amed has lost all his family to war, but in realising that his aunt is now his family, has a photo of the two of them framed and placed next to the only photo he has of his dead family. His aunt gives him a soccer ball and he is able to tell Blake about it initiating Blake to show him that others in the town play soccer, but the pitch is almost hidden behind the sports field. And Jolene finally tells her mother that she does not want to play hockey, but when disaster strikes, it is hockey and the girls she thought didn't care, that enfolds her.
This is a wonderful story of finding your place, of belonging, of working out who your friends are, of reaching out.
Readers who love Sally Murphy's work (remember Pearl verses the world, Toppling and Roses are blue) will eagerly pick this up. Others, like me, looking past the cover that seems to offer a fantasy story, will on opening the book, and reading the first page be convinced that this is a story well worth reading. Teacher notes are available. Themes: Football, Soccer, Hockey, Friendship, Verse novel, Family.
Fran Knight