Book Review: Roses are Blue, by Sally Murphy

Available now at bookstores nationwide. 

Roses are Blue, by Sally Murphy, is a verse novel suitable for cv_roses_are_bluechildren aged from seven years. It deals with Amber Rose, a girl who panics when a Mother’s Day High Tea at school is announced. She has not told anyone at her new school that her mother was seriously injured in a car accident. Her mother is now in a wheelchair, re-learning to talk and is cared for full time by her sister in the new family home.

“I have not got used to my new mum.
Even though I love her
(I absolutely love her),
I miss my happy,
smiling mum.’

A vividly realistic perspective of the schoolchild is portrayed. It is easy to forget how unforgiving school social hierarchies can be. Amber Rose loves her Mum, but does not want her classmates to meet her, as she fears their reactions to her different Mum. As the novel progresses, Amber Rose continues to work through some of the difficult issues she faces − resuming her favourite activities, interacting with her Mum and learning not to underestimate her friends. The book is never trite, it is not filled with the over-optimistic language of greeting cards. It is real, and honest − a neat skill I think with verse.

There are beautiful illustrations throughout, their honesty matching the tone of the story brilliantly.

Last year, with very little notice, I required surgery to treat cancer. A planned five days in hospital turned into six weeks, and I’ve spent the last year rather impatiently recovering at home. Helping my young children put words to the feelings they had about their absent and ill mother was so important. In reading this book with my seven-year-old we have been able to keep working through some of the questions she has. I appreciated the opportunity to work through her feelings on having a Mum who hasn’t been able to participate in activities as much as she did previously.

I strongly believe that reading a wide variety of fiction in childhood helps to equip children with the skills to deal with problems later in life. Books allow a view into a different world, and an opportunity to examine your own response to the challenges faced by fictional characters. Roses are Blue deftly enters Amber Rose’s world − making it believable for children who read it, and a vivid remember for adults of how deeply our early school experiences were felt.

‘We are blue, I think,
because we miss Mum’s smile,
her singing,
her dancing,
her being.
But we’ll be okay, I tell her.
Because we still have you
and you are getting better every day.’

Reviewed by Emma Wong-Ming

Roses are Blue
by Sally Murphy
Published by Walker Books AU
ISBN 9781922244376

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