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Queen Narelle (Sally Murphy, illus by Simon O’Carrigan, Walker)

Sally Murphy is one of the best verse novelists in Australian children’s fiction. Her tenderness, lyricism, poetic voice and sensitive handling of troubling themes are what make her verse novels so beautiful, and Murphy’s latest holds all these wondrous qualities. The main character is Queen Narelle, a bossy and dominant housecat who holds court over her family. The story alternates points of view with a fellow protagonist, Narelle’s owner, a girl called Maddie. Maddie’s dilemma is a fight with her best friends Nicole and Samira that goes on for far too long. Now, Maddie is lonely, scared and reluctant to go to school. Her parents and brother try to help with Maddie’s friendship worries (‘Just give it time,’ Mum says) but it doesn’t help when Maddie experiences new things, such as finding baby bird eggs in the backyard, then remembers she can’t share the news with Nicole and Samira anymore. Queen Narelle is happiest when her family is happy, so she watches over Maddie, eager to restore peace and calm to the household. With her pet cat on the case, Maddie is encouraged to venture into unknown territory: making new friends. Brilliant illustrations by Simon O’Carrigan (his front cover artwork gloriously pops) extend the text wonderfully, and sit perfectly alongside Murphy’s warm family story. Likely to feature on future award shortlists, deservedly so, Queen Narelle is an affectionately rich and heartwarming story, perfect for readers aged 7–11.

Books+Publishing reviewer: Brenton Cullen is a freelance writer and reviewer with over 10 years’ experience working in bookshops. Books+Publishing is Australia’s number-one source of pre-publication book reviews.


Category: Reviews