‘Worse Things’ by Sally Murphy with illustrations by Sarah Davis is a touching story about connections and belonging. This is written in free verse and tells the story of three characters, Blake, Jolene and Amed who all enjoy different sports and attend the same high school in a fictional town called Cowan. Blake played Aussie Rules competitively until he fractured his arm. This injury forces him to sit out for the rest of the season and be ‘part’ of his team from the sidelines. While watching the games from the sidelines Blake finds himself being shunned by many of the players from his team and struggles with this new position on the sidelines. Jolene is an excellent hockey player who doesn’t share the same passion for hockey as her controlling mum does and Amed, who speaks little English after living in a refugee camp wants to belong, but finds it difficult to communicate and this language barrier causes him to feel isolated. The common experience the three characters share is that they are all on a journey to work out where they belong and how they fit in.

The powerful graffiti art style of illustrations by Sarah Davis adds a rich new dimension to the story as they include clues, in the form of symbols and motifs, about the thoughts, emotions and experiences of each of the characters. The illustrations alone sparked many discussions in our family. The big themes also had us talking. The themes include connections, exclusion, alienation, resilience, friendship, grief, refugee experiences and family. These themes are sensitively explored in a way that is digestible for middle to upper aged primary school children. 

‘Worse Things’ is a powerful story about unlikely friendships being formed, connections sparked through kindness as well as the way life can change in the blink of an eye and the profound effects this can have.  There is a lot to unpack, feel and experience in this story. The lyrical language makes this a beautiful book to read aloud.

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