Warning: This post contains spoilers!
Get a tissue. Get a box of tissues. Then get this book.
“One for the Murphys” has been on my to-read list for so long. Both of my school’s librarians recommended it, as well as many of the teachers and most everybody in my online professional learning network. I really don’t know what took me so long, but I wish I would have listened to these people sooner!
What moved this book up on my priority list was meeting Lynda Mullaly Hunt at Nerdy Author Night last month in southern Maine. Lynda was so kind, open, and even kept offering to help with the set up and clean up of the weekend’s event! Lynda attended nErDcampNNE the day after the author event and held several sessions where she and a panel of other authors talked with educators. She was very honest about her process and answered as many questions as she could from the audience. She even gave away copies of her new book, Fish in a Tree, to an entire room of participants!
So about “One for the Murphys”. This is a beautiful, heart-wrenching story about a young girl named Carley who is put into temporary foster care because of an incident of abuse at home. While Carley’s mother is in the hospital recovering from her injuries, Carley goes to stay with the Murphy family. After a few growing pains with her new care-givers, Carley realizes that she has been missing out on so much of what a family is supposed to be. She now has three younger “brothers” and learns what it means to be a good big sister.
One of Carley’s more profound discoveries is that she loves these people, Throughout the beginning and middle of the book, Carley resists the love offered to her by the Murphys. She feels uncomfortable and undeserving of this type of attention. Carley can’t understand why, if her mother doesn’t kind things to her, that a near stranger would.
“And that’s the thing. Most of the time, it wasn’t like my mother told me I was anything-good or bad. But when Mrs. Murphy tells me I’m smart, I am. When she tells me I’m funny, I am. When she tells me how thoughtful I am, I become that way. I swear, if she told me I was a duck, I’d be checking in my high tops for webbed feet.”
In the end, Carley’s mother recovers and Carley faces her feelings about whether or not she wants to leave the Murphys. After less than three months with this family, Carley realizes that she has worth. That she can be somebody. A hero, even. She leaves the Murphys with a new found confidence and the motivation to make her life her own.
Admittedly, I hated seeing Carley leave the safety of her new nest, but I know that this is how life really is. I’ve experienced and witnessed situations where children defend and stay with their inadequate parent(s) rather than betray them. That’s life. I think Lynda Mullaly Hunt chose the difficult, but appropriate, ending for her book.
My copy of “One for the Murphys” is now dog-eared with so many pages of wonderful quotes that I’ve added to my quote journal. This book is perfect for helping kids realize the depth of inner strength that they all possess. I hope to get this into the hands of as many students (and adults!) as possible.
Alright, before I start crying again, here’s some happy news! Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s new book, “Fish in a Tree“, comes out in just three days! Personally, I cannot wait to read this book. Lynda has said that this book is, in a way, about the teacher that saved her when she was a student. Lynda was a struggling reader and started to believe the negative things her teachers said about her. It wasn’t until middle school that her perception changed, all thanks to her teacher. It sounds like this will be another great book for sharing with students! Thank you, Lynda!
Title: “One for the Murphys”
Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Text-to-Text Connections: “Paper Things” by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, “The Great Gilly Hopkins” by Katherine Paterson, “Touch Blue” by Cynthia Lord
My recommended age range: 4th grade and up
My review: Do yourself a favor and read this book.