Monday, September 26, 2016

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – ONE FOR THE MURPHYS

This book has been on my reading wish list for a long time and I’m so glad I finally got to read it (as an e-book from the Toronto Public Library). But a warning if you haven’t read it – you may need a box of tissues by your side for this emotional story.

Description from the Publisher:

A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family's love. 

Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child and moves in with the Murphys, she's blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong, until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She's not really a Murphy, but the gifts they've given her have opened up a new future.

One for the Murphys was written by Lynda Mullaly Hunt and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group in 2012.

As a reader and teacher:

I really enjoyed this story – it was sad and funny and had many interesting moments. I connected with the main character, Carley, right from the beginning. I was rooting for her to change and for her to allow herself to be loved. I really liked that the ending was resolved, but not in a way that ties everything up perfectly (a little bit uncertain and messy, the same way that life is messy). I also really liked Carley’s relationships with her new friend Toni, and all the Murphy kids.

I think this story portrayed a realistic situation and characters, without shying away from heartbreaking emotions. It captured my attention from the moment I began reading, and I read all the way through because I couldn’t put it down.

As a writer: 

I felt that the author chose her words quite carefully, not overloading the text with too much description or metaphor, but creating strong images so that I could picture what and where things were happening. This novel is a great example of a character-driven contemporary middle grade.

There were a lot of characters, but each one had a distinct personality. I really admired how the author gradually showed us the changes in Carley and her developing inner strength.

Opening line:

“Sitting in the back of the social worker’s car, I try to remember how my mother has always said never to show your fear.”


“My mind plays a movie for me. The movie of the night everything tipped upward and all around.”

“I feel like the things I should say are the things I can’t say. And the things I could say are the things I shouldn’t say.”

“There’s a welling up inside of me like a glass that’s filled up too much.”

Other interesting info:

Lynda Mullaly-Hunt is the author of Fish in a Tree, another book I really enjoyed! (See my review here.) One for the Murphys has won several awards and distinctions.

There is a teacher guide for this novel.

I really love the slogan from the teacher guide:  Be someone’s hero. No cape required.  It’s an awesome motto I may just put up over my computer. It would be a good one to discuss in a classroom, especially about different ways to be someone’s hero (contrasting real life with superheroes) and the ordinary people that kids might admire or think of as a hero.

Check out the book trailer for One for the Murphys.


  1. I enjoyed this one and FISH IN A TREE. Your review makes me want to visit them again.

    1. I waited a long time to read this one but it was worth it.

  2. I don't always love contemporary but I really enjoyed this too.

  3. Wow, this sounds like a powerful one. I haven't seen it before. I will have to add it to my classroom library. :)

  4. Adding it to my TBR list now. I read two other great foster kid books this year. Looking forward to this one. Thanks for the thorough review.

  5. This is my kind of story. I like to read and share foster family stories. Carley sounds like a real character -- thanks for sharing some of her quotes. It gives us a deeper sense of who she is. Like that there is a teacher's guide. Great video.

    1. It was nice, too, that the ending wasn't too neatly wrapped up. I think that made it realistic.

  6. This sounds really good. I have a few friends who've fostered or adopted from foster care, so I'd read it for that aspect. This sounds like a good contemporary with a lot of heart!

  7. I loved Hunt's Fish in a Tree, but I didn't know about this book. I'll add this to my reading list!

  8. I'm so glad you got to read this as well. It's one of my favorites. One of these days I hope to get to read it again.

  9. I remember hearing about this book when it first came out. I think the warning about the tears is what kept me from reading it!

    1. Yes, you definitely have to be in the right mood for it!

  10. Glad you enjoyed this book, Andrea. It's one of my favorites from that year.


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