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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  189 ratings  ·  55 reviews
John lives for that satisfying clink of dominoes as they topple in a perfectly timed rhythm of his own design. His sister thinks he’s a dork, but all he cares about is setting the world record for knocking down dominoes -- that and hanging out with his best friends at school. But when his closest friend, Dom, gets sick and ends up in the hospital, John and the gang are lef ...more
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published August 14th 2012 by Candlewick (first published March 1st 2010)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  189 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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This is a heart-warming story in blank verse about a boy whose best friend has cancer. There are the usual stock characters of contemporary school stories: the irritating sister, the bully, the caring teacher, the friends from all corners of a multicultural society, but it's fresh and original because the boy's hobby is unusual (toppling dominoes) and the dialogue is authentic.
I'd recommend this for 8+ if read by a teacher to a class, and 10+ for kids reading it independently.
Shortlisted for t
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quick first person narrative told in verse. John loves to play with dominoes and gets kidded by his sister for it. He has a close group of friends at school and when one of them gets sick, his dominoes help him through it. He and his friends learn the value of friendship and to not judge a peer only by their behavior.
Addresses cancer and classmates in a straight forward manner. Story ends on a hopeful note.
Would make a good read aloud as there is plenty to discuss.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Australian author Sally Murphy writes a winner here with a novel in verse about friends who discover that one of their group has cancer. John's best friend Dom goes home sick from school one day, and doesn't come back. The adults only tell him and his classmates that Dom is very sick, but this doesn't satisfy them. Kids know when you're not telling them the truth or the whole truth. Even if it's scary or upsetting, they need to know the truth. This story underscores that. When they're finally to ...more
Candice Lemon-scott
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
A well written children's book that portrays the story of a boy and his best mate, who has cancer. It's no easy feat to deal with heavy issues in a way that kids will identify and engage with, but I think this book managed to do just that. The metaphor of the dominoes 'toppling,' as the title suggests, was also poignantly used in this heart-warming story. Not too many books bring a tear to my eye, but this one certainly did! ...more
Feb 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Toppling, is a sweet book, well written. Sally Murphy captures perspectives of a young boy quite well, and some of the deep emotions that come with the circumstance he finds himself in. Overall it was not as touching to me as her previous book, Pearl Verses The World, and makes less sense as a novel-in-verse. Nevertheless, as a very quick read it is worth the time.
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kid-books
Was going to read it, and i checked it out to save from the weed shelf at my library. My 6 year old found it on the table, picked it up, so i read it at the same time as him. Not my 1st choice for a six year old, but i tell folks at my library, let kids read what they want. We have talked a lot about this book, which makes a nice change from Cam Jansen. This has an ambiguous ending, but he didn't get that, which I don't mind. ...more
This book sort of confused me. It seems very much like a late 80s, early 90s sort of book. In look, in style, in how it talks about people and issues, the illustration style, in that it has a kid who thinks it's super cool his friend has a Game Boy.... but then the copyright in my book says 2010?!?!? A part of me wants to say... oh, it's historical fiction, no big deal. But also... I'm not sure yet how to articulate it, but there is a way we wrote about/ talked about issues that is very 90s... l ...more
Anna Davidson
A gorgeous verse novel about a young boy dealing his friend’s cancer diagnosis. Sally Murphy does such a beautiful job at dealing with complex topics with compassion and empathy. Themes of friendship, loyalty, courage and illness.
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I had to read this for school and we had to discuss the topic of cancer.
The whole of our class was bawling their eyes out, including me.

Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
In this book, the main character's best friend is diagnosed with cancer and can't come to school for a while. While he is gone, the class works on individual research projects that they will give speeches about. In the end, the day of speeches does not play out as the students expected. ...more
Katie Fitzgerald
John is in fifth grade, and he loves dominoes. He doesn't play games with them; instead, he likes to line them up in complicated patterns, then knock them over to watch how they topple. His hobby becomes a metaphor for a precarious situation in his best friend, Dom's life, when John and his classmates learn that Dom has cancer and may die.

This book is very nicely done. It looks at a serious situation from the masculine point of view, and portrays all the complex emotions associated with childhoo
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Read more of my reviews at Dazzling Reads

Toppling is a extraordinary touching and valuable story that brought tears to my eyes. Murphy's beautiful verse pulled me into the story, and into the main characters head, and also into his heart.

This is the story of a boy, John. He loves dominoes, and he loves to create complex and long shapes with them and make them topple. The only thing that makes him look forward to school are his friends, specially his best friend Dominic. On the first day back to
Ms. Yingling
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
In this novel in blank verse, fifth grader John loves to create elaborate constructions of dominoes and push them over. He would much rather do that than go to school, but he does have a good group of friends, and he likes his teacher, Miss Timms. After his friend Dominic throws up at school one day, John expects him to be out for a couple of days, but no one expects that he has a tumor that has to be removed because of cancer. This causes the entire class to be concerned, especially John's grou ...more
Steven R. McEvoy
Having only read one Sally Murphy book before this one, I was not sure what to expect but knew I expected a lot. This book blew away even those high expectations. Two things grabbed my attention, the title and the cover. But the story was so much more than that. A few years ago I did a course in university on grief literature for children. It was a great course with a number of very good books. To be honest this one is better than most from that course. I read it to my son and though he is 4 and ...more
Steven R. McEvoy
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Having only read one Sally Murphy book before this one, I was not sure what to expect but knew I expected a lot. This book blew away even those high expectations. Two things grabbed my attention, the title and the cover. But the story was so much more than that. A few years ago I did a course in university on grief literature for children. It was a great course with a number of very good books. To be honest this one is better than most from that course. I read it to my son and though he is 4 and ...more
Alec Porter
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Toppling by Sally Murphy is about a fifth grade boy who loves to topple dominoes by making elaborate models and knocking them down. One day, one of his friends throws up in school and they expect him to be out for just a couple of days at the most, but as it turns out, the student has a cancerous tumor that needs to be removed and treated. The students are shocked at this news and begin to brainstorm ideas as to how they would show their friend that they love and support him. It also shows how t ...more
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kim Burean
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
John loves setting up domino runs in his bedroom. It's his favorite thing to do. He also likes hanging out with his friends. One day at school, his best friend, Dom, throws up in the middle of class. Unfortunately, it's not just a stomach bug. Dom has cancer. This throws John into a tailspin. He misses his friend and he's worried. What do you do when your best friend has a life-threatening disease?

This is a great book that explores how it feels to have a friend in crisis. It's not a super depres
Jun 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
John loves arranging long, intricate domino runs, and then toppling them. When his best friend Dominic gets sick in class and doesn't return to school, John makes domino runs instead of worrying. But then it turns out that Dom isn't just sick, he has cancer. John tells his story in chapters of poetry, the lines lining up like a domino run. But while he'll topple dominoes, John and his friends will support Dom in every way they can, so that that cancer doesn't topple him. Sally Murphy has a gift ...more
Lisa Fabiano
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love Sally Murphy's ability to convey strong emotions and tell amazing stories in verse form. "Toppling" is a wonderful story. John and his group of friends, "the gigglers", are in 5th Grade and this trimester they get to do a project on "anything". When one of "the gigglers" gets sick and ends up in the hospital,they are left wondering what is wrong, what can they do and what will happen. The day the class presents their projects an unlikely classmate shares a story that will help them get so ...more
Nov 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
John loves dominoes and creating more and more elaborate "topples". He also likes to hang out with his friends, but when his best friend Dominic gets very sick and ends up in the hospital, everything changes. This is a short book in verse with numerous black and white illustrations, making it perfect for younger readers who may be facing the serious illness of a friend. It’s a lovely, moving book that still has a lot of kid appeal. This would be a great addition to our “Sensitive Issues: Death” ...more
Heather Gallagher
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: verse-novels
Just re-read this junior verse novel about a boy whose best friend gets cancer. Sally Murphy treads the line between being overly morose on this topic by having a parallel story in which the main character John is obsessed with toppling dominos. Not only was this a great device but it was a quirky, interesting hobby that lightened the story. The third story strand about the school bully was also sensitively handled. I thought this was a good example of a verse novel that didn't feel like poetry. ...more
Jess - The Tales Compendium
This is a very well written non-rhyming verse novel told from the perspective of 11-year old John who has found out his best friend has cancer.

The importance of friendship is the main message behind this book but the subplot of a bully and why he behaves how he does is thoughtfully interwoven in the story.

This would make a great resource for teachers or parents.

As a side note without spoiling the story, page 124 is heart-warming.
Aug 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
As we finished reading, both my kids exclaimed, 'That was a great book!' It somehow strikes the perfect balance, tackling a serious subject with nuance and depth without being relentlessly depressing. The free verse format (not blank verse, as some reviewers have stated - anyone looking for iambic pentameter will be disappointed) seems redundant, as it reads like prose, but it is well written and consistently engaging. ...more
Camilla Hampton Thompson
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sam-s-shelf
I am writing this review based on my son's response to the book. He's in 2nd grade and loves to read. He saw Toppling at the library and checked it out. The next morning, he came to see me in bed and said he had been up for hours reading the book. When I asked him what it was about, his details were fantastic. So I give the book 5 stars because he rarely talks about a book like he did Toppling. ...more
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Touching as a young boy deals with his best friend's serious illness. The book gives us adults quite a bit to think about too, our insecurities in dealing with grave illness and death, always unsure what to say and how to act and in this making it worse for the person affected by the illness or loss. ...more
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i am so disappointed that this book did not win this year. it shows what true friendship really is. a bully to a caring person. sick to feeling well. friends staying around forever.
Selina Ryan
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a quick read. Simply written from the perspective of the best friend of a boy diagnosed with cancer.
Very sad
Everyone should read this book, similar to (younger level) Life on a Refrigerator Door.
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Warning, this book is not really about dominoes. I thought it would be a good game related book for my kid. She read it quickly and told me it wasn't about what I thought it was about. Then I read it and wondered how I missed that on the book jacket! ...more
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Sally Murphy is an Australian author of over 30 children's books. She's also the slightly crazy mother of six beautiful kids. You'll find bits of her buried somewhere in every one of her books. She loves reading, writing, and speaking about reading and writing.

PEARL VERSES THE WORLD won the 2010 Australian Family Therapists’ Award for Children’s Literature as well as the 2010 Australian Speech Pa

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