A Prayer for Blue Delaney

Written by Kirsty Murray
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Rachel Beggs

1950s Australia. Colm McCabe is one of thousands of children torn from their families in the U.K. and sent ‘for their own good’ to Australia. They thought they’d be adopted but, instead, they were sent to brutal orphanages.

When Colm’s friend, Tommy, dies after a vicious beating, Colm decides to escape. He wants to get back to England but he has no money, and the police are after him.

Then he meets old Billy Dare and his dog, Rusty, and his life begins to change. Gradually, Colm’s mind and body begin to heal, and he and Billy become a team as Billy sets to work repairing the 3000-mile-long Dog Fence. Billy has a photo of a mysterious Blue Delaney, a woman who reminds Colm of his long-lost mother. When Billy is gored by a wild boar, Colm has to track down the reluctant Blue Delaney and bring her to the hospital where Billy lies dangerously ill. All three must face the problems of the past so that hurts can be healed before they can move on.

This gripping and moving book is about redemption. I was filled with horror at what had happened to so many innocent children who had had their trust betrayed. Colm is an engaging and sympathetic hero. He’s more than just a stereotypical abused child: he’s a real person. He can be stroppy and filled with rage at the treatment he receives, but he also loves jazz and he retains a touching faith in the power of the Virgin Mary to help him. The reader becomes deeply involved with him and Blue Delaney – who can be stroppy herself.

The Children’s Book Council of Australia dubbed it ‘a notable book’ and one can see why.

A thought-provoking book that children of 11+ should enjoy.

Elizabeth Hawksley


Initially the book had a quick start, which was interesting as it showed the brutal ins and outs of the lives of orphans in the 1950s. I found the rest of the plot slow moving and the pace occasionally failed to engage me. I couldn’t work out when the book was set for a long time, as it is only announced towards the end, and although there are some clues to the year via the Queen visiting and the hosting of the Olympics, I still had to use Google to identify the date.

I thought the characters were interesting, and despite not particularly liking or identifying with Colm, I rather enjoyed both Bill and Blue: they were likable and the relationships they formed with Colm were very sweet.

Rachel Beggs, age 17