Reading Aloud

“Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.”  —Marilyn Jager Adams

My artist friend Isabel G. bought a copy of Phoebe and Ito are dogs by  acclaimed writer John Yamrus and illustrated by me. She gave the book to her two grandsons.

Isabel Golson grandchildren 1

Phoebe and Ito are dogs is a story all ages can enjoy. It’s about two cocker spaniels, sister and brother, who are very attached to each other and who do everything together. They learn something important about being your true, best self.

Reading Phoebe and Ito are dogs aloud isn’t necessary to enjoy the book, not at all,  but  when you read it aloud, you enjoy an enhanced experience of the magic of this book.

Isabel was delighted to find that the older boy was reading it to his younger brother; it was the older one’s own idea. She took the photo of the two boys in green striped matching pajamas, reading the book together.

And I was really proud and happy to have created the 60+ pictures in the book.


Check out Phoebe and Ito are dogs here:


More About My “Dog Book”

Here’s an email from L.B., who bought Phoebe and Ito are dogs from me at the Florida State Fair:

“The book we bought from you did not reach the house. The kids had me read it in the parking lot while waiting for their father to meet for lunch. My son, S., said that Phoebe is like his sister N. who believes that she is a princess, but she is more than a princess. He said his sister might not be a hero like Phoebe, but she is his “best caregiver.” I assumed my children love the book you illustrated because they had me read Phoebe and Ito are dogs a million times since we bought it last Sunday.”

rob plath cover
Photo of book cover by Rob Plath

Mark A. Murphy Reviews Phoebe and Ito are dogs

rob plath cover
Photo of book cover by Rob Plath

Phoebe and Ito are dogs – A Bite Size Review by M.A.M.

Phoebe and Ito are dogs is a charming collaboration of poetry by John Yamrus with illustrations by Mish (Eileen Murphy) concerning the adventures of (a day in the life) of two adorable cocker spaniels.

Phoebe, who confesses to being a princess, and her brother Ito spend their doggy days chasing rabbits and talking to squirrels. Then, when a big fire breaks out at the family barbecue, Phoebe and Ito save the day by barking at the top of their voices, thereby alerting their human owners to the dangers of the fire outside in the garden.

Beautifully simple and equally amiable in both the writing and artistry, this little children’s book will delight and engage readers of all kinds, especially those who obviously love dogs and their doggish lives as much as John and Mish most certainly do.

If you’re looking for the ‘meaning of life,’ you might not find it here, but you will find a gorgeously illustrated metaphor of and for ‘doggishness’ that might well lighten your load, whilst entertaining you and your children for the price of a few cappuccinos, and ten minutes of reading time. Well worth the small investment.

mark a murphy head shot

Mark A. Murphy is a British writer whose poetry publications include Tin Cat Alley (Spout, 1996), Our Little Bit of Immortality (Erbacce Press, 2011), Night-Watch Man & Muse (Salmon Poetry, 2013), To Nora, A Singer of Sad Songs (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2019), and Night Wanderer’s Plea (Waterloo Press, 2019). His next book Poems: Precepts and Paradoxes is in the pipeline from Cowboy Buddha Press, USA. His work has been published in 18 countries in over 200 print magazines and online journals. He is founder/creator and editor of the online poetry journal, Poetica Review (

To check out or buy Mark’s latest poetry book, click here:

To check out or purchase Phoebe and Ito are dogs for only $10, follow this link:



Phoebe and Ito are dogs: a Book for All Ages

Phoebe & Ito COVER-artistic

Recently, I did 60 + illustrations for the kids’ picture book Phoebe and Ito are dogs by nationally-known writer John Yamrus.

The time I spent (mainly in 2018) creating these illustrations was such fun–because I love dogs, and I love drawing and painting dogs. As I was doing the illustrations, I communicated pretty often with John Yamrus and found him superb at collaborating. He had input into every picture in this book; my illustrations benefited from that input.

John Yamrus portrait

Before and during the time when I was working on Phoebe and Ito are dogs, I did a lot of sketches of various dogs, some of which evolved into the final illustrations for the book. I would scan the sketch into the computer; I’d then paint it, using Photoshop.

Phoebe and Ito are dogs is a story about two cocker spaniels, sister and brother. They are just normal dogs who enjoy chasing rabbits, watching squirrels, and searching for sticks; however, Phoebe thinks she’s a princess, never a dog. It’s a story about embracing your own nature and living up to your full potential.


The picture book Phoebe and Ito are dogs by John Yamrus / illustrated by Mish makes a great gift for a dog lover, a kid, and yourself.

To check out or purchase Phoebe and Ito are dogs for only $10, follow this link:

Cultural Weekly did a three-part feature on Phoebe and Ito are dogs:

Let It Be

“The millstones of the gods grind late, but they grind fine.”[ [1]

eileen mom & da babySince I lasted updated my blog, I and mine have experienced a number of tragedies. I guess dealing with them has kept me from writing about it until now. [Note: my father passed away peacefully two weeks after I wrote these words. That’s why it wasn’t posted last year.]

My father, Frank P. Murphy, Sr., now age 90 ½, had a stroke last year. Although we were told he might expire at any time, he didn’t. Hasn’t yet. Meanwhile, he’s in a nursing home. He’s improved in rehab so he can walk with a walker. He genuinely upbeat. He supports my poetry and art. I visit him as often as I can.

My mother, Carol C. Murphy, who’s had Parkinson’s Disease for a number of years, passed away in December 2018. The Parkinson’s was really rough on her the last few months of her life. We gave her a big funeral, since we thought that was what she might want. I was pleased to see and talk to many friends of my mom at the funeral who were like long-ago friends of mine—never forgotten.

mother 9-28-17

My father’s sister, Margaret M. Murphy, died in September 2018. She was a wonderful friend, a retired teacher and social worker specializing in adoptions. But in her 70s, she gradually came to suffer greatly from Alzheimer’s Disease. It was sad to say goodbye to her.

Uncle Joe, Aunt Margaret, & Dad-teenagers
Uncle Joe, Aunt Margaret, & my father as teenagers

My husband’s father Bob Derry had a stroke, too, last year. Unfortunately, he did not recover. He slowly declined and passed away last month (February 2019). My husband and his brother took care of their father 24/7 before he passed away.

3. bob derry may 2018
Bob Derry in 2018

Our 17-year-old cat Luckie passed away peacefully in 2018. He had gotten very frail. He will be missed.


In some ways the worst of all, our dog York, a purebred black Lab, died suddenly in October. We don’t know exactly why, but he started vomiting heavily one night and again in the morning. We rushed hum to the vet, who noticed improvement, but kept him. The next day, he had a big seizure. The vet gave him Valium. She recommended a specialty vet in Tampa, and we loaded up the unconscious dog in our car to take him there. When we got to the vet bin Tampa, poor York was gone. At least the drug helped him slip away while feeling no pain. My handsome, good boy York will be (greatly) missed.

york closeup-1

Meanwhile, our senior dog Savane, age 16 /2 (that’s > 100 human years), keeps on trucking, somehow. He’s half-blind from cataracts and has dry-eye, so we take him out on a leash, even in our fenced-in yard. His hind legs don’t work well, and he can’t do stairs anymore. So we have excused him from commands to “sit” or “lie down.” Also, my husband has constructed a concrete ramp on the porch so Savane doesn’t have to go up the stairs. Also, we have to take him out every couple of hours, since he can’t hold it like a younger dog. Sometimes, when he’s quiet and sleeping, I watch for little movements of his, like his chest rising and falling, to report to me that he’s still alive. {Savane passed away peacefully last June.]

savane on bed

And then there’s our 13-pound 2-year-old bundle of loving (and licking) fur Cookie. She’s a Chi-Spaniel, i.e., cross between Chihuahua and Spaniel. She is the joy of my husband and my lives.

Cookie portrait

[Almost a year after these events, I’m still heartbroken.]

[1] A hexameter by an unknown poet, cited by sceptic philosopher, Sextus Empiricus (2nd century) in his Adversus Grammaticos as a popular adage. D.L. Blank, trans. (1998).

“Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot?”–Late December 2017

Cookie says, “‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'”

Update on my dogs:

After the savage pit bull attack last month (see the previous blog), my dogs York (black Lab, 8), Savane (Spaniel mix), and Cookie (2, Chi-Spaniel) were injured and had stitches and drains. Now they have managed to recover: their stitches are out, and they’ve returned to their normal activities–looking for food, barking, sleeping.

Waiting for treats-1
waiting for a treat

Clarification re: Cats

I love cats as much as I love dogs. Our cute, furry, loving cat Luckie died two months ago from old age–he was 17. I haven’t “replaced” Luckie with another cat (Well, Luckie can’t be replaced, of course). But we have three dogs. That’s enough, I figure.

Quickstraw, my neighbor’s cat


Dog Fight: Pit Bull Attack!

One Saturday morning two weeks ago, I let my dogs out into our fenced-in front yard. It was still dark. They started barking.  Then, chaos.

A pack of three pit bulls forced their way in through a hole in the fence and immediately attacked. It was horrible. My dogs were York, a 65-pound black Lab, Savane, a 45-pound  senior Spaniel, and Cookie, a 15-pound Chi-Spaniel. These attacking dogs were a muscular 70 pounds each.

One dog chased after tiny Cookie. York, our Alpha dog tried to protect her. He got bitten in the flank for his efforts. Cookie raced into the shelter of the bougainvillea vines, and the pit bull followed.

Bougainvillea are beautiful, but their thorns are a deterrence. Near the roots is a small, cave-like space. Here is where Cookie went to hide. It may have saved her life.

Bougainvillea in bloom
Bougainvillea in bloom

I ran into the bougainvillea after Cookie and the pit bull. I was hitting the pit bull in the eyes and snout with my metal flashlight. I was kicking. The pit bull was trying to shake Cookie by the neck as if killing a cat or squirrel. This went on for an eternity.

Suddenly, Cookie got free. She scampered across the yard and under my car. The pit bull joined the two others who had Savane on his back, still biting Savane, although Savane had surrendered.

I started yelling and kicking. My husband, who’d been asleep, came out and joined me, and the stray pit bulls finally left.

All our three dogs required stitches at the vet’s.  York only had one deep bite. Cookie’s abdomen had a huge gash, but luckily no internal damage. Cookie’s leg was also slashed so deeply, the vet put a wrap around the whole leg. But Savane was injured the worst. He had a ring of bite marks around his neck where normally a collar would go. Cookie and Savane’s wounds required drains.

I blame this incident on bad dog owners. I have nothing against pit bulls: my family member has two pits bull mix dogs who are sweet and non-aggressive. I feel it’s wrong to train your dog to be aggressive and dangerous to other dogs or to people.

I wrote an article for Cultural Weekly about the dog fight. The article has more photos and details. Here’s the link:








Writer on the Storm

The hurricane arrives, and it is  loud. The over-hundred-miles-an-hour wind howls like a freight train.

The hurricane is coming, the hurricane is coming! I live in Central Florida, right smack in Hurricane Irma”s path. When we find out the storm is headed straight for us, we stockEMurphy-Tropical Storm up on flashlights, water, and gasoline.

The winds have picked up by 5 o’clock Sunday when our guests arrive, two young men and their dog, cat, and four kittens. They rent a mobile home, unsafe in a hurricane. Our house is solid concrete block.

The hurricane arrives, and it is  loud. The over-hundred-miles-an-hour wind howls like a freight train. The electric power surges periodically. We hold our breaths, expecting the electricity to go out. It finally does at 1:30 a.m.

Right about then, the eye of the storm arrives.

More on this story later…