By the River

Overview

This memorable novel in verse, a USBBY Outstanding International Book, reveals the tough and tender sides of a young boy growing up in a small, sleepy river town in Australia. Harry swims in the swamp, eats watermelon with his brother and dad, survives schoolyard battles, and races through butterflies in Cowpers Paddock. Life isn't easy--his mother died when he was seven, and he lost his friend Linda in a flood. Harry yearns to get away, but there's a mystery...
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Overview

This memorable novel in verse, a USBBY Outstanding International Book, reveals the tough and tender sides of a young boy growing up in a small, sleepy river town in Australia. Harry swims in the swamp, eats watermelon with his brother and dad, survives schoolyard battles, and races through butterflies in Cowpers Paddock. Life isn't easy--his mother died when he was seven, and he lost his friend Linda in a flood. Harry yearns to get away, but there's a mystery that he needs to solve first.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* "[A] powerful and moving coming-of-age story." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "Harry's own life moves slowly like the river, unfolding in flowing images of exquisite prose verse. Beautifully told." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Rich, vivid poetry. . . . This is a beautifully and sensitively written novel featuring a caring, intelligent protagonist." --School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly
In Herrick's (A Place Like This) atmospheric tale written in verse, Harry Hodby's first-person narration captures the ups and downs of life with his widowed father and younger brother in a small Australian town. His father named him after escape artist Harry Houdini. "I proved my name/ was well chosen," Harry says. His teacher claims, "You can get out of anything/ with that mouth of yours." With a keen eye for detail, Harry (born in 1948) recalls a forgotten era; he describes getting a bowl haircut at Aunt Alice's hands, riding his homemade billy cart down Rookwood Hill without a brake, and the people that populate his world ("They say/ Birdy Newman/ lost his mind/ in the war/ and spends his days/ looking for it/ in Freemans Bush"). Along with humor, sadness also permeates Harry's memories. He misses his mother, who died when Harry was seven, and classmate Linda Mahoney, who drowned in a seasonal flood at age 14 ("She was my friend/ because/ the day after I fought/ Craig Randall/ .../ Linda came to school/ with my favorite orange cake"). Harry wrestles with searching questions, from his desire to move away from Hobsons Bend ("Those that leave this town/ don't come back") to God's existence, in this powerful and moving coming-of-age story. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This thoughtful story, written in verse, is about a boy named Harry. Harry and his younger brother live with their dad in a town that feels too small. Sometimes Harry escapes the monotony by fishing in the local river, day-dreaming about the school secretary Miss Spencer, and listening to his friend Linda tell stories. One day Linda is swept away during a downpour. Then Harry hears a rumor that Miss Spencer is pregnant, and later watches helplessly as a taxi takes her away indefinitely. Harry seriously considers leaving town because of the gossip, heartache, and loneliness. Before long Harry is happy again while sharing watermelon with his dad and brother. This well-written title is authored by one of Australia's most popular poets. A wide range of emotions will be experienced while reading this text. It is refreshing to read about Harry's close-knit family. This story reminds the reader that life has its rainy days and watermelon days. 2006, Front Street/Boyds Mills Press, Ages 12 up.
—Mary Jo Edwards
VOYA
Harry Hodby, his brother, Keith, and their father live in a little Australian town near a river. Harry's life and the lives of various townspeople are revealed in a series of free-verse poems. His mother died when he was seven and Keith was six. Their friend Linda dies in a flood, the young woman for whom Harry has a secret crush gets pregnant and leaves, and a new girl comes to town. Harry mourns the death of his mother and of Linda and comes to realize that he is not the only one who continues to miss them. He learns about life by observing his father, his brother, his friends and their parents, and his enemies and their parents as they go about their daily lives. Adults and children in the town are a mixed lot, some kind, some mean-spirited, and some vicious, but, along with Harry, the reader comes to know and understand the complexities of their lives. The poems are simple but potent in their simplicity, blending together in a compelling, evocative story of a gentle, intelligent boy growing up and learning to deal with a sometimes-ugly little world that he, like his namesake Harry Houdini, will eventually escape. Although the setting is Australia and some terms may be unfamiliar to North American readers, these minor differences are not an impediment to understanding. This readable, thought-provoking, seemingly flawless book by an Australian poet was originally published in that country, where it has received well-deserved honors. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006 (orig. 2004), Front Street, 238p.,Ages 11 to 18.
—Sherry York
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Through rich, vivid poetry, Harry Hodby brings readers into his remote Australian town. He documents the mundane and unique qualities of daily life and the quirkiness of the townspeople, and gives a lively sense of locale. Three-dimensional characters come alive as Harry offers his insightful take on their strengths and foibles. A likable, perceptive, sensitive teen, he is intuitive beyond his years. His mother died when he was seven and now he shares his life with an attentive father and a brother, Keith, one year his junior. His father has built a nurturing home for the boys, though some wagging tongues are quick to criticize. Although there are adventures, Harry finds the town boring and yearns to escape for a time some day, but he worries that too many people have left and never returned. He also mourns for his friend Linda, who was swept away when the river on which the town is situated swelled and overflowed its banks. He secretly tends a shrine created in her honor, only to discover later that he is not alone in his admiration of her. This is a beautifully and sensitively written novel featuring a caring, intelligent protagonist.-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A teen reflects on his life in a quiet Australian town by the river in 1962. Fourteen-year-old Harry and his brother Keith have lived with their dad in a "clean home that looked dirt-poor" since their Mum died. Remarkably self-sufficient, Harry and Keith swim in Pierce Swamp, torment their teacher, spy on their neighbors, eat watermelon with their dad and walk through millions of butterflies in Cowper's Paddock. Monthly, Harry, Keith and Dad visit Mum's grave. Harry remembers his Mum as well as his special friend Linda who drowned in a flood and whose grave he also visits. With a painful crush on the attractive school secretary, Miss Spencer, Harry is enraged when she leaves town pregnant and in disgrace. Facing his own future, Harry realizes people like his Mum, Linda and Miss Spencer who leave town, don't come back, while those who stay, like Dad, "live quiet, steady lives of half memory." Harry's own life moves slowly like the river, unfolding in flowing images of exquisite prose verse. Beautifully told. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932425727
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2006
  • Pages: 240
  • Age range: 12 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Herrick is one of Australia's most popular poets and has performed his work in schools, cafes, colleges, and festivals all over the world. He lives in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, with his wife and two sons.
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