The Simple Gift

( 4 )


I'm not proud.
I'm sixteen, and soon
to be homeless.

Weary of his life with his alcoholic, abusive father, sixteen-year-old Billy packs a few belongings and hits the road, hoping for something better than what he left behind. He finds a home in an abandoned freight train outside a small town, where he falls in love with rich, restless Caitlin and befriends a fellow train resident, "Old Bill," who slowly ...

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I'm not proud.
I'm sixteen, and soon
to be homeless.

Weary of his life with his alcoholic, abusive father, sixteen-year-old Billy packs a few belongings and hits the road, hoping for something better than what he left behind. He finds a home in an abandoned freight train outside a small town, where he falls in love with rich, restless Caitlin and befriends a fellow train resident, "Old Bill," who slowly reveals a tragic past. When Billy is given a gift that changes everything, he learns not only to how forge his own path in life, but the real meaning of family.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The third of Australian author Steven Herrick's free verse novels that began with Love, Ghosts, and Facial Hair, The Simple Gift, centers on 16-year-old Billy Luckett, who runs away from his alcoholic father to make his own way: "I'm poor, homeless/ but I'm not stupid." The poems are written from the points of view of Billy, Old Bill (who he meets while living in a train car) and Caitlin, Billy's love interest-a girl from a wealthy family who works at McDonald's. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
In the powerful style of Mel Glenn, Sonya Sones, Virginia Euwer Wolff, and David Levithan, Australian poet Herrick has etched a free-verse novel about independence, homelessness, and the forces that move human nature. Sixteen-year-old Billy Luckett leaves a destructive home life and finds shelter on an old freight car train. Meeting up with hobo Old Bill gives both characters an opportunity to know themselves. Billy eats leftovers from the garbage at a local McDonald's and fortunately connects with a wealthy teen, Caitlin, whose menial job is mopping the floors there. There is a genuine magnetic attraction between these kids and the free verse authenticates their feelings, their environments and the themes of the story. Chapters are marked by the characters' names and revealing quotes foreshadow each chapter. The reader is easily drawn into this lyrical format, as though one were listening to a musical ballad. The "simple gift" is a generous one, from Old Bill to Billy, but it also represents a metaphor for life in this poignant examination of family, social structure and the invisible face of homelessness. Billy has the strength of a champion and the story is uplifting in spite of tragic loss. This is a quick read with great depth and a wonderful title for endless discussion. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse, 192p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Nancy Zachary
Australian poet Herrick's stream-of-consciousness free-verse novel follows sixteen-year-old Billy as he hops a freight train to run away from his abusive father. He lands in Bendarat, a once-thriving small town in western Australia, and moves into an abandoned train carriage. Stopping at McDonalds, Billy buys a small lemonade and helps himself to food left on tables. There he meets wealthy Caitlin, who surprises him by confessing "I hate mopping" instead of turning him in to the manager. Old Bill, living in the next carriage, is worn and gray before his time, drowning himself in beer to block out the memories of his dead wife and daughter. Billy brings food while Old Bill gives advice-how to live cheaply and where to find work. For Billy, Bendarat is perfect-a cozy carriage, a great library with a friendly librarian, a river to bathe in, a confidant in Old Bill, and a budding relationship with Caitlin. Billy has nothing to offer but the gift of friendship and a listening ear, but when the cops and welfare threaten, that simple gift is more than enough. Told in alternating voices, the story flows smoothly and seamlessly, a silent dialogue in the mind. Parts of Billy's life are not pretty, and the language is appropriately strong. Sex is present as Billy's relationship with Caitlin grows, but it is discrete and sweet. Fans of Herrick's companion novels, Love, Ghosts, and Facial Hair (Simon Pulse, 2004/VOYA June 2004) and A Place Like This (2004/VOYA June 2004), will find that his third novel is even better, telling a more compelling story with appeal for reluctant readers as well. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; JuniorHigh, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Simon & Schuster, 192p., Trade pb. Ages 12 to 18.
—Roxy Ekstrom
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-A free-verse novel told in three voices. Billy, 16, says good riddance to his abusive father and hops a freight train. Settling in a small town in Australia that has a friendly librarian and a train yard with abandoned cars to call home, he adjusts quickly to life, figuring out how to eat and keep clean. Intelligent and mature, the teen thinks about cruelty, compassion, and what his life has become-"I'm poor, homeless, but I'm not stupid." He meets and falls in love with Caitlin, a rich and dissatisfied girl who quickly sees there is more to Billy than a starving bum grabbing leftovers off the tables in McDonald's. He also befriends Old Bill, a homeless drunk who teaches him a few things, including how to earn money. Billy has little to offer but compassion, and that's what these two people so desperately need. All three of them are able to give the simplest gifts to one another in this beautiful, subtle, and sensitive story. Tough language is occasionally and appropriately used, and the sexuality is indirectly portrayed, sweet and full of love. A dramatic and compelling story that will appeal even to reluctant readers, this book exceeds Herrick's pair of verse novels, Love, Ghosts, & Facial Hair and A Place Like This (both Pulse, 2004).-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689868672
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • Publication date: 4/27/2004
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,243,477
  • Age range: 14 years
  • Product dimensions: 0.41 (w) x 7.81 (h) x 5.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Herrick is one of Australia's most popular poets. His books for teens include Love, Ghosts, & Facial Hair; A Place Like This; and The Simple Gift.

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Table of Contents

1 Champagne Billy 1
2 Bendarat 19
3 Caitlin 31
4 The hobo hour 43
5 Work 63
6 Friends 91
7 The simple gift 103
8 Closing in 125
9 Locks and keys 155
10 Old Bill 165
11 The hobo sky 179
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 16, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    the simple gift

    i read the simple gift earlier today and i simply couldn't put it down, i loved the easy read ; but i really wish that it was longer. none the less it was amazing truely amazing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2006

    The Simple Gift

    Caitlyn and Bill come from completley opposite worlds. Caitlyns family is rich and she recieves anythijng and everything she desires. Bill on the other hand left his drucken, abusive father looking for a better life. He starts living in a train with old Bill. caitlyn and Bill meet when Caitlyn sees Bill scrambling after scraps of food left by a family at Mcdonalds. The two become instant friends and lovers not minding their differences. This book is the best and you feel as though you are right there beside them experiencing the pain, laughter, and frienship amongst them. But will Bill get caught or will Caitlyn's friends have something to say about her love? This book is full of emotions. You will never want to put it down. I highly recommend this book to anyone, both boys and girls.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2005

    Hobo goodness

    This book was a real catch and a quick read! It lets you see hobos with different eyes... it changed the way i thought of hobos completely.. If you like romances, family issues and a bit of adventure you will love this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2005

    One of the best books i ever read!!!

    I would say this one of the best books i have ever read. If it wasnt for people forcing me to read this book i wouldnt have known there was such a good author out there.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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