Review of ‘The Simple Gift’
Written by Steven Herrick
Publisher: University of Qld Press
Age Range: Young Adult
Themes: family, friendship, homelessness, coming of age, verse novel.
To purchase this novel click on title links or cover images.
I get goosebumps just seeing the covers of some of Steven Herrick’s verse novels. ‘Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend’ was one of my favourite reads of the last year (review here), so I was slightly beside myself to see that UQP was doing a re-issue of ‘The Simple Gift’ – perfect excuse to read it again and I’m happy to report that it was as fab third time round. My husband also picked it up and then didn’t move for several hours as he read it cover to cover. It really is that good.
In ‘The Simple Gift’, sixteen year old Billy is leaving home, leaving a violent alcoholic father for a life of no fixed address. Old Bill is a homeless alcoholic with a devastating past. Caitlin is mopping floors at McDonalds and trying hard not to be defined by her wealthy family. The paths of these three characters intersect in an abandoned train yard in an Australian country town. Add into the mix Irene, the local public librarian, who shares books and her gentle wisdom and you have an eclectic mix of people indeed.
Over early mornings, long walks, library visits and cheap coffee they discover, no matter how big or small, it’s the simple gifts in life that really make a difference. ‘The Simple Gift’ is a life-affirming look at humanity, generosity and love.
In typical Herrick fashion, every word is perfection and the combined collection of free verse poems which form the narrative tell a powerful and ultimately uplifting story. I would love to know how long Herrick labours over his verse novels; whilst the writing appears effortless, one can only imagine how long it must take to construct such beauty and wisdom in so few words.
As always UQP have fab teaching notes on their website which are written by a teacher librarian, in line with the Australian Curriculum.