Love, Ghosts & Nose Hair and A Place Like This, by Steven Herrick

I’m a normal guy.
An average sixteen-year-old.
I think about sex, sport and nose hair.
Sex mostly.
How to do it,
how to get someone to do it with me,
who I should ask for advice.

Jack is a pretty average sixteen year old boy. He worries about sport and nose hair, and how to get a girl. But not just any girl: Annabel. He also talks to a ghost: the ghost of his mother, who died seven years ago. As he gets closer to Annabel, he wonders whether it’s time to let his mother go.

First published in 1996, Love, Ghosts & Nose Hair is a classic verse novel for young adult readers. Exploring themes of first love, bereavement and family, as well as teens coming of age, in the honest verse form for which Herrick is known. With Jack as the main viewpoint character, there are also poems from the point of view of his father, his sister Desiree and his girlfriend Annabel, just one of the facets which makes the verse novel form special. Readers are taken inside the head of these different characters with an intimacy which the verse novel form especially facilitates.

This intimacy is also seen in A Place Like This, first published in 1998 and picking up on the story of Jack and Annabel two years later. Having finished school and both successfully got places at university, the pair instead decide to take a year off to work and travel. But, closer to home than they had planned, they find themselves picking apples on a farm where another teen, Emma, is struggling with a pregnancy and her uncertain future.

This classic pair of verse novels from Australia’s finest verse novelist for young adults has been republished  by UQP,  meaning they are now easily available for a new audience, and for teens who have grown up with some of Herrick’s work for younger readers.

Love, Ghosts & Nose Hair, ISBN 9780702228780
A Place like This ISBN 9780702229848
Both by Steven Herrick
UQP, 2017

Another Night in Mullet Town, by Steven Herrick

People like you and me, Jonah,
we drag down the price of everything we touch.

Jonah and Manx have been happy living on the wrong side of Coraki Lake – the side which does’t have beach access. They fish and swim in the lake, and spend their Friday nights watching Ella and Rachel and wishing they had the courage to talk to them. But life is changing. Their run down town is being sold off by a greedy real estate agent. Manx’s dad’s servo struggles to keep its doors open, and Jonah’s parents argue non-stop. The things that happen at their Friday night gatherings by the lake will bring change, and not all of it will be good.

Another Night in Mullet Town is a gritty, realistic verse novel told from the perspective of Jonah, a boy with just the one close friend (though he hopes Ella will become his friend, or something more). He and Manx have always been mates, but he worries that Manx is drifting away, consumed with hatred for the wealthy new-comers. He’s also struggling with the effects of his parents’ fighting. For all that’s going wrong, he manages to find things to be happy about, and he is a likable, often humorous narrator.

Herrick’s poetry is, as always, accessible to young readers with each poem only a page or two, enticing readers to read just one more. The use of the verse novel form means that there is emotional depth, character development and a wonderful sense of place, delivered with a satisfying compactness which means it will reach readers of all abilities.

Another Night in Mullet Town, by Steven Herrick
UQP, 2016
ISBN 9780702253959

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain, by Steven Herrick

My name is Jesse James Jones. Call me Jesse. Don’t call me triple j. I’m not a radio station, I’m an eleven-year-old boy.
Trevor looks down on me with understanding eyes. It’s pretty tough going through life with a name that people make fun of. ‘ven though I walk through the valley of the shadow -‘
‘Mum! Jesse’s talking to himself again!’ yells my sister Beth, from the next room.
‘Jesse.’ Mum’s voice is reproachful, as though I’ve been caught doing something sinful.

Fitting in to a new school is rarely easy, and when there’s a school bully with you firmly in his sights, it’s definitely going to be difficult. Lucky for Jesse there’s also a girl called Kate who has curly black hair and a beautiful smile. While Jesse’s helping her to save the whales, he’s also trying to save starving orphans in Africa, and his family from financial ruin.

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain is a funny story about standing up for beliefs, friendship and fitting in. Told from the first point viewpoint of Jesse, interspersed with a third person look at Hunter’s perspective, the reader is thus able to see the complexities of the boys’ interaction as well as what is happening in each boy’s life. This adds a depth which a single viewpoint would lack.

Young readers will enjoy the silliness of scenes including Jesse’s interaction with a poster of Jesus (who he calls Trevor to appease his atheist parents) and Hunter’s ability to find sponsorship for the Save the Whales cause , whilst appreciating the poignancy of the tougher moments of the story.

Herrick is a powerful storyteller. Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain will not disappoint.


Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain, by Steven Herrick
UQP, 2014
ISBN 9780702250163

You can read an interview with Steven Herrick here.

This book is available from good bookstores or online.

Meet My Book: Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain, by Steven Herrick

I’m always excited to have a visitor here to the blog – but I’m extra excited today, because my visitor is one of my all-time favourite authors, Steven Herrick. Steven is here to tell us all about his latest book. Welcome, Steven.


1.       Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out In the Rain by Steven Herrick.

University of Qld Press. May 2014.

2.       Why did you write the book?

I’m always interested in telling a story from multiple perspectives – it’s certainly what I’ve most enjoyed when writing my verse-novels. I wanted to try the same idea through a prose novel for children. Although I’ve published twenty-two books, I’m still a novice when it comes to prose fiction – this is only my fourth prose novel, so I thought I’d experiment with the narrative by telling the story through two eleven-year-old boys – Jesse, narrated in the first person; and Hunter, told in third person.

3.       How long from idea to publication?

Over a year as the early drafts were much more gloomy and downbeat than the finished manuscript.

4.       What was the hardest thing about writing it?

I’m never sure how to answer this question? Everything from location to creating character to dialogue is ‘difficult’ and yet everything is a joy. It’s a privilege to be able to engage in such a pleasant activity as writing a novel and to call it my ‘occupation.’

5.       Coolest thing about your book?Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain

The cover! If I tried to even attempt to write something ‘cool’ I fear the result!

6.       Something you learnt through writing the book?

It’s the thing I learn from every book, which is how much I value the sensitivity, expertise and devoted attention of a good editor. My books would be garbled gibberish if it wasn’t for my editors (and publishers). It is a honour to work with people so devoted and involved in a project that has sprang from the peaty bogged recesses of my imagination.

7.       What did you do celebrate the release?

With all my books, I can’t remember ever having an outward celebration – no special dinner or wine or launch. But, I always hold a new copy in my hands and feel immense pride at having been a part of creating the book and as I mentioned above, enormous good fortune at being able to do this for a job. I’m pleased to say this feeling doesn’t disappear over time. Sometimes I hold one of my books written ten or twenty years ago and still feel such pride, even if I wonder where the story originated.

8.       And how will you promote the book?

Like every book, I’ll stand up in front of over one hundred and fifty school audiences each year and talk about the characters or maybe read a short section and hope that it meets with an approving response.

9.       What are you working on next?

Firstly, a book of poetry for young adults, but not a verse-novel. Perhaps it’ll be a follow-up to my first poetry book for teenagers ‘Water Bombs’ which was published 21 years ago.

Secondly, a prose novel for young adults about two young men who live in a rundown fishing village which is slowly being gentrified by weekenders from the city.

10.   Where we can find out more about you and your book?

At my web-site – Or better still, invite me to your school!

Twitter: @steven_herrick


Thanks so much for visiting, Steven. It’s been an honour to have you.

Of Poetry Collections

I’ve been pondering poetry of late, particular poetry for children, inspired both by some study I’m doing and by the rediscovery of some of the poems of my childhood, including that of A. A.  Milne, some of the earliest poetry I remember loving  (along with Dr Seuss).

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is that makes a poem, the different forms used, and the ways that poetry is collected.  The poetry I’ve been sampling is pretty varied – from Blake, to Ted Hughes,  to AA Milne , to Michael Rosen and more. And, of course, because I’m a proud Aussie, I’ve been revisiting some of my favourite Australian poets. Which has reminded me that there aren’t a lot of children’s poetry books published in Australia, particularly single author collections. For now I’m not going to attempt to analyse why – that’s perhaps a whole series of blog posts.  Instead, I thought I’d start with a list of the poetry collections published in recent years. Initially I looked for those published in t past 5 years, and asked friends on Twitter and Facebook to help.  I ended up with a few titles that were more than five years, but in order to prevent the list being too depressingly short, I’ve kept those in.

So, here it is, my list of single-poet poetry collections for children published in recent years.  I’m hoping I’ve missed some, and that this post will draw some comments from those who remember what I and my friends haven’t.

From Lorraine Marwood:

A Ute Picnic (Walker Books, 2010)

Note on the Door (Walker Books 2011)

Guinea Pig Town  and Other Animal Poems (Walker Books, 2013)

Redback Mansion (Five Islands Press, 2002)


Elizabeth Honey

Mongrel Doggerel (Allen & Unwin, 1998)

The Moon in the Man (Allen & Unwin, 2002)

Honey Sandwich   (Allen & Unwin, 1993)

I’m Still Awake Still  (Allen & Unwin, 2008)


Steven Herrick

Untangling Spaghetti (UQP, 2008)


Doug McLeod

 Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns (most recently Working Title Press, 2012)


Colin Thompson

 There’s something really nasty on the bottom of my shoe (Hodder, 2003)

My Brother Drinks Out Of The Toilet (Hodder, 2000)

The Dog’s Just Been Sick in the Honda (Hodder, 1999)


Meredith Costain

Doodledum Dancing (Penguin, 2006)


Anne Bell

Muster Me a Song (Triple D Books, 2002)


Christobel Mattingley

Nest Egg: A Clutch of Poems (Triple D Books, 2005)


Max Fatchen

Poetry Allsorts (Triple D Books,  2003)


Andrew Lansdown

Allsorts: Poetry Tricks and Treats (Wombat Books)


Rosemary Milne

There’s a Goat in My Coat (Allen & Unwin, 2010)

Duncan Ball

My Sister Has a Big Black Beard (Harper Collins, 2009)

Michelle A. Taylor

If the World Belonged to Dogs (UQP, 2007)


Janeen Brian

By Jingo! (ABC Books, 2005)


Geoffrey McSkimming

Ogre in a Toga (Scholastic, 2007)

John Hay-Mackenzie

Cautionary tales for boys and girls (Murdoch Books, 2009)


Jill McDougall

Anna the goanna: and other poems (Aboriginal Studies Press, 2008)


So, have I missed any? If you know of any single poet collections published in Australia in recent years, do drop me a line and I’ll add them. I haven’t included verse novels here, because I’m intending to compose a separate list of these, and perhaps also  of anthologies.

Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend, by Steven Herrick

My new teacher
…casually sits on her desk
before asking us
to tell her something, one thing,
that we like about ourselves.
Selina, Mick, Cameron, Pete and Rachel
raise their hands
while I sink as low as possible
behind my desk.

Verse novels have the ability to take the reader right into the heart of characters’ lives and thoughts in a very special way. And few verse novelists do it better than Steven Herrick. In Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend he presents the life of a class of year 6 students in a small country town. Mick is the school captain, and a leader, but seems to always be in trouble. Pete is struggling to cope with his grandpa’s death, and Laura fights shyness as she tries to find a way to fit it. Selina is popular buts he’s obsessed with Cameron who in turn is obsessed with the mysterious Pookie Aleera. New teacher Ms Arthur is new to this world, but the school groundskeeper Mr Korsky has been around for ever, and has seen it all before – almost.

The use of the verse novel form allows the reader to see the story form multiple perspectives, and each character has a perspective both unique and endearing. There are moments of poignancy, of sorrow and of humour, in a tale of friendship and belonging and of grief and moving on. Each character must find his or her place in the shifting world of the school and beyond.

This is a welcome return to the verse novel form for Herrick, and fans will be delighted.

Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend

Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend, by Steven Herrick
UQP, 2012
ISBN 9780702249280

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Black Painted Fingernails, by Steven Herrick

When James stops for fuel in the Blue Mountains, he doesn’t expect to also pick up a hitchhiker. But Sophie is pretty determined, and soon he has a passenger. He’s heading into the country for his first teacher training placement, and she’s heading home – to visit her mother, she says. But Sophie is not the sort of girl James is used to spending time with…

‘How about we toss a coin? Heads, it’s west and a lift. Tails, it’s still west, but no lift.’

When James stops for fuel in the Blue Mountains, he doesn’t expect to also pick up a hitchhiker. But Sophie is pretty determined, and soon he has a passenger. He’s heading into the country for his first teacher training placement, and she’s heading home – to visit her mother, she says. But Sophie is not the sort of girl James is used to spending time with. She has an attitude to match her wild hair and her black painted fingernails. James isn’t like that. He’s a conscientious student who lives with his parents. Yet as they travel together the pair form an unlikely friendship – and both reveal the secrets they’ve been keeping.

Black Painted Fingernails is a wonderful road-trip story using the alternating viewpoints of the two protagonists as well as occasional chapters from the viewpoint of one of James’ parents, who are facing their own challenges. Both Sophie and James are honest and, at times, self-deprecating, and their voices are tinged with humour even at difficult moments.

Dealing with issues of family relationships and parental expectations, as well as with friendship, this is an absorbing, uplifting read.

Love it.

Black Painted Fingernails

Black Painted Fingernails, by Steven Herrick
Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN 9781742374598

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond.

Slice, by Steven Herrick

My name is Darcy Franz Pele Walker.
Ignore the middle names.
I do.
My Dad is a football nut and he figured if he named me after his two favourite players, I’d turn out just like them. At the age of five, I’d stand in the backyard wearing baggy blue shorts and a Brazilian jersey watching the clouds, the trees, birds tilting overhead on the breeze.
Dad would shout, ‘Ready, Darcy?’ and roll the ball temptingly my way.
‘Just kick it with all you’ve got, son.’
I’d look at the coloured panels on the ball.
‘Just swing your foot, Darcy.’

Darcy is sixteen and in Year 11. He’s not sporty or tough. He can quote Shakespeare and he has a crush on Audrey which he’s not game to do anything about. He also has a habit of speaking without really thinking about the consequences. This gets him into trouble sometimes but also defines him. It helps him get to know Audrey, and to understand what’s going on with his nerdy friend Noah. It also helps him deal with football-loving, physical Braith and Tim. Slice is the story of Darcy’s Year 11, told in bites both juicy and delicious.

Told in prose, Slice is full of wonderful images, told in a few words, much like Herrick’s verse novels. It’s hilarious too. Darcy’s voice is very dry, very droll. His observations of others and awareness of himself are astute. He may be physically not up to the likes of Braith and Tim, but he has developed his own sense of self, his own defences. Scenes like the one where Dad does the ‘sex talk’ with Darcy are laugh-out loud funny because they are so familiar. This is a novel which celebrates those who understand their place in the world, even if those around them don’t. It’s a joy to read.
Recommended for mid-secondary readers.

Slice: Juicy Moments from My Impossible Life

Slice: Juicy Moments from My Impossible Life, Steven Herrick
Woolshed Press 2010
ISBN: 9781864719642

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Untangling Spaghetti, by Steven Herrick

When my dad heard my brother call me
‘A Dork!’
He said,
‘Jack, we don’t say that word in this house.’
So Jack walked quickly out the back door
Stood in the yard
And yelled at me,
‘You dork!’
In his best older brother voice!

Untangling Spaghetti is a collection of poetry for children from award-winning author and poet Steven Herrick, bringing together poems from his previously published collections . From the funny, like House Rules above, to the silly and even the sad, the collection is fun to browse or to read cover to cover.

Poems are arranged into themes, including House Rules, the Big Match and Seeing the World and demonstrate Herrick’s keen understanding of, and empathy with, a child’s view of the world. He says in his introduction that many of the poems come from the experiences of his own sons and in other poems, including the poetry visitor, Herrick’s own experiences are also obvious.

This wonderful collection deserves a place in school libraries and classrooms, but will also be loved at home.

Untangling Spaghetti: Selected Poems from Steven Herrick

Untangling Spaghetti: Selected Poems, By Steven Herrick
UQP, 2009

Rhyming Boy, by Steven Herrick

‘Jayden, what’s the score, darl?’
Mum’s in the kitchen, doing some cooking of her own.
‘I’m reading, Mum.’
She appears, wearing a blue and white butcher’s apron and the lilac ugg boots I gave her for her thirty-fifth birthday. Hanging loosely around her shoulders is a striped football scarf. She’s holding a spoon full of a mysterious dark-red liquid. She runs her finger along the spoon and tastes it, smacking her lips loudly.
‘Keep an eye on the game, darl! Whistle if the hunk scores again. I’m not wearing this blessed scarf for fashion, you know.’
The hunk is Jayden Finch, in his farewell season for Souths. He’s so famous people name their children after him.
Like Mum,…

Jayden is about as unlike his namesake as it’s possible to be. Jayden Finch is a football star. Jayden Hayden, nicknamed ‘Rhyming Boy’ because of his name, is a wordsmith. He sets himself the daily task of learning and then using a new word. He happily immerses himself in the world of words, facts and story. Then the principal, Mr Bartog, decides to hold an event to promote reading. Great, except the event is titled, ‘Boys and Books and Breakfast’ and the idea is to encourage boys to read with their dads. And he doesn’t have one. With the help of new girl, Saskia, Jayden begins to delve into the mystery that surrounds his father.

Rhyming Boy is Steven Herrick’s first prose novel, written after his many successful verse novels for children and young adults. The lyricism of his verse novels echoes through Rhyming Boy, drawing the reader on. Jayden is a delightfully warm and inquisitive character whose questions about his father are cued by the approach of ‘Boys and Books and Breakfast’ morning. As he searches, the reader is treated to different models of ‘fathering’, from the Thompsons next door, to his forthright friend Saskia’s novelist father and his elderly neighbour. Jayden’s dictionary habit introduces some less familiar words and provides their meanings. They often indicate his mood, or flag upcoming issues. Rhyming Boy is written in first person and provides an up-close, very personal and often humourous view of an intelligent and inquiring twelve year old boy examining his world. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Rhyming Boy Steven Herrick
UQP 2008
ISBN: 9780702236730