‘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.
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