Cold Skin, by Steven Herrick

They named me Eddie
after Mum’s father
who died before I was born.
‘A quiet, stubborn bastard,’
says my dad.
I’m not sure if he’s talking about
Grandad or me.

Eddie Holding has grown up in Burruga, a coal mining town where nothing exciting ever happens. He wants to leave school and work in the mine, but his dad won’t work in the mine and he doesn’t want his sons working there either.

Eddie’s teacher, Mr Butcher, doesn’t want to be at the school, either. He has ambitions to teach at a big private school. In the meantime, though, he spends weekdays trying to make Eddie’s life hell, and the weekends in the city paying women for sex.

When one of Eddie’s classmates is found murdered, Eddie is sure his teacher is guilty. After all, he saw his teacher running late for the train on the night Colleen died. But in a town full of secrets, nothing is as it seems.

Cold Skin is a chilling novel in verse for young adult readers. Herrick is a master of the form, and this latest offering continues his tradition of offering a rich plot with twists and turns in the limited words which the form offers. The viewpoint shifts between the cast, allowing an insight into each character’s workings, and the twists and turns of the novel keep the reader guessing till the end.

Suitable for readers aged thirteen and over, including adult readers.

Cold Skin

Cold Skin, by Steven Herrick
Allen & Unwin, 2007

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Naked Bunyip Dancing, by Steven Herrick

We all stare at Mr Carey,
who turns off the music,
bows, smiles,
and says,
‘Thank you, children.
One day, I hope we’ll sing together.
After lunch,
we’ll read poetry.’
This going to be
one very interesting year!

Mr Carey wears t-shirts with slogans, has long hair and sings along to Bob Dylan songs. He is also Class 6C’s new teacher. They are not impressed.

But as the year progresses, Mr Carey and his class begin to discover their talents. Class 6C have all sorts of talents – and come from all sorts of backgrounds, each with problems and insecurities of their own. This crazy class share their unpredictable year through free verse poetry, using the first-person voices of the students.

This is Steven Herrick’s eighth novel in verse, and again he shows his genius with the form. The use of verse allows an intimate viewpoint of events, with multiple perspectives, loads of humour and a brevity which young readers will love. This would be especially good for a read-aloud to classes of upper-primary students.


Naked Bunyip Dancing, by Steven Herrick
Allen & Unwin, 2005

By the River, by Steven Herrick

In 1962
I was fourteen,
and the flood swept
refrigerators, bikes
used tyres, and
Linda Mahony

Harry was named after Harry Houdini, the great escape artist, which is perhaps why he’s so good at wriggling out of trouble. Like the time that Johnny Barlow wants to flatten him for throwing stones at his brother’s window. Harry doesn’t lie, but Johnny still leaves him alone.

Life for Harry isn’t all about escapes, however. His mother died when he was seven, leaving his Dad to bring up Harry and his younger brother. Harry also mourns the loss of his friend, Linda, who was swept away in a flood. Even apart from these deaths, small-town life can be difficult. There are always gossips, always hardships. Harry seems to be biding his time till he can leave.

Still, there are good things, too. Eating chunks of watermelon in the backyard after school, chasing clouds of butterflies in Cowper’s Paddock and swimming in Pearce Swamp.

By the River is a story of undercurrents and of survival. More simply, it is a tale of growing up in the 1960s. Steven Herrick writes in verse, which means he has to work to make every word, every line, powerful. He achieves this with aplomb. Whilst issues of death and intolerance are at the centre of the book, it is not a depressing read – being instead tender and subtle. Harry yearns for freedom, sensing he will find it by leaving town, yet as the novel progresses he comes to a greater understanding of the town and its people. This doesn’t mean that Harry won’t leave, but perhaps that when he does he won’t be running away.

By the River is a coming of age story, with Harry’s growth creeping up on the reader. Teen readers will enjoy the form and the story.

By the River, by Steven Herrick
Allen & Unwin, 2004

Do-Wrong Ron, by Steven Herrick

Ron always does the wrong things at the wrong time, or the right things at the wrong time, or the wrong things at the right time. Like kicking the winning goal – for the other team. Or forgetting to add water to the cordial. But when he adopts a guinea-pig called Charlie, at least he’s not so lonely any more.

When a girl called Isabelle moves in next door, she thinks Ron is interesting and Charlie is cool. When Ron meets Isabelle’s grandma, who is sad and lonely and refuses to go outside, Ron plans a special welcome for her. Of course, with Ron doing the planning, not everything goes right, but Ron discovers that sometimes the wrong way can turn out right.

Do-Wrong Ron is a special story in verse, written by poet Steven Herrick. Children aged seven to ten will love the novelty of a novel written in free verse, a format which allows Herrick to cut to the chase with the story. This would be an ideal class novel and introduction to petry. Themes include friendship, community, loneliness and self-image.


Do-wrong Ron, by Steven Herrick
Allen & Unwin, 2003.