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

One Night, by Margaret Wild

Three boys – Bram, Al and Gabe – are drawn together by their common lack of wholeness. Bram plans incredible parties which take place in various houses – wherever there is a parentless house for the weekend. The parties are wild and amazing, planned to precision. Bram even takes preparty photographs to make sure the house is returned to the state in which it was found.

One night, Helen comes to one of the parties. She is not the sort of girl Gabe likes – her face is deformed. But she sees through him and sees the void where his heart should be. She is drawn to him and they connect.

Helen’s life is changed irrevokably by that meeting, but Gabe’s continues on as before. Until one night the secret world he shares with his two friends tumbles down.

One Night is an incredible novel in verse by Margaret Wild. The free verse style lends a bare-bones feel – fluff and fill have been excluded, leaving the raw emotion of youth for the reader to access and experience.

This is Wild’s second verse novel. The first Jinx was shorlisted for a swag of awards. One Night is sure to meet similar acclaim.

One Night, by Margaret Wild
Allen & Unwin, 2003

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.

Jinx, by Margaret Wild

Do not love me.
Be warned!
I am Jinx.

Margaret Wild is best known for her award winning picture books, including Fox and Old Pig. In Jinx she makes her debut as a writer of young adult fiction. Readers can only hope that this is a genre she stays with.

Jinx deals with topics not new to YA Fiction – including teenage angst and youth suicide – yet does it in a style which is both refreshing and daring.

Jinx is told in blank verse, which ensures that every word is carefully chosen and loaded with meaning. It also makes the novel a fairly quick read and accessible to readers of all abilities.

Jinx hasn’t always been called Jinx. She used to be called Jen, before she became a Jinx. Now, no one is safe around her. Her parents have split up, her boyfriends are dying. Perhaps everyone should stay away from her.

Jen’s story is a poignant one, dealing with serious topics, yet doing so with a gentle humour which prevents it from being either black or preachy.

is excellent both for private reading and for class study, for children aged 14 and over. It is short listed for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, 2002.

Jinx, by Margaret Wild
Allen & Unwin, 2001