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The Simple Gift Paperback – 8 Jan 2004

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More About the Author

Steven Herrick is an Australian poet and author who has published twenty-one books for children and young adults. His books have twice won the NSW Premiers Literary Award (2000, 2005) and have been shortlisted seven times for Book of the Year in the Children's Book Council of Australia Book Awards.
He regularly tours throughout Australia, Asia and Europe performing his work in schools and at festivals.
in 2012, he published his first travel book, 'baguettes and bicycles: a cycling adventure across France.' This was followed by 'bordeaux and bicycles: a cycling journey along the canals of France' and 'bratwurst and bicycles: a cycling adventure along the Danube.'
He is an avid football (soccer) fan and cyclist who lives in the Blue Mountains with his wife, Cathie. They have two adult sons, Jack and Joe.

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About the Author

Steven Herrick was born in Brisbane, the youngest of seven children. At school his favourite subject was soccer, and he dreamed of football glory while he worked at various jobs, including fruit picking. For the past twenty years he's been a full-time writer of books for children and teenagers, and he visits many schools each year both in Australia and overseas.Steven lives in the Blue Mountains with his wife, Cathie. They have two adult sons, Jack and Joe. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Poetry 28 Nov. 2008
By Shelly - Published on
Format: Paperback
I was not expecting to enjoy this book nearly as much as I did. It surprised me at first to discover that the story was written in a poetic form, but this simply enhanced the entire experience. I was truely touched by the simple pure relationships formed between the characters. Herrick doesn't weigh down the plot with too many detailed descriptions. The characters and events of the story speak for themselves. Each 'scene' stands on its own as a glimpse into the lives of the three characters. This book is highly reccomended to any readers who are prepared to sit back and enjoy a heart warming, thoughtful book.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Richie's Picks: THE SIMPLE GIFT 6 Sept. 2004
By N. S. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In a counterpoint to THE LORD OF THE FLIES, and other grim tales where a lack of structure or authority leads to chaos and harshness and evil intent, Australian author Steven Herrick has created a world in which a young man striving for autonomy is able to attain an idyllic existence away from the rule makers and the rule breakers.

When sixteen-year-old Billy Luckett packs a few things (including the old man's booze and cigarettes) into his schoolbag, says good-bye to his dog, and walks out of the house, he doesn't know where he will end up. But Billy's certain that anything will beat living with his abusive father.

"Please don't tell what train I'm on

And they won't know what route I've gone"

--Elizabeth Cotton, "Freight Train"

Hopping a westbound freight train in a teeming rain, Billy immediately crosses paths with the first of a series of characters who will each enrich and transform his life with their kindness, and who will each in turn take something away themselves for having been able to see through Billy's exterior.


There are men like Ernie,

the train driver, in this world.

Men who don't boss you around

and don't ask prying questions

and don't get bitter

at anyone different from them.

Men who share a drink and food

and a warm cabin

when they don't have to.

Men who know the value of things

like an old boat

built for long weekends on a lake.

Men who see something happening

and know if it's right

or wrong

and aren't afraid to make that call.

There are men like Ernie


there are other men,

men like my dad."

"When we came to the station all the trains were rusty

The doors were open and the windows broken in

There was grass in all the cracks and the air hung musty

The travel posters were flapping in the wind"

--Al Stewart, "Apple Cider Re Constitution

Billy reaches the end of the run at an old railroad town named Bendarat, and takes refuge in a lovely old abandoned train car. When he purchases a lemonade at the McDonald's in town, and proceeds to gather himself a fine meal from what fellow diners leave behind, he meets Caitlin, a well-off teenage schoolgirl who is working for The Clown as a way to gain her own measure of independence, in her case, from doting parents.

"Caitlin and mopping...Caitlin

When I first saw what he did

I wanted to go up

and say,

'Put that food back.'

But how stupid is that?

It was going in the rubbish

until he claimed it.

So I watched him.

He was very calm.

He didn't look worried

about being caught

or ashamed of stealing scraps.

He looked relaxed,

as though he knew he had to eat

and this was the easiest way.

I had work to do,

mopping the floor,

which I hate,

so I mopped slowly

and watched.

He read the paper

until the family left,

then helped himself to dessert,

and as he walked back to his table,

holding the apple pie,

he looked up and saw me

watching him.

He stood over his table

waiting for me to do something.

He stood there

almost daring me to get the Manager,

who I hate

almost as much as I hate mopping.

So I smiled at him.

I smiled and said,

'I hate mopping.'

He sat in his chair

and smiled back

and I felt good

that I hadn't called the Manager.

I kept mopping.

He finished his dessert,

came over to me,

looked at my badge,

looked straight at me,

and said, 'Goodnight, Caitlin,'

and he walked out,

slow and steady,

and so calm, so calm."

The story's third principal voice and pivotal character is Old Bill, an alcohol-dependent hobo with long grey hair and beard who inhabits a nearby train carriage along the string he facetiously refers to as 'The Bendarat Hilton.'

"Sorry..........Old Bill

I feel sorry

for swearing at the kid,

abusing him for bringing me breakfast,

Breakfast! Of all things.

A good kid,

living like a bum

and I knew he'd need money,

even bums need money to live.

So this morning, early,

far too bloody early for me,

I knock on his door

to return the bowl and spoon

and he opens it slowly,

invites me in,

and I tell him

about the Cannery and work.

How every Monday during the season

they offer work,

and if he needs money

that's the place to go,

and he says,

'Sure, great. Let's go.'

And because I'm still sorry

about swearing at him

I find myself

walking to the Cannery

with the kid

looking for work,

work I don't need,

or want.

Walking with the kid

early Monday morning."

"Every happy ending needs to have a start."

--The Moody Blues "You Can Never Go Home"

As we're uncovering the tales of how they got to those bad spaces in which we first meet them, Billy and Old Bill are moving inexorably forward and upward as a result of their relationship with each other. Caitlin is a genuinely likable girl whose difficulties--while not in the same league with those of Billy and Old Bill--will ring true to teen readers who desire, like she does, to be accepted for who they really are. I have great affection for THE SIMPLE GIFT's fairy tale-like sensibilities and for the story's message (that harkens back to the Sixties) about avoiding the rule breakers and rule makers and, instead, paying attention to treating people kindly. A quick and enjoyable easy-reading verse novel imported from Australia and published in paperback, THE SIMPLE GIFT is a Great Escape Package I can highly recommend.
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