The big river rolls past our town, takes a slow look and rolls away.
Life for Harry means swimming in Pearce Swamp, eating chunks of watermelon with his brother and his dad, surviving schoolyard battles, and racing through butterflies in Cowpers Paddock. In his town there's Linda, who brings him the sweetest-ever orange cake, and Johnny, whose lightning fists draw blood in a blur, and there's a mystery that Harry needs to solve before he can find a way out
By the river is about the feeling the undercurrents, finding solid ground and knowing when to make a leap.
Steven Herrick writes straight from the heart.
In Herrick's (A Place Like This) atmospheric tale written in verse, Harry Hodby's first-person narration captures the ups and downs of life with his widowed father and younger brother in a small Australian town. His father named him after escape artist Harry Houdini. "I proved my name/ was well chosen," Harry says. His teacher claims, "You can get out of anything/ with that mouth of yours." With a keen eye for detail, Harry (born in 1948) recalls a forgotten era; he describes getting a bowl haircut at Aunt Alice's hands, riding his homemade billy cart down Rookwood Hill without a brake, and the people that populate his world ("They say/ Birdy Newman/ lost his mind/ in the war/ and spends his days/ looking for it/ in Freemans Bush"). Along with humor, sadness also permeates Harry's memories. He misses his mother, who died when Harry was seven, and classmate Linda Mahoney, who drowned in a seasonal flood at age 14 ("She was my friend/ because/ the day after I fought/ Craig Randall/ .../ Linda came to school/ with my favorite orange cake"). Harry wrestles with searching questions, from his desire to move away from Hobsons Bend ("Those that leave this town/ don't come back") to God's existence, in this powerful and moving coming-of-age story. Ages 12-up.