Allen & Unwin

August 2004

$17.95 AU

232p pb

ISBN: 978-1741143577

US edition

Front Street

April 2006

$16.95 US

238p hc

ISBN: 978-1932425721

By The River

Steven Herrick

from the book...

from the Australian edition of the book...

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 feeling the undercurrents, finding solid ground and knowing when to jump.

from the US edition of the book...

Harry Hodby lives in a sleepy town on the bend of a sluggish river in Australia. Harry spends most of his time swimming in Pearce Swamp, eating watermelon with his brother and dad, escaping schoolyard bullies, being in love with the school secretary, and racing through butterflies in Cowpers Paddock.

But life in this small river town isn't always easy. Harry's mother died when he was seven, and his friend Linda was swept away in a flood. Harry yearns to leave town even though he knows that people who get away never come back. His father has told him how to get out of town, but there's a mystery that he needs to solve before he can go...

A deeply atmospheric story in verse about the tough and tender sides of growing up in a small country town.

If you have read this verse novel and would like to share your opinion of it with other readers please send your review or comments to YARR-A

It’s the 1960s in Australia. Harry lives in a small and sleepy town on the bend of a sluggishly flowing river. He lives with his dad and younger brother in a house painted with oil, joins in his share of schoolboy pranks, and is in love with the school secretary. But there is also tragedy underlying Harry’s life and the life of the whole town.

This book is written in the form of a verse novel, a genre which can be very powerful when successfully executed. In this case the plot is carried forward as each stanza or chapter reveals another layer of life in Harry’s town. At the same time, many of the stanzas could stand alone, simply and beautifully worded as they are. The strength of this book lies also in the characters and setting which are so realistically portrayed that they could be drawn from the author’s own experiences.

This is a book which will appeal to boys and girls alike because of its honesty, simplicity and strong human interest. It may well prove to be one of the best from the ever popular Steven Herrick.

Irene, Canberra, Australia

Harry Hodby lives in an oil painted house with his brother, Keith, and his father in a small town established near a river. In By the River, Harry leads you through the book. There are times of happiness when he talks of eating watermelon in the afternoons near the chook shed. There are moments of pain when Harry’s love, Miss Spencer, leaves town. There are memories of his mother who died. There are the memories of his friend Linda who made him feel good about living in the oil covered house that the kids at school teased him about.

This book focuses not only on Harry, but the river. Whenever it rains, the river’s banks burst, flooding the town. People know to close up their houses and keep things inside that they do not wish to be washed away. Some people listen to this and others do not and never return for that reason. Harry notices that anyone who leaves the town never comes back, his father has told him ways of getting out of there and even if they don’t lead him any where at least he’d be far away from that boring little town. At times Harry hates the rivers and swamps around the town but learns to appreciate them when making friends with the new girl, Claire, who arrives near the end of the book. Her arrival leaves the book open for interpretation.

By the River is a remarkable book set in the 1960’s in a little country town. For such a tiny town it experiences so much change. The ending leaves you wondering and allows you to think that though Harry has lost many things, that his brother is growing up without him and his dad depends on him a little bit more after the accident, there is something still there for him, something that will be able to revive the child that seemed to die the day his mother did. I really enjoyed this book, like I do most verse novels, and I would recommend it for 13-year-olds onwards. 9 stars.

Carmel, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

By The River isn’t quite like the other books you may have read. It is not one of those stories where something horribly goes wrong, or where some kind of mystery happens. It isn’t really a love book, or a fantasy, or a horror; it is simply a book which tells it how it is, straight from the heart. Instead of killing, mystery and love, it has friendship, small adventures hope and curiosity. The book bases around the life of a young boy named Harry growing up in the 1960’s. Harry lives with his father, and his younger brother named Keith. Harry’s mother died when he was at the age of seven, who they miss so much, but none more so than their father. Some of the main parts of the story are the small adventures that Harry goes on with Keith and Johnny (Harry’s friend).

The book tells about every detail of Harry’s life, which includes the places he goes to, the friends he has, what he does with Keith and the townspeople. It is all written in free verse, so this means that it is not just a story, but also a heart-warming poem. So besides reading a book which causes you to cry, get excited or anxious, this book also allows you to acknowledge all values of nature, people and life.

Jimmy, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

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