fp June 2000
The Simple Gift
from the book...
from the Australian edition
'My hand in his
for a moment.'
When the paths of a runaway teenage boy, an old hobo and a rich girl intersect in an abandoned train yard, each carries their own personal baggage. Over early mornings, long walks and cheap coffee they discover, no matter how big or small, it's the simple gifts in life that really make a difference.
A life-affirming look at humanity, generosity and love from an award-winning and acclaimed Australian author.
from the US edition
Weary of his life with his alcoholic, abusive father, sixteen-year-old Billy packs a few belongings and hits the road, hoping for something better than what he left behind. He finds a home in an abandoned freight train outside a small town, where he falls in love with rich, restless Caitlin and befriends a fellow train resident, "Old Bill," who slowly reveals a tragic past. When Billy is given a gift that changes everything, he learns not only to how forge his own path in life, but the real meaning of family.
from the UK edition
'Sure there's hope in the world even for hobos like us'
Away from Dad and his bottle. Away from school, which taught him nothing. Billy Luckett hitches a ride on a freight train. He's heading for the sunset. Yes, he's homeless, but now he has a future...
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
The Simple Gift is an incredible book about survival, compassion, love and friendship. Being written in free verse, the book tells the story of three unique people: Billy, Old Billy and Caitlin.
Billy is a young man, abused from childhood, who has run from home, only to live in an abandoned train carriage taking the plunge into the world, all alone. Along the way, he meets up with Old Billy, a homeless old hobo not unlike himself. Old Billy is a drunk who drinks away his sorrow, torn from reality by the death of his only child Jesse, and a year later by the death of his wife. Old Billy drinks to keep his ghosts alive, and to keep the past intact.
Caitlin is the rich, spoilt girl who works ate McDonald's, despite her immense wealth, mopping floors. As she mops, she notices a young lad, about sixteen, eating the leftovers of other people's food, and wonders whether to get the manager or not.
The main reason I liked this book so much was the fact that it was written in free verse. Each little chapter, every poem, is a story in itself. Herrick notices the simplicities in life and brings them out; even simply drinking a beer can be turned into a masterpiece. This book deserves to be recognised for what it is - a work of art.
The story tells the incredible tale that these three different people go through, overcoming obstacles like difficult parents, social workers, police and death. The book cannot be put down.
Marguerite, Year 9, Canberra, Australia
This simple book is an amazing story about a 16-year-old boy who leaves his home and says goodbye to his family aiming to look for some place better, for belonging and happiness. The way his father treated him caused this - Billy was abused and this was something he found soulless and when he felt he could not cope any more, he left. The book describes in detail the life of Caitlin, Billy and Old Bill; three characters who are each different in a way but still similar in another.
Billy finds his accommodation at an old railway station, in a carriage and meets Old Bill who is, according to Billy, the saddest man in the world. The two ‘hobos’ struggle together and develop a strong friendship. Picking up leftovers from people’s meals from McDonalds Billy meets Caitlin a spoilt, rich girl who mops at McDonalds. Unlike Billy she has a home to go to, loving parents, food and all she needs in life - well everything apart from something a person like Billy can offer - excitement, love, and connection.
It’s a book about love, friendship, survival; simple gifts people receive and give that mean so much, enough to change someone’s lives. All three characters overcome things in life in a different way such as difficulties with getting along with parents, law, loneliness and other problems which life forces us to face sometimes. I like the book heaps.Nada, Year 10, Canberra, Australia
When looking for a book, I try to find one which has an excellent story, entertaining characters and a lot of meaning. But most of the time, I am unlucky. But fortunately I was lucky enough to have read, The Simple Gift. ‘The Simple Gift is a wonderful example of a book that will leave your heart over-whelmed.
The book is about a sixteen-year old boy who one day finally gives up living with his father. So one day, he decides to run away, off to anywhere, away from his suburb and his dad. He finds himself in the town of Bendarat, where he meets new people, and faces new problems.
I enjoyed every word of this book, from the beginning to the end. At first as I read the first pages of the book, I thought it was going to be a story about a young, arrogant boy who’s being chased by his father, but when I read it further, it turned out to be a story about a caring, mature boy who finds a new home, and new friends. The only complaint I have about the book is the design of the front cover. With the purple writing, the black behind it and the hand with the key, it would surely seem that it was a thriller-mystery story. I think the cover should have represented calmness or stillness, like the picture of the clouds in Chapter Ten. Because of this book, Steven Herrick has become one of my favourite writers. And thanks to him, I now have a new favourite book, The Simple Gift.
Jimmy, Year 10, Canberra, Australia
I think The Simple Gift is a great story, that helps remind us that it is the simple things in life that count and should makes us happy, but in the modern day we have more electronic toys and things. I'm not saying that I don't like having things like computers, phones and things like that, but we need to once in a while remember the simple things.
Tathra, Year 9, unknown
The Simple Gift is a verse novel which is written by Steven Herrick. It is about a boy named Billy who runs away from home because his father has never treated him very well. Billy runs away to a new town and starts a new life; he meets an old man who he calls Old Bill and a girl called Caitlyn whom he meets at MacDonald’s.
The Simple Gift seems to be set in recent times. It is mainly set in the town of Bendarat, which is where Billy starts his new life away from his old home.
I liked this book because it was different to most other books. The Simple Gift is a good book for teens to read. I would recommend this book to people who want to read a verse novel which is interesting, not too confusing and has meaning. I think this book was good and if I had to give it a rating I would rate it a nine out of ten because it was better than I thought it would be.
Grace, age 14, Canberra, Australia
What a wonderful book! It kept me interested and wanting to find out more. You did an awesome job on the book Steven Herrick! Keep up the good work.
I love The Simple Gift. It is one of my fave books in the world!!!! My favourite character is Billy and Caitlin. They are all the best! I finished reading the book in English at my school Anyway, Steven...nice job on writing this fantastic book! I am looking forward to reading another book by you.
Johnson, Year 12, Sydney, Australia
The book, The Simple Gift is a straightforward, free verse story that portrays the life of a sixteen-year-old boy, who leaves his family, home and life behind in search for belonging and happiness. Billy’s abusive father was the motive for him to leave; he couldn’t cope with the angry drunk’s soullessness. On Billy’s journey are described the lives of Caitlin and Old Bill. The three characters are very different in a way, yet very alike in another; all are in a search for fulfilment.
As Billy ‘jumps’ freight trains, across the country side, he finds accommodation, at the ‘Bendarat Hilton’ an abandoned railway station, in a carriage. This is where he meets ‘Old Bill’, the saddest man in the world. The two ‘hobos’ struggle together, building a strong friendship, and bringing the best out of each other.
Caitlin is a rich, spoilt girl, who works at McDonald’s, mopping floors, despite her immense wealth. Billy meets Caitlin whilst he is taking people’s left-overs. At first Caitlin is stunned, and thinks about telling her manager, but ultimately realises that this is what Billy must do to survive.
Unlike Billy, Caitlin has everything a girl her age could wish for, and more; everything except what a person like Billy has to offer. As a result of this, Billy and Caitlin start spending more time together and eventually fall in love. All three characters overcome life’s problems in different ways.
The Simple Gift is a book about love, friendship and survival, proving that it’s the simple things that mean enough to change a life. Billy eventually realises that without the everyday hassles, and decisions that people with material goods must face, his life is no less than perfect. I really appreciated reading the book, and it has made me think about life differently, so thankyou Steven Herrick.
Courtney, Year 10, Yorketown, South Australia
The Simply Gift is a book of poems that tells the story about a boy who turns into a homeless bum who lives in a very old train carriage. In the one next to his is another homeless person, ‘Old Bill’. The boy, Billy, meets a girl when he is taking left over food at McDonalds. They start a relationship even though she is rich and goes to college. Caitlin and Billy decide in their relationship, they should take it to the next level but Caitlin wasn’t ready to tell anyone about what she was doing with Billy. They develop a strong bond but will their love survive? To find out this and how Old Bill plays a role in their lives read the book.
Wade, Yorketown, South Australia