New Boy by Nick Earls
Puffin, 2015. ISBN 9780143308393
(Age: 9-12) Highly recommended. Themes: Immigration, School life, Family, Friendship, South Africa - social life and conditions. Australia - social life and conditions, Bullying, Racism.
Nick Earl's family migrated from Northern Ireland to Australia when he was nine. In New Boy, his insightful writing draws inspiration from his family's experiences and from his involvement with the refugee community in Queensland. Herschelle's mother and father's decision to leave behind the problems and difficulties of living in Cape Town for a new life in Brisbane is made without consulting him. The catalyst was an incident with knife-wielding black boys. He's in the popular crowd at school, captain of the school hockey team and is surrounded by lots of family and friends. On his first day at One Mile Creek State School, everything seems so different, he's assigned a nerdy kid Max as a buddy to show him around. He's learnt Aussie slang phrases and is prepared to speak to the other kids, unfortunately they aren't the ones his classmates use. Herschelle's day quickly goes downhill from his introduction to the class, to being placed with the nerds, not pre-ordering his lunch and finally having to wear spare clothes from lost property for PE. He's the new boy from Planet Hersch, Population One.
Misconceptions about his skin colour, why is he white and not black and lifestyle in South Africa are emotional topics. After PE, Harvey asks about all the cars having flame throwers fitted under them and is there barbwire on all the outside walls of the homes? Embarrassment, language misconceptions - Mum just brings a plate to the school fashion parade, racism, bullying and trying to fit in are realistically portrayed.
Nick Earl's opens up the reader's eyes to the challenges faced by new arrivals, both in school and in the community. This is an eye-opening story to share with a class to explore the issues of tolerance, acceptance and racism.