New Boy by Nick Earls
Penguin Australia, 2015. ISBN 9780143308393
Yes, it's true, Nick Earls is one of my very most favourite authors J no matter if it's kid lit or adult fiction. Aside from that, he is such a lovely human and very funny. When he graciously did a Q&A for my blog last year, one of the things we discussed was his arrival in Australia from Ireland as a child. Nick talked about the aspects that he found a little strange coming to a new country.
He has taken that personal experience and projected it into terms that children today can easily embrace through the story of one boy's experiences as a newly arrived immigrant from South Africa. Herschelle is a pretty typical boy who has left mates, sport, school and a fairly frightening environment behind when his family move to Brisbane. He soon realises despite his research of Australian slang and customs, in order to fit in, that he doesn't - at all.
With his ever present humour, Nick takes the reader on Herschelle's journey into acceptance via his struggle with bullying and racism. It is this humour that takes the edge of some pretty intense concepts and puts this in terms with which younger readers can readily identify from their own playground observations.
Along with his designated buddy Max (of whom Herschelle initially suspects total nerdism), Herschelle takes on the challenge of assimilating into his new surrounds and most notably his new school, One Mile State School. When the burgeoning friendship is jeopardised by Max' apparent collusion with the school bully, Lachlan, Herschelle is all the more convinced he will never become part of the Australian fabric. After the ongoing persecution from Lachlan comes to a head and the principal steps in, Herschelle realises both that racism is not manifested in just one way and that bullying can be invisible to others, as he finds out that Max has also suffered at Lachlan's intimidatory behaviour. The two boys are back on track and find themselves well placed to 'buddy' another 'new boy' when Roy arrives at the school. A refugee from South Sudan, Roy's experiences provide even more enlightening revelation to the two friends.
This is an important book to promote to your readers and it would be a perfect vehicle to convey the important messages of acceptance and unity in Refugee Week.
'With courage let us all combine.'