Nick Earls, New Boy, Puffin Books, 25 March 2015, 170pp., $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780143308 393
It’s hard to fit in to One Mile Creek State School in Queensland when you’re a South African boy from Cape Town. Herschelle van der Merwe discovers that he speaks a very different English to the language spoken in Australia. Simple things such as sandshoes, thongs and barbeques all have different names in South Africa and who knew that robots were called traffic lights in Australia? There are many amusing incidents for Herschelle including when his own mother also makes an embarrassing blunder due to language misunderstandings.
The serious side to being a migrant is that Herschelle is forced to endure prejudice and bullying at the hands of Lachlan Parkes and his gang. Through Skype he still keeps in touch with his friend, Richard, in Cape Town but this at times tends to accentuate his loneliness. When Herschelle is placed with the class nerds he has no idea that they will become his friends through their shared love of handball. When he eventually has to help Roy, an African student from Sudan, he begins to feel part of the place and to realize that in a few months he has learnt many things about being an Australian.
New Boy is a novel that upper primary and lower secondary students will enjoy. Written from Herschelle’s point of view the 33 short chapters are easy to read with a mixture of pathos and humour as the new boy tries to make sense of his new country, language and culture.
reviewed by Grace Nolan