I'm not quite sure how I've managed to work 5 years in an Independent bookshop that specialises in children's books and NOT read a Steven Herrick book before today, but there you have it!
Thankfully that situation has now been remedied. And you are looking at a Steven Herrick convert.
'Pookie Aleera' is a book written in verse and an 'in joke' between the teacher, Ms Arthur and her class, 6A.
Each chapter is told from a different perspective.
Mick is the school captain, struggling with his role as leader. His younger brother Jacob, dreams of flying and likes to jump off the shed roof.
Laura is shy and friendless, Pete is coming to terms with the recent death of his grandpa and Selina is popular and rather interested in the boys...one in particular!
Cameron is the class clown, Ms Arthur is the new teacher, Mr Korsky is the elderly groundsman with a heart of gold, Alex misses his dad and Rachel is the peace-maker with a sensitive soul.
This story is read quickly, but the episodes linger much longer.
The brief verses pack an emotional punch that allow you to create your own images and your own memories.
I walked the corridors with Mick each time, to the Principal's office. I delighted in Ms Arthur's wonderful teaching moments. I laughed out loud at the unsuspecting Constable Dawe during his pedestrian safety talks with the class. I loved the gentle Mr Korsky who reminded me of the school groundsman I had during my primary school years. Rachel's character crept into my heart as a literary kindred spirit for my youngest stepson. The butterfly episode haunts me still. And by the end of the book, I had the gorgeous aroma of Anzac biscuits on the tip of my memory.
Below is a taster of one of the early verses.
I thought it was a simple question, really.
Ms Arthur asked each of us to stand up, in turn,
and say what we want to be
when we grow up.
The first five students said,
then Rachel said,
And we went slowly around the class,
When it was my turn,
I stood up
and, in a very clear voice, said,
A few people giggled
as if I said something rude,
I sat down again,
red-faced and confused.
It was the truth.
I wanted to be a dad.
I've never seen my dad
and I wouldn't wish that
Rachel stood up again,
'Ms Arthur, I want to be a pilot
and a mum!'
This is a funny, heart-warming book for good 8+ readers, and a wonderful story to share with your Y5 or Y6 class.
Pookie Aleera has been shortlisted for the youngers readers 2013 CBCA awards.