Book review: New Boy (Nick Earls)


I recently read the book New Boy by Nick Earls. Booktopia lists it as a story for 9-12 year olds, but like all books that are well-written for children or YA, it is very easy to read as an adult also.

New Boy follows the story of Herschelle van der Merwe, recently arrived in Australia and to One Mile Creek State School. A cool kid back at Bergvliet Primary, South Africa, his first day is automatically far from terrific with a snotty-nosed screaming brother at drop-off, difficult pronunciations between languages and a rather uncool guide in the form of Max Kennedy.

Herschelle soon discovers though, that not all Aussie slang can be learnt from a website, and perhaps mentioning the fact that ‘fair suck of the sav’ is next to ‘fair go’ on said website to the school principal isn’t appropriate.

He also learns that racism isn’t just about black vs. white, but that a person’s nationality can be the basis of racist bullying, which he soon discovers isn’t a fun position to be in. In addition, the circumstances which brought his family to Australia are definitely less desired compared to the safety of his new country.

As it turns out both Max and Herschelle are cool kids in their own right, the bully needs a good dressing-down and handball is a game that crosses the seas as a lunchtime favourite.


Nick Earls has done a great job with this book, addressing racism, bullying, and the numerous contrasts between nationalities. This is perhaps a story that needs to be read aloud in all Australian schools in Grade 3, when they are at that age where differences are noticed and distinct personalities come out in force.

‘Bring a plate’ is something I have heard others make the mistake of misunderstanding, and so to read it in New Boy just goes to show that it is a common misinterpretation of Aussie slang.

The Principal’s straightforward approach to dealing with Herschelle’s bully is to be commended – I am certain that many others in the same position could take a page out of Nick’s book as to how to manage such situations.

In today’s world where bad news is constantly a top news story, the comparisons of safety and life in general between South Africa and Australia make a person realise that we definitely ‘have it good’ here in Oz.


Title: New Boy

Paperback; 176 pages

Publisher: Puffin Books

RRP: $14.99

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