Children will enjoy listening to the story of the 2011 Queensland floods in this picture book, suitable as a read-aloud or independent reading for 5-11 year olds. The illustrations and language give a real feeling for the Australian outback under flood, and the book succeeds in imparting a message of goodwill and bonding after a natural disaster. It made me think of the Dorothea Mackellar poem “I love a sunburnt country.”
In the story a boardwalk snaps and is thrown around dangerously into the path of all, but a small tugboat is able to nudge the boardwalk back out to sea.
The spirit of ordinary Australians shines through in the story which shows volunteers pitching in to provide barbeques, shelter, cakes, slices, and biscuits — and all with a laugh and kindness. More than 60,000 volunteers actually helped during the floods.
As we turn each page we are aware of a bleak watery picture, with the paint running down the pages to create a dramatic watery affect. The writing is concise yet vivid, with metaphor and sound imagery (e.g., “The flood sounded like a helicopter.”) successfully communicating the scale of the floods. Illustrator Bruce Whatley drew the illustrations with his left hand, (he is normally right handed), stating that he finds he has more success with producing images that display emotion and self-expression through his left hand. With the myriad of books now being illustrated by computer, this book stands out as unusual and is a treat in visual imagery that will nourish young minds.
A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.