Friday 21 February 2014


Any new book by Jackie French is exciting, but I was particularly thrilled to find Fire in my local bookshop recently. I read it standing there in the shop, and then bought a copy. Fire is clearly styled to be a companion book to the amazing Flood of 2011. Jackie French and Bruce Whatley have paired up again to bring us another extraordinary picture book about all the other of the all too familiar ravages of the Australian environment.

Jackie French has written a moving, true representation of the fires that attack parts of Australia every year. Many of our children are much too familiar with fire as a threat- they have lived through it, they have lost houses, or lost loved ones. Those that haven't experienced it themselves have seen the devastation played out on the nightly news, or watched stories like this one by children's news shows like Behind the News, often watched in primary school classrooms.

Jackie French has seen fire threaten her own country home. She was a volunteer bushfire fighter when she was younger, and her first hand experience with fire is obvious to see. Fire is an amazing poem.

Hills bleached gold, a baked blue sky
Leaves lay limp in air sucked dry. 

All masterfully illustrated once again by Bruce Whatley. Bruce has captured the heat and intensity of a bush fire beautifully. He doesn't seem to have used his non dominant hand to create these images like he did in Flood (Bruce Whatley was actually so interested in the way that art is created by non-dominant hands that he has done a PhD on the subject, Left Hand Right Hand), but his illustrators note at the back of the book tells us that fire "has been the hardest thing for me to capture in paint".

The erratic shapes are so random- there is no pattern or shape that becomes the foundation for the rest of the drawing. And then there is the heat and intensity. The brightest mark I could make on paper was none at all, letting the white of the paper shine through. The reds and yellows then create the shapes. What makes the fire intense is the surrounding darks. 

I'm off to a bit of a slow start for this years Australian Women Writers Challenge, but happy that my first read was Jackie French- very appropriate as she was the Aussie Women Writer that I read most last year and she is our new Australian Children's Laureate.


Satia said...

I remembered your review of The Flood and looking for the book. It's not easily found in the US but it is on my list and I do hope to come upon it. I'm adding this book to that list. I wish my library would order both but all I can do is put in a request and know it may or may not happen.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Finally got around to looking up Jackie French in our card catalog. (Some confusion with another JF who has an additional last name? Same? Different, I think.)

In any case, we have a few JF titles (though quite a lot of the other JF). Nothing current, sadly.

Brona said...

I was very moved by this book/poem too. The images were searing.