Tuesday 3 May 2016


Jackie French can write and publish books faster than I can read them. There's always many, many new books from her waiting to be read (her website lists 9 books scheduled for release this year!), as well as her extraordinary back catalogue of course. So it's never a surprise to find a new book on the shelves at the local bookshop, which is where I came across Cyclone. Naturally I picked it up straight away. Cyclone is obviously a thematic continuation where the fabulous Flood and Fire left off.

Cyclone tells the story of Cyclone Tracy which devastated Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974. I thought of Cyclone Tracy immediately on seeing the cover, but then wondered if she would write of another more modern cyclone- but Cyclone Tracy remains Australia's most devastating tropical cyclone. Eighty percent of Darwin's home were destroyed! 41,000 of the 44,000 population were rendered homeless. 30,000 people needed to be evacuated out of Darwin.

Once again Jackie French has created a moving, yet hopeful, picture book poem out of this devastation.

Outside, a giant
groans and growls,
A wind that batters,
shrieks and howls.
In December 1974 Jackie French was manning the phones in Canberra in her new job at the Depratment for Urban and Regional Development. She took phone calls from Cyclone Tracy survivors. Cyclone is dedicated to the man who told her of how his family shelter in their backyard barbecue. Decades later Jackie has told his story to us all.

The mood is inadequately captured here in my reproduction
The dark broodingness of the storm
The tiny dots of colour of 1970s Christmas lights
The warmth of the tree and light through the window

And Cyclone has been masterfully illustrated by Bruce Whatley. Bruce used black and white photos taken at the time to research his illustrations and then chose a "toned-down palette" to give a documentary vision to the images. He's captured the building storm, the fury unleashed and the aftermath in an amazing way. The whole design really works. The font is like an old school typewriter evoking the precomputer 1970s.

Teacher Notes for Cyclone.



Tamara said...

Being somewhat of a storm lover, I'm thinking this sounds amazing. Im on my way to the airport so i might check out the bookshop. This piece of Australian history is a blurr and it was be great to fill in some of the gaps. Thanks..

Brona said...

I found this story a very powerful reading experience. I was only about 6-7 yrs of age when this happened and I remember watching the news at our neighbours house and being so upset. Every time the radio played The Santa Never Made it into Darwin song after that I would tear up.

This book tapped into that feeling in a good way :-)