H20 – Stories of Water, compiled by Margaret Hamilton

In her poem My Country, Dorothea Mackellar described Australia as a land of ‘beauty rich and rare’; a land of ‘droughts and flooding rain’. These characteristics have shaped our land and our people. Although it is the driest continent on the planet, Australia is an island continent surrounded by water and most of us live on or near the coastline.

These were the thoughts which shaped Maragret Hamilton’s decision to compile a book of stories about water, a collection which drew contributions from some of Australia’s finest children’s authors.

These nine tales, whilst all focussing on the single theme of water, explore the very depth of that subject. Water can be life or death, passion or defeat, and all of these extremes, and more, are explored here.

Several of the stories deal with family holidays to the beach, a reflection of the importance of these events in Australian life, but each has a different focus. In Promise Simon French shows a dysfunctional family holidaying in the town where the father was born – and the power of the river there to bring past and present together. In Lost Boat Alan Baillie gives a modern-day take of the boy who cried wolf theme, as a group of bored kids play tricks on other beachgoers.

The pacing of this collection is good – with each story standing well alone, but also building an awareness of the power of water in all its moods. Readers will be moved in places, shocked or scared in others and amused in still others.

This would be a wonderful collection for classroom use, tying into themes of water and the environment, but it just as approptiate for individual reading.

H2O: Stories of Water, compiled by Margaret Hamilton
ABC Books, 2005