Cyclone, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley

Outside, a giant
groans and growls.
A wind that
batters
shrieks
and howls.
A crack,
A lurch,
our house
is torn
Ripped
to paper
by the storm.

On Christmas Eve in 1974, Cyclone Tracy destroyed most of the city of Darwin, with houses ripped apart and families fighting for their lives as they sought shelter. Christmas Day revealed the extent of the damage and, in the days that followed, families were separated as most were evacuated until it was safe to return. While other cyclones and storms have hit Australia before and since, the scale of Cyclone Tracy and the damage she wrought, nothing has matched the scale of that storm – with 71 people killed, 41 000 left homeless and 80 percent of the homes destroyed.

Cyclone tells the story of that night from the perspective of a child who, initially, is sure that nothing is going to spoil Christmas, until s/he is woken in the night by Dad, who ushers his family out of their disintegrating house to hide under their brick barbecue. The rhyming text gathers the momentum of the storm – starting and finishing calmly but with pace and fury in the middle, and the chaos reflected by short line breaks.
The illustrations too, match the text with brooding skies in the early spreads, lightening slightly to illuminate the chaos of the storm, then brighter in the pages that follow. The use of muted tones and washes reflects both the tone of events and the photography of the 1970s which was used as reference material.

From the team who previously produced Fire and Flood, Cyclone is another outstanding offering.

Cyclone, by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781743623596

Flood, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley

In January 2011 much of Queensland and parts of NSW were subjected to terrible flooding. the rest of Australia – and the world – watched in horror at the destruction and loss of life. In Floodthe team of Jackie French and Bruce Whatley capture those times in words and pictures accessible to children.

The rain stopped, but the wall of water surged into the river. Hour by hour the river rose. In some places water only nibbled at the bank, but in others it burst across the river bends…up into the streets. It sounded like a helicopter.
It sounded like a flood.

In January 2011 much of Queensland and parts of NSW were subjected to terrible flooding. the rest of Australia – and the world – watched in horror at the destruction and loss of life. In Floodthe team of Jackie French and Bruce Whatley capture those times in words and pictures accessible to children.

The text explains the flood – its origins, its sights and sounds – and specific instances of heroism, such as the tugboat driver who stopped the boardwalk from doing further harm. The illustrations highlight the damage and desolation with watery browns and blues, as well as the courage and heroism of volunteers working int he midst of the floods. The image of a dog as a watcher, and participant, in many spreads gives youngsters a character to empathise with.

French and Whatley have teamed together on brighter subjects before – most famously the. Exploration of such a serious topic required a different approach, and Wahtley’s use of different drawing and painting techniques helped here. Whatley has used his non-dominant hand for the images and his use of acrylic washes highlights the feeling of wetness.

Profits from the sale of Flood are being donated to the Qld Premier’s Disaster Relief appeal.

Flood

Flood, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2011
ISBN 9781742830728

This book is avaialable in good bookstores or through Fishpond.