Home in the Rain, by Bob Graham

“My little sister.
What will her name be, Mummy?”
“Well, she’s not quite with us yet,” said Mum.
“But when will she have a name, Mummy?” said Francie.
“Soon,” said Mum. “Sometime soon.”

It’s a very wet day, and Francie and Mum have a long drive home from Grandma’s house. Stuck in the rain, Francie has lots of time to wonder what her new baby sister will be called and, just before the weather clears, Mum finds a name that seems just right.

Home In The Rain is a beautiful slice of life book from master picture book creator Bob Graham. While the trip is long and the rain is heavy, nothing world-changing occurs – but this makes what does happen – the choosing of a baby’s name – monumental.

Bob Graham’s portrayal of both the heavy rain storm and its effect on the traffic, people and animals, as well as of the little world inside Francie and Mum’s car, is divine. WHile this is chiefly a story about the latter, the detail of the former adds interest and humour and highlights the way life goes on around the little family. Younger children will enjoy the detail and older children will spot layers of meaning, and enjoy the use of light, colour and persepctive. Even the name chosen for the baby, Grace, is connected to the rain through a John Updike quote on the dedication page.


Home In The Rain, by Bob Graham
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781406368239

Cyclone, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley

Outside, a giant
groans and growls.
A wind that
and howls.
A crack,
A lurch,
our house
is torn
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

Cyclone Fever by Sally Morgan ill Beth Norling

It was my unlucky day.

I faked being sick so I could miss school.

My plan was to hang out with Piper, my dog. Read comics, Eat Gran’s apple cake.

But that was before the weather alert about Cyclone Thelma. Gran was in a panic. My plans were in a mess.

It was my unlucky day.

I faked being sick so I could miss school.

My plan was to hang out with Piper, my dog. Read comics, Eat Gran’s apple cake.

But that was before the weather alert about Cyclone Thelma. Gran was in a panic. My plans were in a mess.

Danny and his family live in north-western Australia, where cyclones are an irregular reality. Gran has lived here all her life and has experienced many cyclones so she knows what to do when the weather reports begin monitoring a storm at sea. Danny’s plans of a relaxing day at home with is dog go out the window as Gran and the family make their preparations. Not everyone thinks this level of preparation is necessary, but what Gran says, happens. As the storm approaches, Danny begins to realise the danger a cyclone can bring to a town. Perhaps Gran knows more than the weatherman? On each page there are words presented in different font, sometimes because they may be challenging for young readers. Each opening includes header and footer illustrations and there are colour illustrations on every page.

Cyclone Fever is a new title in the fabulous ‘Mates’ series from Omnibus. Each title presents a particularly Australian story. Cyclone Fever is funny and real, showing a multi-generational family living their normal life – which just happens to include cyclones. The approaching storm is treated with the respect it deserves. The family works together to prepare and they also extend that support into their community. The characters are warm and empathetic and Danny’s story is told with great humour. Recommended for early primary readers.

Cyclone Fever, Sally Morgan ill Beth Norling

Omnibus Books 2015 ISBN: 9781742991030

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller


Underneath a Cow, by Carol Ann Martin & Ben Wood

We’re under a cow,
We’re under a cow,
We’re under her here
We’re under her now!

When a sudden storm hits, the animals of the farm are taken by surprise. Far from shelter, they are not sure what to do – but Madge the Cow is very calm, and very brave and she offers shelter – first to Lally the rabbit, then to Robinson the dog, Cackalina the chicken and her excited chicks and, finally, to Spike the echidna. As lightning flashes and thunder booms, Madge not only provides a hiding place for the smaller animals, she also encourages them to sing, to dsitract them from the storm.

Underneath a Cow is a quietly humorous story about friendship, safety and bravery. Madge is a gorgeous yellow cow who smiles her way through the terrible storm, seemingly happy to be a point of refuge for her diverse range of guests (though she does request that Spike be careful of her ‘dangly bits’). The other animals appreciate her care, and are grateful and even form unlikely friendships through their experience.

Young readers will love the silliness of the story and its warm demonstration of friendship, and the humour of the illustrations, rendered in mixed media inluding watercolour, pencil and digital collage.

Lots of fun.

Underneath a Cow, by Carol Ann Martin and Ben wood
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 9781742990880&

Thunderstorm Dancing, by Katrina Germein & Judy Watson

9781743314593.jpgDaddy is the wind
whizzing and blowing
howling and growing
making trees whoosh!
making seas swoosh!

A day at the beach is interrupted by an approaching thunderstorm, and the family rushes home to shelter as the win blows, the rain falls and thunder rumbles. Most of the family dance their way through the storm – echoing what is happening outside – but the viewpoint character, a little girl, is very unsure. While every other family member dances and acts a different part of the storm – rain, wind, thunder, lightning – she waits till the storm has passed to play her own shining role.

Thunderstorm Dancing is an energetic picture book about thunderstorms, dancing and families. The text makes good use of poetic techniques including onomatopoeia, assonance and rhyme, so that the reader can hear the storm raging and the frenetic movement of the family. The illustrations use a variety of techniques including black ink, pencil and washes to similarly bring to life the movement of the storm as well as the contrast between light and dark. The end papers, with seagulls soaring in the storm inside the front cover and resting on the beach in the back, are a gorgeous touch.

Thunderstorm Dancing is an excellent read-aloud offering.

Thunderstorm Dancing, by Katrina Germein & Judy Watson
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781743314593

Available from good bookstores and online.