‘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 banks, but in others it burst across the river
bends... up into the streets.
It sounded like a helicopter.
It sounded like a flood.’
Jackie French’s work is often concerned with community history and the emotional impact of historical events. This is one of a number of books on natural disasters which she has collaborated on with illustrator, Bruce Whatley. Inspired by the Queensland floods 0f 2010–11, ‘Flood’ sensitively explores the impact of a natural disaster viewed through the eyes of a cattle dog separated from his family. The animal represents an ‘everyman’ figure observing without comment the extraordinary damage inflicted on the city. But he is also symbolic of the Australian spirit, in this moving account of how a flood destroys homes, possessions and sometimes, lives.
The floodwater rapidly rises, consuming properties and towns, and then recedes, leaving a devastating path of destruction. But hope, of course, emerges as the dog and the reader witness acts of courage and kindness. French’s urgently expressive and economical text is matched by Whatley’s evocative paintings which utilise changes in perspective to depict scenes with particular poignancy. A tiny tugboat is depicted heroically ‘nudging’ a disconnected boardwalk out to sea; a house is viewed from above, graphically demonstrating the scale of the crisis; and of course, the images of rescues by friends and strangers in this newly configured community are vivid. The Brisbane riverscape is sensitively rendered in views of the flood and the restoration which came later.
Bruce Whatley has said that: ‘I wanted the whole book to look wet. The paintings are done in acrylics on thick paper on a vertical easel. I used them very thinly so they would run and drip. Most of the illustrations are based on photographs taken at the time. This was important as I wanted it to have a genuine feel and honesty about it.’ [From: ‘Teachers Notes ‘Flood’, Scholastic Press] Both author and illustrator conceived the book as a tribute to Australian resilience, an aim they admirably achieved.
Series title: ‘The Natural Disaster Picture Book’ series by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley