Spark (Adam Wallace, illus by Andrew Plant, Ford Street)
A small fire is born of a careless act. Spark is thrilled by his new found energy but, coaxed by his friend Wind, the fun gets out of hand and Spark can no longer stop—he’s out of control. Both writer Adam Wallace and illustrator Andrew Plant have experienced the threat of bushfire first-hand and Spark vividly captures both the natural phenomenon and personal tragedy that such fires present. Plant’s highly realistic illustrations immediately signal that this is not your average picture book. Images of people fleeing their burning homes are confronting, even for adults. Wallace’s text is simple but deals with complex feelings of anxiety, confusion and fear and would best suit six-to-10-year-olds, an age able to cope with the issue of arson and its dangers. Though the unusual nature of this story might limit its appeal, Spark would be a useful aid for children who have gone through the trauma of bushfire themselves, and the anthropomorphic quality of its writing also suggests this book could be used to assist children with a range of behavioural issues. Spark has difficulty controlling his actions, wants help to calm down and regrets the damage he has done. The closing image of new green life emerging from blackened stumps offers some comfort and points toward ideas of resilience, recovery and healing.
Phe Luxford is an arts writer and Online Content Manager at Benn’s Books