Spark by Adam Wallace and Andrew Plant

cover image

Ford St Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781925272406
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Bushfire. Australian bush. Disasters. A cigarette casually thrown onto the dry grass is the spark which at first flickers but then the wind becomes its friend and helps the spark grow. It races across the dry grass, increasing in size, until it tops the trees and frightens the animals from the bush. It now flies above the tree tops, burning everything in its path. It asks the wind to quieten but it is too late, the wind keeps pushing it along until eventually weakening, it changes direction and the fire is reduced back to where it started, a small spark.
This involving story of taut, measured words shows readers the strength of a fire as it races over the scrub. With both the author and illustrator having first hand experience of fire in Victoria and South Australia (Ash Wednesday, 1983 and Black Saturday, 2009), the words and images are stunningly presented.
Plant's illustrations encapsulate the dreadful intensity of a fire, from the tiny spark to the ferocious firestorm engulfing all in its wake. His use of mixed media including water colour, pencil and crayon present the small flame beginning quietly in yellows with a pale blue sky then building to a intensity of reds and dark yellows, and on to blacks, grays and reds savagely taking up the whole page. Different illustrative techniques convey the changing nature of the fire, and readers will be in no doubt about its destructive force.
This will make a powerful addition to any class study of disasters and fire, of how fires start, of their destruction and place in the Australian environment.
Fran Knight