Given the bushfires, extreme heat, preparing for going back to school and doing the bulk loans for classes who are doing a unit of study on Water, I have got to thinking about the fine line between drought, bushfire and flood and how prevalent these are as topics in children's literature not only in the Southern hemisphere where they are prevalent now. Every culture seems to have stories based on the weather extremes experienced by people and animals. Today I want to highlight some Australian books that show these extremes and how people cope, and often develop a very strong community as a result.
Two books that look at the effects of drought are:
• Two Summers by John Heffernan and Freya Blackwood. The young male narrator here explains the differences in the farm a visiting friend will see this visit when there is drought compared to a previous visit without drought.
• Water Witcher by Jan Ormerod. Although set in the past, this story about Dougie and his family carting water and handfeeding animals shows the hardship and the stark environment drought causes.
Then there are books that show the pleasure and relief that rain brings when the drought breaks.
• Here Comes the Rain by Clare Good and David Cox. Here Grace watches and waits. her grandfather has told her all the signs of rain to look for. She watches the ants, horses and other animals looking for the signs.
• Rain Dance by Cathy Applegate and Dee Huxley. Here too, a young girl waits for rain, then ''the first drops beat out a hesitant rhythm on the corrugated-iron roof," and then the girl dances in pleasure..."the rain is so heavy, it almost hurts as it pelts my head and shoulders."
• Big Rain Coming by Katrina Germein and Bronwyn Bancroft. Once again we see people waiting for rain, looking for signs of rain and then celebrating when it finally arrives.
And, then what happens when the rain comes or it is too much.
• The Story of Rosy Dock by Jeannie Baker and Flood Fish by Robyn Eversole and Sheldon Greenberg both tell of what happens when the Finke River, which is usually just a dry river bed, floods in outback Northern territory on the edge of the Simpson Desert. The first tells of the ramifications in detail. The second recounts the fun a child has swimming with fish in water that isn't usually there.
• Flood by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley recounts the Brisbane floods of 20011 and the human drama that unfolded there. Whatley's illustrations 'make you feel the water and mud'.
While not all of these books are still in print, school libraries will have them and the visual imagery in all of these books is outstanding. You get to feel the hardship, the anguish, the horror, the joy and the suddenness of weather in parts of the harsh Australian environment.