By Polly Marsden and Chris Nixon
Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette, Australia, 2020
Front cover design and illustrations by Chris Nixon
Full cover and internal design by Liz Seymour
A book for children and adults about bushfire preparedness is highly appropriate at this time as we reach Spring 2020 and face the coming summer.
The summer of 2019, for some people and communities one like no other, highlighted for the nation how climate change has brought a new ferocity to our fire season. Many people and homes were lost in different parts of Australia.
For Canberra region dwellers, the South Coast and Namadgi fires meant a summer of destruction, grief, watchfulness and everyday living impacts – this included the fall in air quality to disastrous levels for health and well being and saw Canberrans wearing masks to leave their houses. In 2020 the wearing of masks for COVID-19 precautions has become a familiar sight.
No better time then to produce a book which explains how bushfires start and grow and how we can all be prepared. Importantly this book discusses fear – a natural response to such events and one which children will also have been grappling with during the 2019 summer (and now beyond, because of the pandemic).
The Bushfire Book is written in a very accessible style, presenting facts clearly and simply for its audience. It also gives some tips for how each person can help, and this is important for young children to not just allay fears but endow a sense of capacity, rather than expecting them to simply endure.
The importance of a bushfire plan was stressed constantly in media over summer and now is again a good time to remind us all of this – despite and because of the fact that we have been otherwise distracted with health and safety for COVID-19. One does not, sadly, negate the other.
The Bushfire Book asks children to share the knowledge imparted therein – this is another way that children can be empowered. Teachers and parents will be able to engage their young people in fruitful discussion when reading this book together, and invite them to formulate ways of coping themselves and of helping others.
Chris Nixon’s drawings will appeal to children, containing enough detail to elicit discussion, spark imagination and engender ideas about looking after our land. The edition I have kindly been given by Hachette – for which many thanks – contains a pull-out poster HOW TO BE BUSHFIRE SMART – which will also be very useful for classroom or private use as a quick reference for action.
Thanks to Lothian Books, an imprint of Hachette Australia, for the review copy.