Review Blog

Jun 05 2012

Alex and the watermelon boat by Chris McKimmie

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2012. ISBN 9781743310076.
Highly recommended. Picture book. Floods. Although intrigued and fascinated by Chris McKimmie's illustrations and characters, I have never felt sure that I have completely understood the story, but not so this one, and I love it.
His illustrative technique will be well known to most, after nominations for major awards in Australia, with his use of scribbly mixed media ranging from simple line drawings to great swathes of colour, collage and wash. Each page brings with it an amazing array of things to look at, discuss and marvel at.
In various types of print, the story of Alex unfolds as he is warned not to go outside, because the dam has broken its banks. But of course he does, as his favourite stuffed toy, a rabbit, is missing. Slipping into his watermelon boat, Alex glides past all his neighbours desperately trying to cope with the inundation. It will not take long for the reader to realise that this book is about the Brisbane floods of 2011, and readers will be drawn into the book, looking at the way the flood changes the landscape and people's lives.
Each page shows people coping with the crisis, the lady next door at her barbecue, the man in the boat filled to the brim with tinned food, people standing on their rooves, and a whole host of articles floating down the river with Alex. He sails past the emergency services and the lines of traffic, the helicopter overhead, but then the pages darken as Alex becomes lost.
A wonderful tale of overcoming adversity is told as Alex plants a tree for the birds to return, this book will be well used in classes. Children will be able to talk about the floods and what happens in such a disaster using Alex and his watermelon boat as a base from which to start. Kids will love to read of Alex, and perhaps make their own watermelon boat in the classroom, using McKimmie's eclectic  drawings as a model for their own, expressing their own ideas about the flood and its aftermath. But also having a great deal of fun with Alex and his quest.
Fran Knight

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