Review Blog

Mar 12 2019

Mallee sky by Jodi Toering

cover image

Ill. by Tannya Harricks. Black Dog Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781925381672.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Mallee, Drought, Farming, Australia, Country towns. The brilliantly colourful cover with its vast blue sky overlaid with pink clouds, including touches of browns and red and creams will entrance the readers as they take in the image of a mallee sky just before sunset. With trees outlined against the darkening sky, it is an image at once very familiar and yet drawn by an illustrator with a different perspective, the oils she places upon the page give an unusual freshness to something we all know so well. I marvelled as each page was turned, the strong sweep of images reflecting life upon the land for those who still farm the mallee, a place notorious for its mercurial weather patterns. Those who remain are the toughest of people, watching clouds roll over the hills, bringing nothing but dust storms, mum suddenly a whirlwind herself as she tries to get the washing off the line, and the windows closed before the dust gets there.
Towns along the highway are often just punctuated by silos, those small communities drying with the weather, people moving on, shops closing, teams disbanding, and yet some hold on. Dad watches his crops dry, his hopes fading, the ancient trees become ghosts of themselves, and then one day the clouds roll over and rain starts to fall. The children run out of school and dance in the water puddles, the birds fly back, the trees lose their crust of dirt, and the smell is breathed in by one and all. The drought has broken, under the mallee sky.
A beautiful and timely story to read with children, the towns along the highway are getting smaller as each year passes, highlighting the difficulty of making a living in this marginal land. But the sunsets are amazing, the landscape breathtaking and the wildlife astounding, the images in this outstanding book reflecting the emotional pull of this part of Australia.
Award winning artist, Harricks also illustrated Saxby's Dingo, using that same layered style, building up an image which defies the colours used. Teacher notes are available.
Fran Knight

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