11 February 2009

The colours of our world

The destruction caused by the bushfires in Victoria is devastating and almost incomprehensible.

We are so grateful that, as far as we have been able to ascertain, no members of the extended Onion family have lost their lives or family members. Some have lost friends, some have lost homes and land, and some have had frighteningly close shaves. We know it's not over yet, but so far, we are grateful.

We are grateful and we are remembering.
We edit books for kids, and some of us were kids and teenagers in communities affected by the terrible fires in 1977 and the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983.

This week we have been remembering what it's like to be a child whose world has burned: the smells, the sounds, the colours, the aftermath.

One thing we remember is how disconnected to the new world all the old books seemed. Favourite picture books were comforting, but also off-key somehow.

The real world was black and grey and white for so long.
The picture book world was greens and blues and yellows and purples.

One picture book that I did love in the new world was Dragon's Breath by Michael Dugan, illustrated by Allen Hicks. A girl befriends a dragon who then saves the village from a bushfire - from memory by back-burning with it's own fiery breath.

The illustrations were intricate black and white line work (etchings maybe?). They were solemn and, in my memory, somehow larger than the page. I remember it as a very beautiful book, but also quite frightening. I liked that it was frightening. I did want reassurance (in bucketloads), but sometimes I also wanted to be scared. I wanted to be scared and then be able to stop being scared: to shut the book and put it under another book and go and do something else.

Dragon's Breath
is out of print and I can't find a cover pic on the internet. But I've got a desperate yen to read it again, so I'm going round to my mum's tonight to dig it out of a box in her attic. I'm also going round just coz she's my mum and I love her, and I know I'm not the only one feeling how important that is at the moment

Did you have books you clung to as a child? Books that reflected your world or rescued you from it?

You can donate money for bushfire relief to the Red Cross, or the Salvos, or you can volunteer here.

1 comment:

Miriam said...

Even though I never came close to experiencing any of these things as a kid, my big fears were bush fires, tidal waves and dinosaurs. Over the last few days as the news has gotten worse and worse I keep remembering 'Jodie's Journey' by Colin Thiele, about a girl who survives the Ash Wednesday fires. That combination of fear and comfort, I totally agree.