Author: Jackie French and Bruce Whateley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: 1st November 2020
Synopsis: Ages 4+
- Incredible story based on true events – showing
how kindness and quarantine can prevail in a
- Perfect, positive resource for discussions about
the 2020 pandemic
- Exquisite illustrations created by Bruce Whatley
while he was in two weeks of isolation in an
- Themes: pandemic, epidemic, Spanish flu,
quarantine, isolation, illness, kindness, community
The war carried the Spanish flu across the world. Faces grew masks.
Shops and schools wore signs that said, ‘Closed’. Families nursing the sick drew their curtains together to say their house was quarantined . . .
From the award-winning creators of Flood, Fire, Cyclone and Drought, comes this powerful story of humanity prevailing during a pandemic.
No book has ever been more timely, and amongst all the books I have read this year that deal with themes of community, and the few that have specifically touched on the pandemic, I think this one has been the most powerful and has that impact that we need during this time to reinforce what happens when a pandemic hits.
Jackie French takes us back to 1918-1920, from the end of World War One, known then as The Great War, when those returning from war brought a virus known as The Spanish Flu with them, and it soon ran rampant throughout communities across the world, taking many lives with it, and forcing affected families into quarantine and isolation, much like COVID-19 is in 2020 – one hundred years apart.
The story is partially based on her great-grandmother’s stories. The facts are real, but the details are, as Jackie says, not. She evokes a sense of panic and calm at the same time as the world is taken over by the last pandemic. People wore masks, and isolated then, much as they are now in the current pandemic. Showing younger children, and readers of all ages this book serves as a history lesson, and a reminder that this has happened before, and just like it went away one hundred years ago, we will eventually be able to come together again once we’ve beaten this pandemic.
Told simply yet evocatively, and with child characters at the heart of the story, showing the acts of community and kindness in tough times of illness and isolation, this is a story we all need right now. And Bruce Whateley has created evocative illustrations, using a subdued colour palette that evokes the feelings of the time, yet gives hope to readers. Ironically, he created these illustrations in quarantine, which gives the book a bigger sense of being timely and timeless in equal parts as this historical event is recounted, and we are reassured that pandemics don’t last forever.
This is also a reminder that we need to abide by the rules if we want to beat this virus and get out sooner – and perhaps offers insight into what people can do to help. It is evocative and creates talking points, and whilst aimed at younger readers, could be used at all levels of education to open discussions in lessons such as history, literacy and English, where the challenge of tackling current events in literature and stories could be a talking point, and any other relevant areas based on class and student needs.
Jackie French always writes powerful and evocative stories for all the ages she writes for, and I’ve read several of her books this year. I have read her stories for over twenty years, and have always found something special about them. This was my first experience with Bruce Whateley’s illustrations, and they’re beautiful and evocative, and contribute powerfully to the story, capturing the words in images, but also filling in the gaps between the words to give the story a full experience that is relevant to us all.
Everyone should try to read this book – it will help us come to terms with what is happening in 2020.