REVIEW: Mallee Sky by Jodi Toering & Illustrated by Tannya Harricks

Published: 1st February 2019

Publisher: Black Dog Books, imprint of Walker Books Australia

Pages: 32

Format: Hardback Picture book (courtesy of the publisher)

RRP: $24.99

5/5 Stars

An extremely timely and beautiful picture book about the effects of drought and climate change in the Mallee.

The first people of the land call the Mallee “Nowie”. It means sunset country. When the sun goes down the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire. Drought and rain – life under a Mallee Sky. This poetic text by emerging author Jodi Toering is beautifully accompanied by lush oil paintings by fine artist and illustrator Tannya Harricks.

 

Mallee Sky by Jodi Toering and Illustrated by Tannya Harricks is one of the most beautiful picture books I have ever seen. The story and illustrations are lush, larger than life and brutally honest depictions of life on the land in outback Australia.

The first thing I noticed about Mallee Sky was Tannya Harrick’s stunning oil painting illustrations. As a mutli-award winning artist in her own right, Harrick’s illustrations are beautiful to behold and capture both Jodi Toering’s story and the personality of the the Mallee people and the countryside perfectly. I could honestly stare at her paintings all day, every day.

Every double page spread features full conceptual and realistic pieces of art that convey the multifaceted aspect and nature of the Australian country, towns and people.  In fact Harrick’s artwork really brings the Australian countryside into Toering’s story as a fully fledge character with an over-abundance of stubborn and relentless personality. The scenes are picture perfect and show the desert s in all it’s tenacious glory.

Jodi Toering uses simple, short and sharp descriptions to report the difficulties and stubbornness of the Mallee country where drought has thrived for more years than any one can remember. The text is large and present in a clear, bold font that brokers no argument as it discusses the highly volatile truths of drought, despair, climate change and life in the country.

Toering’s narrative starts out praising the beauty of the country with its undisturbed starry skies, vast rolling landscapes featuring unique flora and fauna, big blue skies, and the unrepentant summer sun that never truly leaves. With each page turned, and more and more remarks on the affects of the relentless attacks by the sun, heat and drought, a stark and unforgiving country is revealed to be struggling, and dying before the communities eyes. With no water to spare, crops, grass and trees alike have long decayed leaving endless seas of dry, dirt paddocks and blistering bitumen as well as vacant shops and homes as families are forced to relocate in the tough times.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as one day during school, children are greeted with unfamiliar sounds as the sky angrily transforms; the rain finally arrives. Young and old race outside to dance in the rain that they so desperately need – and for some, may not even have seen before. What follows is a country healing from drought, vibrant colours awash the landscape as far as the eye can see and missed flora and fauna return home once again.

To some Mallee Sky will be an introduction to the country they don’t know, far away from the beach fronts, bustling cities and coastal towns, rural Australia and the Mallee Desert in particular is fighting an impossible battle against the brutality of climate change with the ranging sun and drought filled land. For others it will be a story they know well; a confirmation of what they know to be part of their every day lives finally seen and acknowledge by those far removed by proximity and community. It’s a welcoming acknowledgement and embrace by the city, towns and main stream society for what they hold dear and the uphill battle they simply call life on the land.

I honestly adore everything about Mallee Sky by Jodi Toering and Tannya Harricks and find it one of the most eye pleasing and brutally honest picture books out there. It’s a poignant story that Australians living on the coast  are really only coming to terms with  in recent weeks thanks to the widespread campaigning of organisations like Rural Aid, Drought Angels, Buy A Bale and Aussie Helpers just to name a few, and innovative and quick thinking promotions and public crusades by individual farmers and celebrities alike. It’s a haunting and all too familiar story by everyone living on the land in recent memory and one that has scary repercussions for our futures if the community doesn’t act now.

 

To purchase a copy of Mallee sky, visit the following online retailers:

Walker Books Australia | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks | QBD | Wheeler Books

To learn more about Jodi Toering, visit the following social media pages:

Jodi Toering’s Website | Twitter | Walkers Books Australia |

 

To learn more about Tannya Harricks, visit the following social media pages:

Tanya Harricks website | Walker Books Australia |

 

 

 

 

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