Spark is a novel that uses few words but conveys a very powerful message nonetheless. The book is a tribute to the Black Saturday Fires, though it is a very unique take on the horrific tragedy of it and one that will resonate deeply with an Australian audience of any age. It tells the story of an innocent spark of fire, lured into playing with the wind. As the spark grows into a ferocious fire aided by the wind, the detailed illustrations and use of vibrant reds and oranges create a dynamic and powerful landscape being torn through and destroyed.
The language used to convey the spark’s thoughts and perspective paints it as an innocent victim, ridden with guilt over the destruction left in its wake. The reality of the Black Saturday Fires are only quietly implied through the vague illustrations of silhouetted humans running from the fire, and the greyscale ashes left behind. There is an intricacy in the watercolour illustrations, underscored by both the precise colour palette choices and the sketchy pencil lines depicting bugs and leaves found in the bush being burned.
Despite the serious nature of the tragedy depicted, the use of simplistic language makes it accessible to children, and offers a perspective on otherwise random events that could be useful to children trying to make sense of the disaster. The book manages to convey a sincere and heartfelt story with equally impressive illustrations, and holds an uplifting ending about the bush regrowing anew, highlighted with the glimpse of vibrant green in the final illustration against the dark grey ashes left behind.
To convey such a sense of empathy and optimism when writing about such a horrific tragedy without minimizing the disaster caused takes real talent and skill, and Adam Wallace and Andrew Plant manage to do this flawlessly.