Beryl Webber (text), Fern Martins (illus.) Big Fella Rain, Magabala Books, Oct 2017, 32pp., $17.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781925360639
This book has an enticing front cover with three enchanting frogs happily playing on some stalks, which, when we turn to the back, we find are water lily stalks. These frogs are enjoying the results of the ‘big fella rain’.
The book makes clear the importance of rain in regeneration; the whole landscape comes alive with the coming of the wet. The language is poetic (‘Lightning flashes through liquorice clouds’) and the story builds from that first hint of lightning to the raindrops splashing on to the red earth and the reactions of the plants and animals to the arrival of the rain.
This is the first picture book for the author, Beryl Webber and is illustrated by Fern Martin who has exhibited in a variety of galleries in Australia and has published previously with Magabala Books. The illustrations enhance the written text, adding movement and colour. The Australian animals are depicted in vibrant colour, often with cross-hatching or dots giving an added feeling of texture. What a showcase for the variety of wildlife in northern Australia this book provides. The extensive use of double-page spreads helps to emphasise the vastness of the landscape and the sheer majesty of a tropical storm. The layout also allows a kind of focusing in on some creatures such as the line of green ants marching up the branch of a paperback which is shown in close-up, stretched across two pages. In contrast, the double-page also allows us to recognise the enormous size of a crocodile as he hides beneath the blossoming water-lilies.
This is a simple book but a delightful one which beautifully evokes the changes of seasons in the Top End.
Reviewed by Margot Hillel