Adam Wallace’s Spark follows, in first person narrative, the story of a little spark that comes into being from a discarded cigarette in the dry bushlands of Australia. Far more than the average children’s tale, Spark, approaches the devastating bushfires of Australia in a unique way, that inspires a sense of empathy and challenges the social norm of blaming the fire itself, rather than the unknown individuals who act in arson or who inadvertently start fires in their carelessness.
The story begins with the little spark, who is tempted to come and play by the wind. At first, the spark is happy that it has found a friend who can carry it high and help it fly. The wind helps the spark grow, feeding off the forest, breathing it in and going faster and faster. But the spark soon realises it is going too fast, growing too enormous. It sees the devastation it is causing and wants to stop – but the wind laughs and ignores the spark, who continues to uncontrollably devour everything in its path. Eventually the wind and spark work together to turn around and stop the blaze. But the spark sees the destruction is has caused and in the desolation of its own making, dies down, and goes back to sleep. The spark’s regret and remorse is keenly felt, and reminds us all that without ignition, and without the wind, the fire would never have spread at all. It shows that fire is not inherently evil, and is what it is made to be.
Spark has endless educational possibilities, prompting questions about Australian fire histories, such as Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday, allowing children to easily explore the concept of bushfires in a creative and interesting way. Spark can inspire conversations about how quickly fires can start and spread and can show children that discarding flammable objects can cause serious damage, the tale also reminds readers that fire can also bring about new life, and shows that from the ashes (literally), good things can arise. Wallace writes with a minimalism that allows children to approach this story with ease despite the gravity of the content. The rich and powerful written imagery accompanied with transcendent watercolours from Andrew Plant is stunning, to say the least, with his artwork showing the devastation, and the immense chaotic beauty in the blaze. Profoundly beautiful, Spark is a tale for all ages, adults finding meaning and resolution in the pages, and children learning and identifying with the little spark, who followed its heart and was led astray.