As the title suggests, this picture book is based on a true event - the evacuation of three and a half thousand people in February 2019 from the area around Wakefield. When the largest bushfire in 70 years swept through the Tasman District a cat called Dozer went missing and was not able to be evacuated with his family and after a week of fearing the worst, his owner, a member of the Wakefield Volunteer Fire Brigade was eventually reunited with him.
The illustrations by Jenny Cooper are immediately arresting and she is able to capture all the nuances of a cat with incredibly expressive drawings. We see the absolute self-absorption of a cat engaged in cat activities: stalking, pouncing, washing and sleeping, completely oblivious to his humans’ entreaties. The background landscapes, showing the effects of the fires, though scenes of devastation, are works of art as well.
While this book is worth reading just for the illustrations, the well-crafted text complements them very well. Robyn Prokop uses language with precision and every word counts. The opening three sentences make it obvious that the family is in danger from a large fire and will need to leave immediately; the authorities are involved and they are being given precise instructions as to what they must do. This is all conveyed without using the words: fire, family, instructions or danger. It truly is“show don’t tell” storytelling. She employs richly evocative verbs, such as:”glowed’, ‘howled’ “gushed” and the story has a vitality and pace which will keep readers wanting to find out what happened next.
Title: Dozer the Fire Cat: A New Zealand Story Inspired by True Events
Author: Robyn Prokop
Illustrator: Jenny Cooper
Date of Publication: 1 February 2020
Age Range: Picturebook to Junior
Reviewer: Carola Crawford, English teacher, Karanga Mai Young Parents’ College
How highly are you recommending this book? Highly recommended
What’s the book’s opening sentence? “The sky glowed red and the air was thick with smoke.”
You can buy this book here