Pandemic by Jackie French

Title: Pandemic
Author: Jackie French
Bruce Whatley
Published:  November 2020
Publisher: Scholastic
Readership: Children
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: ★★★★.5
RRP: $24.99

I received a copy of Pandemic from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The war carried the Spanish flu across the world. Faces grew masks. Shops and schools wore signs that said, ‘Closed’. Families nursing the sick drew their curtains together to say their house was quarantined . . .

From the award-winning creators of Flood, Fire, Cyclone and Drought, comes this powerful story of humanity prevailing during a pandemic.

Jackie French and Bruce Whatley are a powerhouse duo in the children’s publishing world, and together they’re produced cheerful, upbeat picture books, as well as ones that deal with serious world issues. It’s easy to determine which category Pandemic falls into.

Pandemic is the story of the Spanish Flu pandemic that spread across the world from around 1917 or 1918 in an army camp in Kansas. Just like COVID-19 it spread across the world, and French has used the stories her grandmother told her about her great-grandmother during this time. Set in Australia, Pandemic is the story of how communities and children supported one another during this strange and scary time.

Without a doubt, this is a book that is perfect for our current times – while not based on COVID-19, the conditions and quarantine is similar enough that this book will offer a lot of opportunities to discuss what has happened in Australia (and the world) during 2020. Rather than being bleak and hopeless, Pandemic is optimistic and highlights the ingenuity, kindness and persistence of people during tough times.

As with all Jackie French’s books, it’s beautifully told. She is a master of her craft and whether she’s writing something to delight or inform, I know I can pick up one of her books and be swept away into her stories.

Likewise, Bruce Whatley is an illustrator I’m very familiar with, but Pandemic is unique for him, too. I’ve loved reading about the inspiration behind stories and illustrations recently and as Whatley states in his notes at the back of the book, he illustrated this book while in isolation, with limited resources and art supplies. The style that came out as a result is absolutely gorgeous to look at.

This is the perfect book for middle- and upper-primary students and I’m so glad to add it to my Jackie French/Bruce Whatley collection!

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