47 Degrees by Justin D’Ath
Readers of Justin D’Ath’s Extreme Adventures series, particularly the second book, Bushfire Rescue, may be shocked when they realise that this new story of survival, loss and ruin is based on his own life experience surviving the Black Saturday bushfires, ten years ago this month. In this fictionalised retelling, twelve-year-old Zeelie and her family live in Flowerdale, ninety-five kilometres north-east of Melbourne.
We meet them on that scorching day in February 2009 when the temperature soared to forty-seven degrees. As fire reports come through, Zeelie is home with her father. Her mother and brother have made a dash to the city to deal with her brother’s suspected broken arm. In their haste to leave, a phone is left behind and rash decisions are made that will prove detrimental as events unfold.
Zeelie frets, privately, as her father keeps to his stay-and-defend fire plan. She worries that her mother and brother may not know it is unsafe to return. Tension builds as power and communication go down, the daytime sky turns dark with smoke, and a change in wind direction brings the deafening roar of the fire directly into their path. This is a gripping story based on Australia’s worst bushfire and is a crucial springboard for discussion about fire survival plans.