Review – Alex and the Watermelon Boat

Alex is lounging around at home when his mum tells him not to go outside.

Of course, what does a child do when you tell them not to do something? Alex is compelled. Especially as his favourite stuffed toy, Rabbit, has hopped out the window, and of course, Alex has to go find him.

But outside, the river has burst its banks. The dam had overflowed. The water is rising and more fat rain clouds are hovering around menacingly. Binky the Cat is stuck on a roof. Merilyn Kafoops and her dog Dyson are also stranded on a roof, cooking up a storm on the barbie. But where is Merilyn’s twin? And where is Rabbit?

In search of his friend, Alex embarks in a watermelon boat, past empty shops and robbers stealing sausages from the butcher. Past pots and pans and memories being washed down the river. Past stranded people, and misplaced furniture and a shark which is blocking the freeway and causing a terrible traffic jam.

Does Alex find Rabbit or does he become terribly lost in the flooded confusion?

McKimmie’s iconic illustrations are also a flood, washing each double page spread with colour, vigour and complementary mediums that make for a striking visual feast. This collage-like effect has been created using both acrylic and oil paints, gouache, ink, pastels, pencils, pens, stamps, sticky tape and more.

First person tense and scattered, varying typography make for a layered, newspaper/journal feel to the book, which perfectly harnesses McKimmie’s childlike imagery. Although the book has a somewhat dark feel – thanks to its haunting images of the devastation of flood – it is ultimately a story of hope and renewal.

Alex and the Watermelon Boat is published by Allen & Unwin.


Published by

Tania McCartney

Tania McCartney is an author of children's books and adult non-fiction. Recent books include Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne, and Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline. She's also an editor, publisher and founder of Kids Book Review.