‘Look out!’ cried Mum as Dad braked to miss a large white duck waddling across the driveway.
I pressed my face to the window. I knew staying with Aunt Evie would be different, but I hadn’t expected an old sandstone cottage almost ready to collapse. Nor was I prepared for the raggle-taggle gypsy striding towards us. I swallowed hard. Tall and thin, with her dark curly hair tied up in a red scarf, Aunt Evie didn’t look anything like Dad. Plus, she wore socks with her sandals. Dad never wore sandals.
Nine-year-old Minnie, known as ‘Mouse’, is accustomed to being looked after by her loving but very protective parents. So when they tell her they are going to Ireland and she’s going to stay with the aunt she hardly knows, who lives in country South Australia, she’s understandably apprehensive. As if that’s not enough, she also discovers that the house is home to a wombat called Miss Pearl and a duck called Pumpkin. AND she has to attend school while she stays with Aunt Evie. Altogether, it’s not shaping up to be much fun. But Miss Pearl immediately befriends her, and despite a rocky start, school’s not all bad. But there’s a problem. While Mouse very quickly comes to love Miss Pearl, not everyone in the district is as fond of wombats.
Mouse is not used to independence, making her own decisions, and she’s a bit gobsmacked that she has to stay with her quirky aunt in the country. She’s not that excited about Aunt Evie’s neighbour either, and her neighbour’s not that thrilled about city girls. But she does find a friend in her neighbour’s son Harry. Quiet Mouse discovers her voice here in the country where not everyone loves all the wildlife. Her stay with Aunt Evie tips her world upside down in ways she could never have predicted. Themes of friendship, compromise, family and wildlife. Recommended for independent readers.
Wombat Warriors, Samantha Wheeler
UQP 2017 ISBN: 9780702259586
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,
Come on, it’s lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you.
This popular Christmas song filled with mentions of snow and sleighs seems an unlikely choice for an Australian picture book, but illustrator Matt Shanks has given it a very Australian makeover. The words are unchanged, but the sleigh bells belong to an icecream van, and the sleigh is a trailer towed behind it. The ice and snow come from an esky. The pages are also populated with a cast of Australian animals – koalas, wombats, numbats, galahs, echidnas and more are picked up in the icecream van sleigh and end up at the beach where the van’s driver is revealed as a penguin.
Youngsters will love seeing the song interpreted in a beach and outback setting, and there is a bonus CD featuring the song performed by Hum,an Nature and Jessica Mauboy, so they will be able to sing along.
Sleigh Ride, by L. Anderson & M. Parish, illustrated by Matt Shanks
Snow on the stockman’s hut
Snow on the crows
Snow on the woollybutt
Snow on my … NOSE!
A little wombat takes a stroll across the winter landscape of Australia’s High Country watching the snow on the animals, birds, people and plants – and on himself as well. The snow is fun, but Wombat is happy to snuggle down for a sleep in the only place with no snow – his burrow.
The Snow Wombat is a beautiful picture book featuring gentle rhyming text and divine watercolour and ink outline illustrations. T
The story is simple, with youngsters likely to predict the rhymes on early readings and subsequently remember and join in. Adults shouldn’t mind the repeated rereadings, with the rhyme scanning well. The illustrations bring he winter landscape to life, with the wombat being particularly delightful.
The Snow Wombat, by Susannah Chambers & Mark Jackson
Allen & Unwin, 2016
The animals floated on the waves.
They BOBBED and BOUNCED.
SURFED and SPLASHED.
They were having a wonderful time.
Echidna Jim went for a swim.
It’s a very hot day, but the animals don’t mind. Dingo has fixed the old blue bus that used to sit in the creek – and he’s taking everyone to the beach for a swim. At the beach everyone blows up their inflatable toys and swim rings, and has a lot of fun – until Echidna Jim joins in. His spikes wreak havoc, popping the inflatables – which could be a disaster, but instead, adds to the fun as the animals whoosh around.
Echidna Jim Went for a Swim is a humorous picture book story featuring lots of favourite Australian animals, including the echidna, the wombat, a platypus, an emu, a kangaroo and more, as well as all the fun of a bus ride and a trip to the beach. With lots of golden sand and watery aquas and blues, as well as the colourful inflatables and the browns and greys of the animals themselves, the illustrations fill the pages with movement and fun.
Echidna Jim Went for a Swim, by Phil Cummings & Laura Wood
Hop up, wiggle over, wakey wakey, HUNGRY!
Crunch crunch, gobble gobble, lick lick, MORE!
So begins this beautiful little movement and sound filled offering for early childhood audiences. This unconventional animal family – Mum is a koala, Dad a big red kangaroo, and the nine children include a wombat, an echidna, a bilby and more – move through the day joyfully, from wake up till bedtime.
The text is minimal – just four words or phrases per spread, being the sounds the animals mutter (sploosh! boing…boing) or the occasional word such as yum yum! and a joyful Dad-dee! when Dad arrives at the park where the children are playing. Illustrations, in watercolour with pencil outlines are pastel-toned colours of the Australian bush, with white backgrounds and lots of fun detail for youngsters to discover. Movement is depicted with a few well placed lines, and the joy of the family is evident in their faces.
A joyful celebration of families and of Aussie animals.
Hop Up! Wriggle Over!, by Elizabeth Honey
Allen & Unwin, 2015
Available from good bookstores and online.
Little Barry Bilby had a fly upon his nose…
Little Peter Possum had a mozzie on his ear…
Little Colly Cocky had a beetle on his beak…
And the bizzy buzzy bush bugs won’t go away!
This humorous picture book is filled with favourite Aussie animals – bilby, echidna, wombat, dingo and more – all afflicted by annoying bush bugs, from flies and mozzies to cicadas and even a bogong moth. The best solution is to tumble down the gully and jump in the creek. The repetitive text encourages children to join in, and can be either read or sung, with an accompanying CD coming in handy for the latter.
The illustrations are in gentle bush pastel tones with lovable animals and insects, with zany touches such as the slightly cross-eyed look of Barry Bilby.
Suitable for children from birth through to primary school age, Little Barry Bilby Had a Fly Upon His Nose is lots of fun.
Little Barry Bilby Had a Fly Upon His Nose, by Colin Buchanan and Roland Harvey
Scholastic Australia, 2015
Available from good bookstores and online.
Wombat stared in surprise at the other animals.
Am I special after all?
When Wombat emerges from his tunnel, his friends are really glad to see him, but as Wombat watches them celebrate he feels sad. Each of his friends is good at something: Goanna is the fastest climber, Magpie is the best singer and Dingo is the cleverest dancer. Wombat wants to go back and hide in his tunnel, but his friends run after him to remind him that he, too, is good at things, and best of all, that Wombat is their friend.
A Feast for Wombat is a gentle tale of friendship and self belief. While Wombat wants to be like his friends, he seems unaware that each of them is different, as is he. His friends’ reminder of his own strengths is reassuring, and will reassure young readers, too.
The acrylic illustrations bring the cast of Australian animals to life in gentle bush colours with lovely textured backgrounds, adding to the warm feel of the book.
A Feast for Wombat, by Sally Morgan & Tania Erzinger
Available from good bookstores or online.
One Woolly Wombat sunning by the sea
Two cuddly koalas sipping gumnut tea….
Since 1982 Aussie children have been learning to count with One Woolly Wombat. Now they can learn to read with him, too, in this cute new series of readers from Scholastic, suitable for school or home use.
Aimed at beginning readers, these four small format books each feature the woolly wombat, with his friend Bandicoot, and other friends, also recurring. The first in the series is a special edition of the classic One Woolly Wombat, with other titles being At the Beach, Hide and Seek and Best of Friends.
With the beautiful illustrations of Kerry Argent, and high-interest stories, coupled with text which is accessible and a format suitable for little hands to easily hold and turn pages, these are a treat for beginner readers, and will withstand repeated readings.
One Woolly Wombat
At the Beach
Hide and Seek
Best of Friends
All by Kerry Argent
Omnibus Books, 2014
Few Australian picture books have been as internationally successful as Diary of a Wombat (2002). Now the team from this book have produced a sequel, Baby Wombat’s Week, featuring the offspring of that first wombat.
Just like his mother, Mothball, Baby Wombat creates havoc as he digs, searches for food, and plays with his friend – a baby human. Using the same minimalist diary format, and the same adorable style of illustrations of marvellously expressive wombats, and colourful surrounds against white backgrounds, Baby Wombat’s Week will delight fans of the earlier work, and attract a whole new legion of fans.
Baby Wombat’s Week, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley
Angus & Robertson, 2010
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
Evening: Ate grass.
Night: Ate grass.
So begins the diary of Mothball a carrot-loving, doormat-destroying wombat – a picture book which has won hearts (and awards) around the world since its first release in 2002. Written from the first person (first wombat?) perspective of a wombat, the text gives us Mothball’s perspective of life, whilst the illustrations – by the talented Bruce Whatley – often show us a very different reality, with humorous results.
Previously published in hardcover and paperback format, this new release is in a delightful boxed set with a small format hardcover edition of the book and, for the first time, a small plush wombat – Mothball herself, complete with carrot.
This would make a gorgeous gift for a child of any age – this reviewer is way past her first childhood, but has souvenired the wombat for herself, much to the disgust of her children.
Diary of a Wombat, by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
This edition Harper Collins, 2008