Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book Review: Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French

Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French, illustrations by Bruce Whatley

I like wombats. I spent six months in Australia when I was twelve, and we did visit several zoos and wildlife conservancies, that sort of thing. I always liked wombats. Koalas are cute but really passive. Kangaroos are scary (seriously, if you've ever been around a real one, eight feet tall that can kill you with one kick, you'd understand), and emus are pretty gross. Wallabies are cool because they're like how you picture kangaroos (more reasonably sized) but I liked wombats the most, partly because I'd never heard of them or seen one, even in a book. They seemed relatively harmless, funny, and just plain goofy. I wasn't sure how there could be a picture book about one. They seem to mostly lie around and eat.

And that's precisely what the endearing wombat in this book does! Eating is her goal 99% of the time when she's awake. It very indirectly addresses the encroachment of people on the wombat's territory. People move in nearby, and she discovers they have food. So she eats it. She eats the whole garden, even things she doesn't like. She tries to eat the laundry. The people are trying to dissuade her from eating all their things, but that completely backfires as the lack of easily available food persuades her that she should eat her way into the house. On each page, you see the people's attempted (and futile) repairs as the very determined wombat allows them to feed her and keep her happy. She even trains them to give her treats on demand. In the end, the wombat decides they make good pets. I laughed out loud!

This is a cute, subtle book that can introduce children to a very strange animal from the other side of the world. I think it's important that children know we're not the only ones here. Both to learn about other countries/continents, but also to think about the animals upon whose land we are now living. The adults reading the book will appreciate the exasperation of the people in the story, as well as the tongue-in-cheek nature of the deadpan narration.

Diary of a Baby Wombat comes out in September (so my original assumption that the wombat was a he must have been completely wrong. I have fixed my pronouns.) Looks like Baby helps Mum to dig holes, sleep, and continue to train the family "pets."

Kid Konnection
This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

No comments: