Review Blog

May 05 2014

The Hairy-Nosed Wombats find a new home by Jackie French

cover image

Ill. by Sue deGennaro. HarperCollins Australia, 2014. ISBN 9780732295486.
Not so long ago, there were only 176 Northern Hairy-nosed Wombats left in the entire world! And because their home was at risk of flood and fire meaning they would be gone forever, they had to find a new home. But where would that home be? The one they had was just right (except for the threat of flood and fire) and it was going to be tricky to find one that had tasty grass and was safe and secure enough for them to have babies. So five brave wombats went on a wondrous wombat adventure to find that new home . . .
Rarer than the giant panda, the northern hairy-nosed wombat has been critically endangered for many years, with their numbers dropping to just 35 ten years ago when drought crippled much of Australia, even though they were in a protected, secluded and exclusive environment. When the rains did come, their numbers had increased to 176 by 2010 but fire and flood still threatened their special home and so a new one had to be found again. This is the story of their plight, their move and the joy of a baby being seen in March 2011 and it is Jackie French displaying two of her passions - storytelling based on detailed research and wombats. Even though the wombats' plight is pared down to its basic thread, she has woven a wonderful account that introduces the very youngest reader to the predicament of these creatures and shows that species can be saved by providing a safe place to live with good food and water. (The full story underpinning the events is provided at the end.) It's an introduction to how we all need to share our planet and that our lives are so much richer when we do.
Jackie's words are powerful, but they are made even more so by Sue deGennaro who has translated them into the most divine pictures using a whimsy which brings the characters to life - why wouldn't a hairy-nosed wombat have a magnificent moustache and be delighted when the girls arrive? And why wouldn't they arrive in a bus with all the modern accoutrements to setting up home? Or parachute in to a ready-made environment? Using watercolour to draw the wombats and collage to dress them (the story of that is told too) Ms deGennaro has created the perfect accompaniment that kept Miss 3 and Miss 7 totally engaged and wanting to know more. It went from a first-read to a favourite immediately and each time we shared this story, there was more to see and each time we understood a little bit more of what it all meant. And the freezing cold day gave us the perfect excuse to stay indoors and draw and dress our own wombats! Miss 7 even remembered that when she was just Miss 4, she got to snuggle a baby wombat because a close friend raises orphans for a wildlife foundation, and the week before she and I had been making pouches for the new orphans who sadly, continue to arrive.
Released in time for Hairy Nosed Wombat Day on May 11,  Jackie is donating the proceeds of this book to enable further research. However, in alignment with the theme of the book that we can all make a difference, there are a range of resources for schools available (even a recipe for hairy-nose truffles) on that page and more at And if you want to make a personal contribution, why not wear whiskers for wombats next Sunday, make a donation and tell your mum it is her Mothers' Day gift? I suspect that given the impact of this book on my little ones, that's what I will be getting. YES!
Barbara Braxton

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