Review Blog

Nov 27 2014

The Wombats series by Roland Harvey

cover image

Allen & Unwin, 2014.
The Wombats go on camp. ISBN 9781760111533
The Wombats at the zoo. ISBN 9781743319048
(Age: Yr 2+) The Wombats are a group of kids and their two teachers, Mrs Nott (Mumbat) and Ms Annabel. Naucia Compostine's a bit posh, Audrey Gaudrey's a literary genius, and Hugh Jarmez is scared of nothing. Ima Lemington loves baking, Oliver Hammenex is small and fast, while Sardinia Jones likes to do magic tricks. Albert Onestein knows everything, Dante Pozzebon's never without his ball, and winning is very important to Ava Navratilova. Freddie Flannery has one eye, Alecia Morosi hates everything, and Horrie Bull loves his pet rat which is really an antechinus.
The Wombats Go on Camp is the first in this series by one of Australia's best loved illustrators and in it the children go on their very first camp with all the fun and games that can happen there. Each child writes about the experience from their own perspective and each entry is accompanied by the iconic style of Harvey with its inimitable detail and humour. The format is the same for The Wombats at the Zoo where each child is required to write a report about their favourite animal, and through these, Harvey embeds a lot of interesting facts.
However, rolling through both of them is Harvey's humour - in both prose and picture there is much that will make the reader laugh out loud. Starting with the careful choice of names for each child through to Mrs Nott wishing she had not worn her zebra-like outfit near the cheetahs, each page brings something to delight and engage. Apart from the genius of Roland Harvey, it is this interesting format that sets these two books apart from others that tell of children visiting the zoo or going on camp.
While the multiple narrators might make it seem a bit tricky as a read-aloud, an astute teacher could draw on what the listener already knows about the character (from the endpaper introductions) and combine this with a close examination of the accompanying illustration to predict what the prose might be about. It could lead to a discussion about perspective and how the same experience can be viewed in many ways depending on the lens it is viewed through. Similarly, it could also serve as a model for creating a class book about similar excursions. The introductions to the children on the endpapers reflect their knowledge and interest in the situation at hand which could inspire the students to create a similar thumbnail sketch of themselves and their perspectives, and provide the basis for more interesting report writing.
This is a must-have to promote to teachers as a perfect vehicle for entertainment and education!
Barbara Braxton

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