Review Blog

Jun 19 2019

Happy birthday Wombat by Jackie French

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Illus. by Bruce Whatley. HarperCollins, 2019. ISBN 9781460751596. 32pp., hbk., RRP
Highly recommended. There are a few modern characters in Australian children's literature that are a must-have in the literary and literacy journey of every young reader, and one of those is Mothball the wombat. It is 16 years since we first met her in 2003 in Diary of a Wombat and here she is, back again in a new adventure.
Today is her birthday and while her human friends are set to enjoy a party for her, birthday parties seen through a wombat's lens are different to those through a child's lens. A jumping castle may be fun for the children but it's an enemy to vanquish to a wombat! The result is an hilarious adventure that combines the minimal text of Mothball's thoughts with the classic illustrations that tell so much of the story, and which thoroughly engage the young reader as they follow Mothball's day.
Anyone who follows Jackie's Facebook page will be aware of the adventures she shares about Wild Whiskers and friends, and knows of her love for and affinity with these creatures, including that they bite and they can be very destructive. But her portrayal of these characteristics as being almost childlike in their single-mindedness not only appeals to the audience for whom she is writing, but also raises awareness of these creatures in our environment, encouraging a love to protect them from an early age. Living in the country as I do, sadly wombats are often the victims of cars and I will never forget having to pacify Miss Then-3 when she saw 'Mothball' on the side of the road and clearly in wombat heaven. It took a lot of talking to assure her it was a distant cousin who hadn't learned the road rules and Mothball was very happy still living with Jackie near Braidwood.
Long may she go on to have many more adventures that will bring such delight and empathy to our very youngest readers.
For those who need to satisfy curriculum outcomes, teachers' notes are available.
Barbara Braxton

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