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

Diary-of-a-wombat Me and The Guy are city kids who have been living in a small town for nearly ten years (well, small city, but “small town” rolls off the tongue more easily).  Although we initially found the adjustment, well, an adjustment, we’ve slowly started to identify the 10 Things We Do When We Want to Do Things.  You know what I mean – everyone has them, even when you live in a big city.  Those comfortable places you always return to when you don’t have anything in particular to do.  The café(s) with good music and amazing pastries, the bar with Your Beer on tap or the cocktail you just can’t seem to make at home, the patio with the nachos you cannot resist, the best street corner for people watching, the parkette where everyone goes on the worst summer evenings, and of course (for me) the Bookstore.  Preferably second-hand.  Preferably owned by someone who loves books and staffed by knowledgeable people.  Maybe even with a cat (I’m allergic, but it seems like a lot of second-hand bookstore owners are not).

It’s taken us some time to fill out our Small Town/City List, but the Bookstore was one of the first things we found, and we go back there all of the time.  At first we went to Buy! Buy! Buy!  But now, in our world of overflowing bookshelves and a “need” for picture books, we mostly go to trade in our Grown-Up Books We May Not Read Again for Picture Books Baby Just Must Have.Diary of a Wombat is one of the latter.  At $6.00, it was a steal.  I’ve been hiding it from the little guy so that he doesn’t wreak havoc on it (he ate Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, just the other day), but one day, when he is a little older and less destructive (I’m thinking 21), I will let him read it without supervision.

Our copy of Diary of a Wombat has two circles on the cover identifying it as the a Children’s Books Council of Australia Honour Book, and the winner of the Australian Booksellers Association Booksellers Choice Award.  But this is quite a modest tally – on her website, the author lists almost twenty honours (not all of which are precisely described or documented).

The book starts out very blandly.  I mean, a wombat is cool and all (It’s a marsupial!  It has a backwards-facing pouch!  It’s Australian!).  But a wombat diary does not promise to be a terribly exciting read.

diaryofwombat21

See what I mean?

But slowly, over the course of a week, the wombat wakes to the fact that there is more to life than waking, eating grass, scratching, and sleeping.  There are carrots.  And houses.  With People.  People who have access to carrots.  And rolled oats.  Sometimes there are even carrots with rolled oats.  What more can a wombat desire?

The idea is clever, the story is funny, and the illustrations are just as good.  Our friend the Wombat is a brown smudge of chub that rolls around indolently with a half-closed sleepy eyes, while a hapless family looks on at the ever-growing destruction with increasing horror.  Maybe the story is funny/horrifying for Australians, but as a Canadian with zero personal wombat experience, I just find it funny (now, if someone wrote Diary of a Raccoon…).

Like I said, I haven’t kid-tested this book with our little guy because I love the book too much, and he is semi-destructive.  Also, I don’t think he would get it.  The book requires the reader to understand the joke – otherwise, it’s just picture after picture of a wombat messing stuff up.  So I wouldn’t recommend it to under-twos.  But for kids who would giggle at the idea of an innocently destructive and demanding baby wombat terrorizing its family, I think this book is perfect.

Rating: A

Reading Ages: 3-6.  The language is very basic, but the ideas are funny enough that I think a 6-year-old would still enjoy reading it.

Most Interesting Wombat Fact: It’s a tough call.  Possibly that a group of wombats is called a “wisdom”.  Or possibly that it has cube-shaped poos, which I find crazy-weird.

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