Book Review: Diary of a Wombat

Rating: ★★★★★

It’s not easy to write a page-turner showing an animal’s ordinary life, in such a way that it conveys a real sense of the animal’s basic characteristics without overly anthropomorphizing it.  Even when it’s done accurately, books about real animals often lack the kind of story quality that makes a child want to read them again.  Jackie French has done it for the wombat, though.  In this story, a young wombat discovers new “neighbors” grilling right next to her new dust bath. The neighbors provide much in the way of amusement for her: soft dirt for digging (their flower garden), scratching posts (their outdoor furniture) and a limitless supply of carrots and oats. At the end of the week the wombat decides that “humans are easily trained and make quite good pets,” so she digs a hole under the corner of their house to be near them.

Each event is delivered from the wombat’s perspective: hence, we see the word “welcome” on a new mat, while she describes a “flat, hairy creature invading my territory” which she destroys, concluding happily, “Neighbors should be pleased.”  Children will easily recognize this flat, hairy object, and they’ll savor the irony that the wombat has actually annoyed her humans, even as she demands a reward.

An introduction to an animal we won’t see in the wild outside of Australia, a satisfying story suffused with ironic humor, and an endearing, likable character which retains its animal qualities, all combine for a read-aloud with very wide appeal. I highly recommend it.

It’s suitable for elementary ages, and is written in simple enough language that early readers can probably handle it.

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Publication Information: French, Jackie. Diary of a Wombat. Whatley, Bruce (Illustrator). Diary of a Wombat; Clarion. 2002.
Categories: 5 Stars, Age 04-08, Easy Readers
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Posted on December 1, 2014

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