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Wombat Goes Walkabout


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About the Author

Michael Morpurgo divides his time between writing and running Farms for City Children, a charity which each year takes up to 3,000 children to a farm for a week. Christian Birmingham graduated from Exeter College of Art and Design in 1991, and is one of the most talented artists of his generation.


K-Gr 2-A picture book that misses the mark. A young wombat searching for his mother in the Australian outback meets a variety of indigenous animals, including a kookaburra, a wallaby, an emu, and a koala. Each creature shows off its unusual abilities, making Wombat feel inadequate since all he can do is dig. However, it is this very skill that rescues all of the animals when fire threatens their habitat. In a happy ending, Wombat and his mother are reunited. The text is repetitive; the dialogue is pretty much the same between Wombat and every animal he encounters. This simplicity works in picture books for very young children, e.g., Bill Martin's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Holt, 1995) and Deborah Guarino's Is Your Mama a Llama (Scholastic, 1989), but this book seems to be aiming for a more sophisticated audience, given its length. The sameness of the text becomes boring and rigid. Birmingham's illustrations are painterly and very moody, and beautiful enough to be framed. However, their sophistication seems overly ambitious for the text.-Barbara Buckley, Rockville Centre Public Library, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Warm, soft pastel drawings by Christian Birmingham distinguish every page of Wombat Goes Walkabout... .Our young wombat digs such a deep hole that he lose his mother. Wandering through the bush, depicted in earthy tones with blues and mauves drifted in, the wombat asks other animals what they can do. The illustrations are zoologically correct but the wombat still has the goofy, amiable charm of a cartoon character.

Pencil sketches and naturalistic color art transport readers to the Australian outback in this affecting tale of a wombat who has lost his mother. As he searches for her, he encounters a variety of other creatures, from a kookaburra to a boy. Each asks, "What can you do, Wombat?" His neighbors dismiss his answer ("Not much. I dig a lot and I think a lot") and show off their own skills. But it's Wombat who saves the day when a forest fire threatensDhe digs a hole large enough to shelter them all. In return, his new friends help him find his mother. Morpurgo (previously paired with Birmingham for The Wreck of the Zanzibar) bolsters his story with pleasing repetitions, and his message about the importance of valuing the contributions of each individual in a community comes through clearly but gently. Birmingham's artwork is no less than sublime. Nimbly sketched animal studies adorn the margins of the pages containing text, and alternate with full-page vistas of the bush and its creatures, their softly smudged outlines gilded with light. Avoiding anthropomorphism, Birmingham nevertheless presents the wombat as an altogether winning creature, small and sturdy and determined. Oversize in format (9"x121/2") and suffused with warmth, this picture book opens a window on wildlife Down Under. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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