Wombat is a self-avowed lover of digging
and thinking. One day, after digging a hole, he cannot find his mother. Wombat goes walkabout to find her. Along the way,
Wombat encounters many other Australian residents: Kookaburra, Wallaby, Possum, Emu and Boy. All scoff at Wombat's thinking
and digging abilities. When Wombat still cannot find his mother, he thinks of way to spot her; he climbs to the top of a tall
hill. Once there, however, he spots fire instead. Thinking hard and fast, Wombat
scurries down the hill and begins to dig and dig. He soon digs a hole that is deep and big enough to protect all the scoffers.
In return for their safety, the former scoffers help Wombat find his mother.
While a School Library Journal reviewer[i] found the "sameness of the text . . . boring and rigid" and the "sophistication" of the
artwork "overly ambitious for the text," I wholeheartedly disagree. Children will love the repetition and study every detail
of the glorious illustrations.
Wombat Goes Walkabout is an heroic book that gently builds self-esteem and just as gently introduces the reader
to life in rural Australia – its terrain, residents, plant life, climate and environment.
Michael Morpurgo's repetitive text is rhythmic and helps the reader to understand Wombat's persistence in both seeking his
mother and keeping his self-confidence. Christian Birmingham's wonderful palette masterfully complements the setting: dusky
blue-grays for Wombat's hole contrasted by warm, golden oranges and browns of the creatures and environment above ground.
Each double-page encounter with another Australian resident has an added touch that emphasizes the others' abilities and Wombat's
self-determination. On these, Birmingham includes pencil sketches
of each resident doing what they do best – hopping, hanging upside down, scampering in circles, hunting, etc.; Wombat's
skills figure throughoutt the book. Recommended!
Morpurgo, Michael. 2000. Wombat
goes walkabout. Illustrated by Christian Birmingham. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 0-7636-1168-9.
[i] Buckley, Barbara. Review of Wombat goes walkabout.
2000. School Library Journal 46(5).