The Snow Wombat
Allen & Unwin, 2016
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24,99
Wombat is out on his daily wander through the high country. Everywhere he goes there is snow.
Snow on the stockman’s hut
Snow on the crows
Snow on the woollybutt
Snow on my NOSE!
But in this winter wonderland, there is one place where there is no snow… and that’s where he is headed. But not until he’s savoured the delights on his way, appreciating the sights, smells, tastes and feel of the snow.
How could I resist a beautiful story about my favourite creature exploring the country I live in? Few Australian children have the opportunity to live where snowfalls are a regular event and where our native creatures have to do the best they can to survive so this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce them to an environment that is Australian but so different to their own. Wombat meets some of the high country fauna and flora on his journey, all snow-covered in what is a harsh habitat in the winter months but which is his home and which he loves.
Written in rhyming text with perfect pauses that invite the reader to join it, the story is beautifully illustrated in a palette that is so familiar to me yet so unfamiliar to others. This is not your harsh red and ochre colour scheme of the stereotypical Australian landscape, but the subtle whites, greys and murky greens set against the brightest, bluest sky anywhere. The endpapers have the map of Wombat’s journey which adds another dimension (including consolidating the left-to-right progression of text) and would encourage getting an atlas to see just where this story is set. Some may be surprised to find it is very close to their home!
This story is rich in possibilities for starting investigations. Apart from the obvious of finding out about wombats generally, they could explore the prospects of the endangered Northern Hairy Nose Wombat who has its own special day on May 11 each year headed by Wombat Foundation director Jackie French http://www.wombatfoundation.com.au/hairy-nosed-day.html Older readers could be inspired to think about the adaptations made by both wildlife and vegetation to survive in snow country and how it compares to that with which they are more familiar while others may choose to look at climate change and what that might mean for Wombat and his friends, and the high country generally. A sign of a great picture book is its ability to engage readers far beyond its apparent audience, and this is one of those.
For those of you who are lucky to live near Great Escape Books on the Great Ocean road at Airley’s Inlet there is a free event focusing on this book on Monday June 13, 2016 at 11.00am. It’s free but bookings are essential – firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to get to know this iconic creature and the Australian landscape better.