Wombat Goes Walkabout
Wombat Goes Walkabou cover
Wombat Goes Walkaboutby Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Christian Birmingham
- Age Range: 4-8 years
- Length: 32 pages
- Format: Hardcover and Paperback
- Size: 8.8 x 12.25 inches
- First Published: 1999
Wombat Goes Walkabout is the story of a wombat looking for his lost mother. After digging a deep burrow, young Wombat cannot find his mother and searches the Australian bush to find her.
Wombat's search brings him into contact with many native animals, including a kookaburra, a wallaby, a possum, an emu, a koala, and finally an aboriginal boy. Everyone Wombat meets seems to have a special talent, but all Wombat can do is dig and think, which no one believes has much value. This view changes when, in the end, it's Wombat's unique talents that save everyone from disaster.
The plot of Wombat Goes Walkabout is a little longer and more involved than some stories, and the climax, though brief, may be a bit intense for the very young. Older children should enjoy the excitement and completeness of the story.
The tale itself is told rather like an old legend or myth, and the words are printed on a background that looks like aged parchment, which further enhances this perception.
The character of Wombat is nicely delineated, while the others are not so defined. But they don't really have to be. The only thing that's missing is the lyrics to Wombat's "digging song;" they could be interesting but are unfortunately never revealed.
The pastel illustrations by Christian Birmingham are superb. The artwork is truly beautiful, with strong attention paid to the play of light which is especially appropriate due to the nature of the story. The foreboding use of the sun adds an interesting element of thematic unity. The images have a soft, surreal quality to them, as if they were part of a dream, and this helps to enhance the spirit of the story. Unlike in most children's books, Wombat and all the other animals are drawn correctly as real animals and are not anthropomorphized (except for giving them somewhat human expressions). This, along with the accurate depiction of the flora, gives the reader a sense of what the Australian landscape is actually like. Pencil sketches alongside the text are also well done and show a lot of character.
The design of the book is quite pleasing with the text and pencil sketches opposite the full-color full-page illustrations for the first half of the book. The last half of the book uses double-page images with the text superimposed. There doesn't appear to be a clear reason for this division, other than to mark the half-way point.
Wombat Goes Walkabout is a great wombat book with impressive artwork that realistically depicts wombats in their native setting. A rewarding read, and a beautiful book to look at.
Four and a half out of five stars
by Peter Marinacci
Jan. 28, 2006