Gina Newton (text) and Tiffanee Daley (illustrator), Combat Wombat to the Rescue, Ford Street Publishing, October 2020, 32pp., RRP $16.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781925804577
Dr Gina Newton’s background is in marine biology, zoology and science communication. Her previous books included Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks, which won the 2017 CBCA Eve Pownall Information Book of the Year. The character of Combat Wombat came from an earlier picture book called Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quaker. The text was written some years ago but came to fruition this year.
It is timely, in the wake of the horrific bush fires of last season, and provides a point of departure for talking with and teaching children about the fires and about Australian native flora and fauna. (This book is not related to the current animated feature film of the same name.)
Combat Wombat is woken by his bush buddies, such as Toey Joey and Joanna Goanna, when fire threatens their habitat. As a firefighting hero, he leaps into action. Assessing the situation, Combat Wombat assigns tasks to his animal friends, uses his brain to solve problems, and his body to get out of dangerous situations. He even has to judge the wisdom of accepting a lift across the water from Bingo Dingo.
The author has developed extensive teaching notes, available to download from Ford Street Publishers, focusing on the topics: Bushfire and Indigenous Fire; Australian Wildlife; Wildlife Habitat; and Wildlife Rescue and Care. Primary curriculum links are included. The Ford Street site also includes a book trailer.
Tiffannee Daley is an artist and illustrator, and this her first picture book. Her digital artwork has a bright, modern look, whilst still evoking the darkness of the smoky environment. Daley’s website links to a YouTube video of her technique in producing Combat Wombat.
Reviewed by Marita Thomson