HARVEY, Roland The Wombats Go on Camp Allen & Unwin, 2013 unpaged $24.99 ISBN 9781743315040 SCIS 1627412
Almost every child has been on a school adventure camp – those places in a bush setting with basic barracks accommodation, a creek or beach nearby, a ropes course, a fire circle, a flying fox and a program of team-building and individually challenging activities that usually culminate in a concert in the final evening. Roland Harvey buses twelve very distinct little individuals (profiled on the endpapers), the Wombats, and two teachers to such a camp.
Harvey assigns each of the characters a double-page spread to relate, from their particular perspective, an aspect of camp life and activity. Pernickety Naucia Compostine is aghast at the standard of the girls’ dormitory, especially with its resident spider on the ceiling. Ima Lemington who is usually barred from the kitchen at home is ‘in heaven’ overseeing the damper bake at the fire circle. Ms Annabel, driving the bus back home (what happened to Bill the driver at the beginning?), is ‘looking forward to a quiet weekend’. And so it goes.
Perhaps because there are only fourteen characters the spreads are unusually, for Roland Harvey, a bit sparse in activity and his usual visual jokes. Indeed the book somewhat lacks the zing and excitement of his previous family adventure picture books. Most curiously, the bus interiors lack definition and fittings of any kind; the children are randomly gathered about in an interior expanse of undelineated white space. Still, there is enough in the book to which young readers may relate from their own camp experiences and knowingly find amusement. KS