Susannah Chambers (text) and Mark Jackson (illustration), The Beach Wombat, Allen & Unwin, December 2019, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760631857
The Beach Wombat, a tale for pre-schoolers about a beach dwelling mother and her joey, is being released at the perfect time of year. As many Australians are wrapping up school and work for the year and heading in droves to the coastline, it is lovely to think there may be encounters with wombats in store.
There were two features of the book that I thought made it great. The first being the wonderful endpapers. When illustrators use endpapers to bring a story together a picture book is really lifted, and it can become a more comprehensive story (one recent example is Meerkat Splash). In this case, we see a map of the wombats’ travels which can be used before reading to predict the story, or after reading to really appreciate the journey.
The text is very age-appropriate to the illustrations and rhyming, which is brilliant. The second great feature of the book was the idea to put the last word of the text’s rhyme on a separate page allowing for children to get involved in the storytelling by guessing the final word to complete the rhyme. It will help children become more engaged with the book when they feel like they know what is going to happen on the next page.
Apart from these great features, the book really delivers on the depictions of the Australian bushland and wildlife. We see kangaroos, insects, small marsupials, birds, whales, water, fire, and trees galore. This is a pleasant, quiet book for kids under 5 years old.
Reviewed by Cherie Bell