THE SECRET WORLD OF WOMBATS
Jackie French; Illustrated by Bruce Whatley (ISBN 0 207 20031 9) 2005
For those who have read Diary of a Wombat – and more than a little bit fallen in love with the book – The Secret World of Wombats is likely to be just as much of a treasury of delight, perhaps even more so. Whereas Diary of a Wombat (and other successive titles by the duo of Jackie French and Bruce Whatley) was an illustrated children’s book long on charm and short on words, The Secret World of Wombats is a children’s non-fiction book about the author’s enduring life with and love of the eponymous animal.
The Secret World of Wombats retains all of the earlier’s title’s charm and humour, but brings the intelligence, thoughtfulness and insight of Jackie French much more to the fore. We learn all manner of curious things that only a life spent in quiet observation will provide. We learn about Jackie herself crawling into wombat holes when younger, the personalities and habits of various wombats she has known, and strange, one-off observations, like the wombat who dug a hole up through the wood of an old dead eucalypt tree to make a sitting and smelling platform atop the tree, or the wombat who was able to use a lever to move stones.
Wombats are strange and wonderful creatures, and all the more so if you have the time to get to know them it seems. Jackie’s final words on the topic ring very true – the world would be a better place if more politicians and decision makers in Australia stopped to consider whether a change they are about to make would make it a better or worse place for wombats.