Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
This quirky, slangy Australian novel opens as narrator Mark Ryder and his middle-school classmates are off to "school camp," where they are to try on the lifestyle of pioneers. Not long after the kids arrive at camp, which doubles as a wildlife refuge (and is home to a wallaby and two wombats), a teacher falls ill. When the meanest teacher in school, known as The Bomb, is sent to replace him, everyone is appalledÄespecially Jonah, an independent-minded new boy who has drawn The Bomb's ire. The angry, alcoholic teacher's frightening hostility to Jonah, as well as details that emerge about the boy's background, provide the ballast for this otherwise light caper, in which the campers spring from one misadventure to the next. They slather one another with mud while building a pioneer-like structure of sticks and mud, become covered with leeches while exploring an old mine and overflow the sink after pouring too much soap into the dishwater. Organized into sometimes choppy vignettes, Mark's narrative is studded with Australian expressions and occasional digressionsÄas well as some genuinely funny comments and observations, e.g., in a letter home, Mark writes, "Give my love to the T.V. Tell it I will be home on Friday." Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-7-Australian sixth-grader Mark Ryder narrates this account of his school trip to "pioneer camp" out in the bush where students and teachers have experiences ranging from funny to near tragic. Mary, the resident head of the camp, teaches the students basic survival skills while maintaining the facility as an animal refuge. She advises them not to touch the wombats, so that they will return to the bush when they mature. While the book deals with the theme of friendship, it also focuses on how Jonah, a new boy in Mark's class, copes with a bullying teacher who is a reputed alcoholic with a particular dislike for him. Mary uses her skills for helping orphaned animals to help Jonah deal with the situation. A leech attack, a playful mud fight, a midnight prank, and a talent show are just some of the highlights of the holiday. The book includes photographs that Mark takes with his newly acquired camera, childlike cartoons, and occasional dialogue balloons. The humorous short chapters, informal tone, and camaraderie among the boys are sure to make Wombat! a hit, even with reluctant readers.-Marilyn Ackerman, Brooklyn Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Ages 9^-12. The sweet, quirky voices of a gaggle of Aussie kids bounce through this account of a summer camp week and the preceding school year. The Coconuts at school become the Convicts at camp. Narrator Mark wants us to know it all--his friends (among them, Wormz the skinny; Nicko the R. L. Stine freak; and Jonah, a reserved boy from a failed farm) and his teachers (the beloved Miss Capelli and the hated Mr. Cromwell). Nature walks that include both wombats and leeches, an end-of-camp pageant involving a toilet plunger as a pirate peg leg, and the edgy denouement between Jonah and The Bomb are related in unaffected language touched enough by Australian slang to enchant American readers. As in Honey's previous Stella Street and Everything That Happened (1998), this title, first published in Australia in 1996, offers the wonderful company of high-spirited protagonists. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido
Horn Book Review
(Intermediate) Fans of Louis Sachar and Thomas Rockwell will enjoy this antic tour of an Australian sixth grade, fully guided and liberally illustrated by narrator and budding writer Mark (""Nickname: Exclamation Mark""). Mark and his friends have taken in a newcomer named Jonah, recently arrived from a bush town, who's fearless in an almost Thoreauvian way in facing down the school bullies and the teacher terror, Mr. Cromwell, a.k.a. the Bomb (""He has a funny walk, and he's a sneaky bottle-basher, a grog artist. He thinks nobody knows he drinks, but everybody does""). After a few in-school chapters to set up the character dynamics, the book takes the whole class (and the Bomb) off to the school's summer camp, where they learn about wombats, wattle-and-daub building, and the degrees to which one sturdy kid and one troubled teacher can drive each other crazy. Though the comedy is sometimes frenetic, the battle between Jonah and the Bomb gives the book a seriousness that provides balance as well as a plot. Slang and references are uncompromisingly antipodean, but the book has a contagious humor that translates well. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
This journal, which chronicles a sixth-grade class trip to Cumbinya Pioneer Camp, is written through the eyes of Mike Ryder, a member of a crazy group called the Coconuts. As always, there are favored teachers, like "the beautiful Ms. Capelli," and holy terrors, such as Brian Cromwell, known to all as "the Bomb" for his explosive behavior. Adventures unfold: a hike to a gold mine brings on an attack of leeches, the kids put on a wacky talent show, and they get covered in mud learning how to build with wattle and daub. The wombat of the title plays only a minor part in the book, serving more as a metaphor for the eccentric style of the camp than as a character. The novel's major focus is Cromwell, an alcoholic teacher who delights in making Jonah, one of the more reclusive students, miserable. Readers will wonder why faculty members who were cognizant of his tactics tolerated such an abusive teacher for so long, but Cromwell does get his comeuppance. Unpolished, hand-drawn illustrations snake around the margins and interrupt paragraphs, much as they would if this really were Mike's journal; photographs, though sparse, are spot-on at capturing the daily events. While kids will recognize the more familiar camp events, the Australian setting and the unique activities offered to these campers are an exotic bonus. Challenging and often very funny, this gives new meaning the term "camp book." (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.