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Don't pat the wombat / Elizabeth Honey.

By: Honey, Elizabeth, 1947-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: St Leonards, N.S.W : Allen & Unwin, 1996Description: 142 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.ISBN: 1864480947 (pbk.).Subject(s): Premiers' Reading Challenge : 5-6DDC classification: 823.3
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"A Little Ark Book".

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

Two Things Two things happened the month before school camp: Jonah suddenly arrived in our class, and Mum gave me her old camera for my birthday. Jonah was there on a Monday morning, sitting in the back with a blank look on his face. He wasn't shy, but he wasn't smiley want-to-be-my-friend either. He wore a black hat with a brim. Not a school hat or a Crocodile Dundee hat. Like this: and daggy overalls with lots of pockets, and a daggy dark purple jacket. Miss Cappelli made a little mime to him to take his hat off. He put it on the desk in front of him. "We've got a new member in our class. Stand up, Jonah. Jonah comes from up near Tubbut." He stood looking out the window. "Tubbut's up in the northeast, near...what's it near, Jonah?" He shrugged. "It's not near anything." "Azza, will you stop making that Velcro noise with your shoe. Jonah's come from a little school to our big school. Welcome to 5/6C, Jonah. I guess you're feeling a bit strange, but we're a friendly lot. You'll certainly get to know everyone at camp." We stared at him, but he didn't look at anybody or anything. He stood as if his mother was trying on him some new clothes that he couldn't care less about. Or as if he was trapped in an invisible force field. Beth the Good, whose dad works in the post office, whispered, "In the Bible, Jonah got swallowed by a whale!" "Where's his whale?" sniggered Tommo loudly. "I'd like you to make Jonah welcome," says Miss Cappelli, glaring at Tommo. So we give Jonah a clap like we always do to show our appreciation, or welcome, or any stupid thing. He wasn't the sort of person to clap. Anyway, the clap bounced off Jonah like rain off a tin roof. "Pete and Tak, could you show Jonah around at lunchtime, please?" Then we got on with our work. At lunchtime, Pete says to Jonah, "I'll show you where the toilets are." "No, it's okay, I'll go with them," says Jonah, pointing to us. And that's how he came to be a Coconut. Now I'll tell you about the camera. It doesn't sound like much, getting your mum's old camera for your birthday, but it's a Pentax. This is a big deal, even if it has a dint in the viewfinder where Mum dropped it. She bought a new camera and had the old camera repaired. You should see some of the black-and-white photos she took with it. There's one in our kitchen of our old dog leaping down from a fence. It's fantastic! Mum showed me how to take photos. If you let in too much light, the photo is all white. Not enough light, and the photo is black. And you have to get it in focus, otherwise the photo looks like you took it through a shower curtain. "I'm taking my camera to school camp," I said. Mum looked a bit unsure. "It's a good camera, you know." "I'll look after it." Then she decided it was worth the risk. "I'd love to see some photos of camp. I'll give you a roll of film." "Black-and-white?" "If that's what you want." "I do." Friends? So Jonah attached himself to us, although he didn't seem to need anybody. I think he thought it was the easiest thing to do. He was so quiet, and we were so "us." "Why did you leave your farm?" Nicko asked. "We had to." "Why?" "Bad luck." "Like, your dad lost all your money at the casino?" "No. We didn't sell the bullocks at the right time, then it didn't rain. The prices dropped, and we ran out of feed." "That's a great heap of bad luck!" said Wormz. "What happened to the bullocks?" "We trucked them to my uncle's farm and sold our farm." "Gee...that must have been so bad." He shrugged. Jonah didn't want to be mothered around. He looked so uncool. Tomorrow, he'll wear something not so daggy, I thought. But the next day it was the same old overalls and hat. We couldn't figure him out. He was like one of those blanks in Scrabble. But somehow, I wanted him to like us. Jonah got picked on, especially by Watts and Tommo. They thought everything about him was dumb. He mostly ignored them, which made them worse. "Hey, derr brain, what do you wear that dumb hat for?" goes Watts. "It looks real derr dumb dork," goes Tommo. Jonah looked at Watts's baseball cap. "Where's Chicago, then?" "America," says Watts. "Where?" "I dunno." Jonah looked at him without blinking. "It's better than wearing a dumb hat from some city and you don't even know where it is." Then he walked off. "What are ya, a man or a mouse?" yells Tommo. "Hey, mousie!" yells Watts. "Here's some cheesy cheesy cheese for ya," and he threw an empty Coke can at him. "Why don't you flatten him?" said Mitch. "Waste of time," said Jonah. In math we were doing prime numbers, and I was thinking if Jonah was a number, he'd be a prime number for sure. Something like 97 that you couldn't divide anything else into. Now, Wormz, he'd be a number everything could be divided into. He'd be easygoing number 12. Me, I take the simple way, I'm 10. Mitch is definitely number 1. We were sitting on the footpath after school, waiting for Nicko's mum to pick us up. "What do you think of Jonah the Loner?" goes Mitch. "I dunno. He doesn't say much," said Azza. Mitch picked at the sole of his shoe. "He's weird." "He's okay," said Nicko, "but we'll have to teach him a lot of things." "Yeah," said Azza. "Can you believe he doesn't know how to play rugby or basketball? Can you believe that?" "He's been in a time warp," said Nicko. "He was the only kid in grade six at his old school." "He used to help his dad a lot," said Azza, bouncing a bald tennis ball in the gutter. "He's not a Coconut," said Mitch. "He's a tough nut from Tubbut," said Nicko. "Do we want him hanging round us?" goes Mitch. "Give him a chance," said Azza. "If he wants to muck around with us, that's cool." Anyway, after a bit of an argument, we decided Jonah was okay, but weird. From the Trade Paperback edition. Excerpted from Don't Pat the Wombat! by Elizabeth Honey All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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.

Booklist Review

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.

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