Do you know what a wombat is? I had to look it up. They live in Australia and can get to 1 meter in length! They’re marsupials whose pocket is on their back, not stomach! (They are good diggers; this way, the dirt doesn’t fill the pocket.)
The wombats in is this book are Albert, experienced outback camper, and hopelessly mistaken Pickles, who brings a huge rolling suitcase, a large glass jar of pickles, donut-colored innertube, pineapple-shaped sunglasses, and huge expectations for glamping. Pickles thinks they’ll be taking a bus to their luxury cabin where he can eat rich food by the fireplace and swim in a pool! BOY, will HE be surprised! He doesn’t know how a compass works, he has trouble setting up his tent, and everything seems to make a sound or a tooting smell! He’s SURE that “…there’s nothing amazing about nature, Albert.”
Albert is very patient with him and is sure that Pickles just hasn’t had his “one special moment in nature” yet. You know, the moment that makes you FEEL ALIVE! Things begin to take a turn when they find a lost baby koala and need to find the baby’s mama, with help from Platters the Platypus.
This is a very funny and well-paced story with lots going on around the edges of the main action. Panels are mostly side by side and square or rectangular, with not a whole lot of text in each frame. Middle readers should find it an easy read. There are lots of surprises within the pacing of the story too, the main one being who baby koala’s mama really is! (There’s a doorbell on Mama’s cave! Ha!) Even though he’s scared, Pickles faces his fear, surprises himself and does some really amazing things on his camping adventure. But will he find his “one special moment?” No matter what kind of camping adventure they have, Albert, Pickles and Platters know it’s their friendship that’s the best thing about anything they do together.
This is an easy addition to a middle readers graphic novel collection for schools or public libraries. The book is marked “Age Range: 6-9”, but I think kids aged 6-12 should love the silliness and the Aussie accents and jargon. This is a complete story arc, and there is no violent content or adult themes. The art is clear-lined, colorful and sharp, with white gutters that brighten the page.
I reviewed the print copy. The hardcover and binding are very sturdy and should withstand many circulations and shoves into and out of the shelving for the reasonable price of $12.99!
Wombats! Go Camping
By Jen Stutesman
Penguin Random House Viking Books for Young Readers, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 6-9
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)