Samantha Wheeler’s latest novel for younger readers, Wombat Warriors, follows on from the conservation theme she introduced in her last book Mister Cassowary. Set in regional South Australia, Mouse is a reserved girl from Brisbane who comes to stay with her Aunt Evie when a family emergency forces her parents to take an unexpected trip overseas. Life down south is a change for Mouse who must not only contend with the colder climate but with her somewhat eccentric Aunt whose household includes a duck and a wombat! While she is initially threatened by the idea of sharing her home with a wombat, the pair form a special bond that challenges Mouse to find her voice.
As a proud South Aussie, I was somewhat horrified (and a little confronted) to read about the plight wombats in this part of the country. I must confess that prior to reading this story I had no idea about the environmental challenges facing our state emblem. Indeed, particularly for children in this part of the country, this story has a wonderful relevance that will make it a valuable addition to the classroom environment. With accessible language, children in the lower to middle years of primary school will enjoy reading this story independently. Similarly, it could be shared with a class group as part of the HASS curriculum. I did feel that the immaturity of the protagonist may alienate a few slightly older readers who might have otherwise appreciated the conservation theme of the book.
Wombat Warriors will sit neatly alongside Mister Cassowary as an engaging story that will inspire children across to find their voice and work actively for the conservation of threatened species.
Tanya Grech Welden