Squirm’s Book Reviews: The Jackie French Edition

Each week, I review some of the books we’ve read with Squirm:
I’m a big Jackie French fan, both of her picture books and her books for older kids. But, just by chance, we happened to get two Jackie French books (both illustrated by Bruce Whatley) out of the library. And I’d read neither of them. So I decided to put them together with an old favourite for this week’s reviews.
Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French

Mothball the wombat has a very busy schedule. She eats. Sleeps. Digs holes. And demands more food from the family she’s adopted.

I first came across this fabulous book when I was doing my prac teaching experience with a class of grade ones. We were teaching them about diary writing and my supervising teacher recommended this book. Well, I laughed so hard when I was reading it out loud, that I had trouble getting to the end. (Luckily the kids were laughing pretty hard too.) The story is told in incredibly short sentences, and the illustrations take up only small parts of the page, surrounded by white space – but the text and the pictures just work together so well.

As I said, this is a great book for introducing diary writing. You could also go on to learn about wombats and their habits. You could even grow your own carrots and just hope that a wombat doesn’t turn up to eat them!

Pete the Sheep by Jackie French

The other shearers have sheep dogs.  Shaun the shearer has Pete. Who just happens t0 be a sheep himself. Pete gets the other sheep to move by asking them nicely, and he and Shaun make a great team. But the other shearers think Pete is a trouble maker, so he and Shaun have to leave and find something new to do . . .

This is a really funny book which shows good relationships between Pete and Shaun, but also good relationships between the other shearers and their dogs. Although they don’t like Pete (because he’s different) they’re not depicted as particularly bad people – just people trying to maintain the status quo. Although the book isn’t as funny as Diary of a Wombat, there’s some really amusing parts, and once again it’s both the text and the pictures which make the book.

There’s a lot that can be done with sheep here. You could learn about Australia’s shearing heritage or learn the chorus of Click go the Shears. You could use cotton wool to create your own sheep and sheep hairstyles.

Josephine Wants to Dance by Jackie French

Josephine really wants to dance. She wants to twirl and glide and jump. Which is fine, except that Josephine is a kangaroo, and her brother tells her that kangaroos can’t dance – they hop! So what will Josephine do when the ballet comes to town?

This book isn’t as funny as the other two (though there are some moments. I like the poor costume designer when he finds out he needs to make a tutu for a kangaroo) but it is a really good story about following your dream, even if other people are trying to put it down. I also love how we see the characters from the other two books scattered through the book.

You could learn about kangaroos and jump like kangaroos with this book, or you could take another approach and learn about ballet. It would be fun to create an animal ballet of your own.

Jackie French’s website. I also love Flood and her historical non-fiction books! You can register there for an extensive monthly newsletter including wombat updates.



  1. Hi, can i ask you something? I’m looking for children books with “scary” animal illustrations like the big bad wolf (or a fox) eating pigs (or seven kids or Red Riding hood or birds in Chicken Little) or being pictured with a fat stomach. Could be any other animal as well. Have you seen any book of this sort? Any sort of help is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    Great blog, by the way!


    1. It’s not a traditional story, but the True Story of the Three Little Pigs has some pretty scary illustrations. Looking around for second hand older copies of fairy tales and nursery rhymes might also be helpful – I know I had a book of Red Riding Hood as a kid that was terrifying. Beatrix Potter might also be a place to go – those stories can be pretty gruesome 🙂 Hope that helps

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