I’ve decided to spend a little time taking an in depth look at some of the books we read with Squirm. You can find more Squirm Book Reviews Here
Diary of a Wombat
By Jackie French. Illustrated by Bruce Whatley
This is one of my all time favourite books, a book which I first read when I was on my teaching prac. (Word to the wise, read this one to yourself before reading it aloud. I laughed so much I had trouble getting through the book). It tells the story of Mothball the Wombat who happens to live in close proximity to a family. Mothball interacts with the family as she goes about her day, finding ways to get exactly what she wants.
One of the things I really love about Diary of a Wombat is the way it is written in a loose diary style. The sentences are short and succinct, making it perfect for a relatively new reader. It also allows plenty of time for pausing for laughter. Bruce Whatley’s illustrations match this perfectly, giving us little snippets of the action, surrounded by lots of white space. Often too, the joke is in the pictures, and the reader can only ‘get it’ when they read the pictures and the text – a vital skill required as readers move into reading diagrams and graphs and other mediums which mix picture and word.
For such a relatively simple book, there’s an awful lot of ways you can use Diary of a Wombat – it’s one of those books which can influence activities at a lot of ages.
Exploring Diary of a Wombat with Littlies
As well as the reading through the book several times and talking about the pictures with your littlies, there’s a few things you can do to explore the book further. One thing you can do is to look at some pictures and watch some videos of wombats
You could also read another Australian classic picture book – Wombat Stew (by Marcia Kay Vaughn) which has a fabulous rhyming part to it.
If you’re really lucky, you might live close enough to a zoo or a wildlife park where you can see wombats – Mr Pilot and I got to see them at Australia Zoo – including a mum with a baby 🙂
Slightly bigger littlies might enjoy playing in some soft dirt, like Mothball. They could even create their own wombat burrows. Of course, when they were finished, they’d need some carrots to eat.
Exploring Diary of a Wombat with Pre-School and Lower Primary Children
As well as enjoying the book itself, there’s a tonne of great ways you can use the book for children in lower primary and that little bit younger. It’s an excellent launching pad for learning more about wombats, which might then lead into learning more about other Australian animals. This information could be collected and could even be turned into a little reference book for your child to turn back to again and again.
Jackie French has a great account of the inspiration for the book and how she approached it here. The ‘real’ Mothball was actually a rescued animal, which would be a very interesting thing to learn about. You could find information about animal rescuers in your local area, and you might even be able to organise a visit. One of my greatest memories was having a ‘ranger’ bring a Ringtailed Possum in to show my (inner-city) school after he had rescued it nearby. He was cuddling it in his jacket and it was amazing seeing those little eyes poking out!
Diary of a Wombat can also be used when looking at days of the week and events. Mothball’s story is spread over 8 days, and we are told what day it is at the beginning of her ‘diary entry’. Her days are then organised into Morning, Afternoon, Evening etc. You could practice putting the days of the week into the right orders and look at all the different ways you could explain different times of the day (morning could also include dawn, breakfast time, early in the day, beginning of the day, first light . . .)
Of course, there’s also the Diary element of the book. You could use it to write your own ‘Diary’ story – the Diary of your own child or a Diary for a fictional character (Cinderella or Peter Pan would be funny). Again, you could make some great sequencing activities from this – looking at different activities and the orders you might do them in.
Another great activity could be planting carrots (or other vegetables). I (vaguely) remember putting carrot tops onto wet cotton wool to try to grow them! Yates had a guide to growing them from seed here.
Have you read Diary of a Wombat? What did you like about it? Have you got any activity ideas?