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Children's Literature Reviews
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Don't pat the wombat!
by Elizabeth Honey ; illustrated by Gig.
Contributor biographical information
Publisher description
Sample text
New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2000.
142 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.


Wormz, Nicko, and their friends fear that their experience at a school camp in the Australian bush will be ruined by the presence of the dreaded Mr. Cromwell as a substitute chaperon.

Best Books:

Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Eighth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States


GraceAnne A. DeCandido (Booklist, May 15, 2000 (Vol. 96, No. 18))
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. Category: Middle Readers. 2000, Knopf, $14.95 and $16.99. Ages 9-12.

Elaine Wick (Children's Literature)
Mark and his Australian buddies, the Coconuts, set off with their teachers for a rollicking time at school camp. The lady who runs Camp Gumbinya teaches them to live like pioneers, leeches and all, and has a strict rule about touching her wombats and wallabys. When a dreaded teacher, the Bomb, joins the camp, the Convicts, a.k.a. Coconuts, fear for their friend Jonah, a tough boy from the bush who has had run-ins with the Bomb. Hilarious characters and funny gross jokes typical of this age group make this book of special interest for reluctant readers. The photographs, illustrations and annotations are created like the campers' journals and are a whimsical attraction. Serious messages are relayed through the boys' disgust at their teacher's alcoholism, and when Jonah sticks to his principles and saves the Bomb's life. 2000, Borzoi/Alfred A. Knopf, $16.99 and $14.95. Ages 8 to 12.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2000 (Vol. 68, No. 12))
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." 2000, Knopf, $14.95. Category: Fiction. Ages 9 to 12. © 2000 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
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 appalled--especially 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 digressions--as 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)

Fern Kory (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2000 (Vol. 54, No. 1))
Mark (“Exclamation Mark”) Ryder is the narrator of this seriously funny account of a sixth-grade-class campout in the Australian countryside. The trip is almost poisoned by what the kids clear-sightedly recognize as the “stinking alcoholic stupidity” of one unhappy teacher and his particular antipathy for Jonah, the quiet, self-possessed new kid. Full of profound truths about the joys of camp (“I love watching things burn, and burning things, but I’m never allowed to do it at home”) and peopled with grownups and kids you know, Mark’s story captures the essence of preteen exuberance and resilience without ignoring these kids’ equally essential vulnerability. Illustrated with the sorts of goofy camp photos and doodles you’d expect from the narrator, the novel presents a dead-on kid’s eye view of both the natural world and the less natural world--leeches and all--that allows readers to see and appreciate both more clearly. Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 2000, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2000, Knopf, 143p, $14.95 and $16.99. Grades 4-8.

Virginia Gleaton (The Lorgnette - Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 13, No. 3))
This is a very clever story about a group of boys--very diverse--who share a friendship. Their class at school is going on a week-long camping trip. The sponsors of the camp are the teachers. The group of boys has pet names for all the teachers--based on how they are perceived. Of course, there is one teacher who is not very well liked but plays a very important role in this story. The book does contain a little questionable language, but nothing really bad. The appeal of the story outweighs the minor language problem. The book is written in a very clever fashion--one that children could relate to. This would be a good book for some hesitant male readers. This story takes place in Australia and introduces some expressions and facts that are typical of Australia, providing a little exposure to another culture. Grades 5-7. 2000, Knopf, 142p., $14.95. Ages 10 to 13.


Camps Fiction.
Schools Fiction.
Teacher-student relationships Fiction.
Australia Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.H7465 Do 2000
99087237 [Fic]
0375905782 (lib. bdg.)
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