I had heard about Diary of a Wombat written by Jackie French and illustrated by Bruce Whatley for years now. I’ve been told that I had to read it. I’d heard how wonderful it was. But the book wasn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting this modern classic to be sweet. Judging by Bruce Whatley’s adorable wombat on the front I was expecting cute and sweet. What I didn’t expect was to laugh so hard I snorted. I didn’t plan to giggle with each page. This book is a joy.
The simple story is told from the point of the view of a wombat as it “trains” its human neighbors how to get along. Some pages are as simple as Tuesday which is mostly made up of sleeping and eating grass. That is until the wombat discovers the family next door. After destroying the flat, hairy creature at the door (welcome mat), the wombat demands a reward. After it gets a carrot, it quickly learns how to demand them (chewed through the door). And the trouble for the family is just beginning. The wombat digs burrows in the garden, chews up gardening equipment, pulls laundry off the line, and generally makes a pest of itself.
This book has a marvelously dry sense of humor. I was so shocked when the book turned funny that I read a line and literally snorted. The humor snuck up on me. I love how droll French’s wording is. After the wombat grows tired of carrots, it demands something else. “Demanded oat AND carrots. Only had to bang large metal object (garbage can) for a short time before they appeared”. Or where she demands a reward for destroying their welcome mat. Each page brings new mischief and a new interpretation by the wombat. It is not exactly subtle but the dry sense of humor is right up my alley.
Bruce Whatley creates an adorable character who looks at the world through sleepy eyes and is more than happy as long as it’s getting its way. The book is filled with white space which leaves tons of room for playing with the pictures and the words. We see the welcome mat, but French never reference it directly. It’s only the flat, hairy creature that is invading the wombat’s territory. I love the triumphant look on the wombat’s face after the battle. Most of the time though it just looks sleepy and cute. Whatley’s acrylic illustrations are a mix of detailed expressions and blurred edges. Most of the illustrations are of our hero but that is really all we need with the book. An adorable book that made me laugh.