Friday, June 9, 2023

A Guide to Wombats (sort of)

Wombats Are Pretty Weird: A (Not So) Serious Guide 
by Abi Cushman 
40 pages; ages 4-8
Greenwillow Books, 2023

theme: animals, nature, STEAM

Meet the wombat. The wombat is a robust, sometimes elusive…

And with that intro we’re tossed into a book filled with fun wombat facts as mom-bat (that’s a mama wombat) goes about her daily – er, nocturnal – life. Fact: a wombat is a marsupial. Fact: they live in Australia. Fact: some wombats have hairy noses.

What I like about this book: I like the dialog balloons where Snake and others add comments and carry on side discussions. For example, Snake decides to throw a party, even though wombats are solitary animals. There are party hats, guests, and balloons, even though balloons don’t do well with sharp wombat claws. I like the informational “how to” on making cube-shaped poop – weird, but, as Abi says, Wombats are Pretty Weird. Plus they are the only animals to make poop in cube shapes. And I like the discussion Snake has about whether they could be a wombat. There is back matter, too: more information about the three species of wombats, a glossary, and an animal search that will have young readers taking a second, closer look at the book.

I reached out to Abi with One Question about her book:

Me: Why Wombat? I admit, the whole cubed poop thing is pretty cool... and why Snake?

Abi: Yes, the cube poop fact is what started my obsession with wombats back in 2001 when I studied abroad in Australia and first learned about wombats. But there’s so much more about wombats.

First of all, they are super cute. The bare-nosed wombats look like little barrel-shaped bears, and the hairy-nosed wombats look like furry pigs. They are adorable! But as I learned more about them, I found out that their cube-poop wasn’t the only unique thing about them. They are marsupials, so they have pouches. But their pouches open up toward their rumps. In other words, they have backward pouches. They’re the only marsupial with teeth that continuously grow (similar to a rabbit or rodent). And they dig! Their burrows can be quite expansive, and in the wildfires that hit Australia in 2019, a lot of animals were able to seek shelter in wombat burrows. So there is a lot about wombats that make them truly special, and I felt like once kids learned about them, they’d love them too.

As for the snake, I wanted an animal that could act as a stand-in for the audience in the book. He could react and make comments that the reader was thinking when learning about these very weird animals. And this animal character had to be something other than a wombat. After all, the wombats wouldn’t consider themselves weird at all. In their world, it’s strange when poop is round. I chose a snake specifically because I wanted an animal that could technically live in the same area as a wombat, but was vastly different from them. And I think with the snake’s expressions, I was able to add even more humor to the illustrations.

Beyond the Books:

Do you have a marsupial living in your area? We’ve got opossums that sometimes visit our backyard. You can find out about them here.

What sort of things would you with your friends if you were a wombat? You can learn more about wombats at the San Diego Zoo.

Explore cubes. A cube has six sides of equal-sized squares. You might have some cubes around your house – for example, sugar cubes or 6-sided dice. You can make your own cubes out of origami paper using these instructions.

Abi is a member of #STEAMTeam2023. You can find out more about her at her website.

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.


  1. I have this book and love it! The combination of fun and informative is a winner for kids. And I also love that wombats are getting their day in the sun, especially for how their burrows helped save other animals during the Australian wildfires.

    1. Wombat burrows as safe havens from fire - who would have guessed?

    2. Yes! They are totally getting their day in the sun. I actually put together a round up of wombat books that have come out in the past year or two and many feature animals seeking refuge in wombat burrows. When I was doing my research, I found out out that the burrows stay a very consistent temperature throughout the seasons too. So definitely a comfortable space for animals during the fires too.

  2. Thank you for having me, Sue! Love these additional resources you provide about our native marsupial and how to make an origami cube! How fun!

  3. Such a great book; Abi made wombats so fun. Great job getting the answer for "why snake"! Glad you featured it.

    1. I like Joey the Snake! Reminds me of someone I know...