Children's & Young Adult Books

Recovery & resilience: ‘The Fire Wombat’ by Jackie French

The wonderful Jackie French is back with another picture book, this one illustrated by Danny Snell.

The Fire Wombat takes the trauma and devastation of the 2019/2020 summer bushfires across eastern Australia and crafts a gentle fable about how even the smallest of beings can survive with the support of others.

Jackie lives in the Araluen Valley near Braidwood in southeastern NSW, an area that experienced those appalling fires during that summer. She is passionate and vocal about the wildlife that shares her land, and has published many books about these animals, including her well loved Wombat series.

In The Fire Wombat, the terrifying fires drive many animals from their homes, some to shelter in a wombat burrow deep in the earth. When the fires have passed, they face starvation and thirst. That is, until human intervention delivers life saving food and water to the devastated fire grounds. And gradually, the land begins to heal:

Others flourished, though trees drooped:
Goannas feasted, eagles swooped.
Grass trees blossomed, feeding bees.
Native mice carried seeds.
Kookaburras, currawongs…
Slowly, the bush regained its songs.

The Fire Wombat

The little wombat at the heart of the story survives.

The author’s note at the end of the book urges people to donate to a wildlife charity if they wish to help after disasters, or get training in how to care for wild animals.

This lovely picture book is perfect in the way it encompasses its environmental theme and deals with a very dark and traumatic experience for so many Australian children, while also offering hope for the future.

The Fire Wombat is published by Angus & Robertson, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, on 29 October 2020.

My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.

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