DON'T PAT THE WOMBAT! by Elizabeth Honey


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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." (Fiction. 9-12)

ISBN: 0-375-90578-2
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Knopf