cover image Wombat Underground: A Wildfire Survival Story

Wombat Underground: A Wildfire Survival Story

Sarah L. Thomson, illus. by Charles Santoso. Little, Brown, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-316-70706-0

In this dramatic tale set in Australia, a wombat’s underground burrow shelters other wild animals trying to escape a wildfire. Starting before lightning ignites the bush, cutaway views show a wombat tunneling down into the cool earth. Thomson (The Story of Neil Armstrong) builds suspense, writing about animals relaxing above ground (“Skink dozes and dreams”) as the sun parches the earth: “Echidna’s grass/ turns to rustling tinder.” Digital illustrations by Santoso (Watch Out for Wolf!), naturalistically rendered and vivid with detail, capture the wombat’s sturdy claws, the wallaby’s reddish fur, the echidna’s spines, and the skink’s dry, reptilian skin. When tongues of flame leap from tree to tree and smoke billows, it confuses the animals, who stumble upon the entrance to the wombat’s burrow. At first the animal resists: “No stranger will enter/ into the cave/ he carved to be his own.” But the animals push forward, the wombat retreats, and they are safe. An author’s note supplies more information about Australian wildlife, wombat burrows as refuge, and the science of wildfires. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Linda Pratt, Wernick & Pratt. Illustrator’s agency: Shannon Assoc. (Jan.)