Wombat, the Reluctant Hero, by Christian Trimmer/Illustrated by Rachel Gyan, (March 2023, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250788573
Inspired by the real-life events wrought by the devastating Australian wildfires in 2019 and 2020, Wombat the Reluctant Hero is all about being a good – if sweetly curmudgeonly – friend. Wombat likes her home and her appearance organized and just so, but she can’t say that about her neighbors, who look all out of sorts. Wombat notices that their watering hole is running a little low, so she pulls on her gardening gear and digs down until she hits water, reluctantly accepting their thanks. When Koala shows up at her door in a panic one night, she discovers that the forest is on fire, and quickly moves to gather her neighbors into her fireproof burrow, giving them food and water as they ride out the fire. When they emerge from the burrow, they work together to rebuild their home. Gyan’s digital artwork is colorful and reflects her moods through facial expression and clothing; going from dusky rose coveralls at the beginning to warm tangerine coveralls to show her enthusiasm and hope. Trimmer’s storytelling gives readers some insight into Australia’s problems in 2019 and 2020, and notes from the author and illustrator provide deeper context.
A good way of explaining world events to younger children while also delivering messages of community and empathy. An excellent choice for collections.