Our favourite group of kids and two teachers are off to the zoo for a memorable day.
Roland Harvey is one of Australia's best-loved illustrators. In 1978, he established Roland Harvey Studios and began designing and producing greeting cards, posters and stationery with a distinctly Australian flavour. Ventures into publishing quickly followed. Some of his best-loved books include My Place in Space (with Joe Levine, Sally Hirst and Robin Hirst), Burke and Wills, The First Fleet, Sick As (with Gael Jennings) and Roland Harvey's Big Book of Christmas. His recent books include The Wombats Go on Camp and, of course, his bestselling family holiday adventure series - At the Beach, In the Bush, In the City, To the Top End, All the Way to W.A. and On the Farm. Roland's brilliant illustrations also feature in the Bonnie and Sam series - The Horses and Ponies of Currawong Creek, in collaboration with Alison Lester.
Synopsis: This picture book features the captivating art work of Roland Harvey with his signature watercolor and pen and ink drawings of everyday scenes containing frivolity and quirksome antics by the characters he creates. In this story the Wombats, a group of students and teachers go to the zoo for the day. The pictures and text depict what can or is likely to happen in a day at the zoo. The Wombats resembles other works of Roland Harvey such as In the Bush and At the Beach.
Prior to reading: Look at water colour paintings such as scenes from Namatjira, Streeton and other Australian artists who paint scenes. Look at artists who draw for newspapers Ask what techniques are used and discuss techniques such as wash and pen and ink
During Reading: Discuss media and colour and its effects on the reader and the story. Have topic talks about animals. Discuss the structure of the micro reports by each of the Wombats. Ask ‘what information does each report contain?’ Draw a scaffold for a similar report the students could use to research an animal
Activities using the picture book: Students could inquire: Find in the text information about the Emu, write facts about the emu, write a rhyme and limit each line to 6 syllables. What are zoos, are zoos worthwhile, and do zoos really make a difference. Let’s go to the zoo and ask the keeper some questions. Graph how many students have been to the zoo. Count how many animal families live at the zoo. Match an animal attribute to the habitat it needs to live in to survive. Find the meaning of the word Sustainability. Does the picture book give us any clues about Sustainability?
Activity for Sustainability: Habitat and Food. Open grasslands. Animal. Emu has long legs but he cannot fly.
Talk about and define: Painting and Drawing and Subject Matter such as people, living things, objects, places
Activities for Visual Arts: Choose a scene from the pages of the book and make your picture. Sketch your ideas (use references and images from sources your teacher has provided). Make a wash for your page with watercolour. When dry add other colours and detail with a brush. To finish outline with ink or pencil if necessary. Give your picture a title. Ask students what they like about their work.
Notes by Helen Latimer
In this second tale of ten students (The Wombats Go on Camp) and their teachers, Mrs Nott and Ms Annabel, a class excursion to the zoo sets the scene for mayhem, mischief and misadventure. The endpapers introduce the group, identifying their individual idiosyncrasies as well as a range of assigned learning tasks for them to complete as they explore the zoo environments.
As all Roland Harvey fans have come to expect, the story works on multiple levels with secondary stories unfolding on every page through the detailed, comical and informative illustrations. The combination of real and ‘creative’ interpretations of events leaves the reader scouring the pages for the added extras that unfold. Harvey’s use of fine pen and watercolour portrays humour and movement effectively, with the multitude of small cameos providing hours of enjoyment as children will pour over the pages seeking further details and new stories within the whole. The range of animals the children visit are accurately situated in appropriate environments; providing opportunities to springboard the reading to a scientific study of animals and their habitats.
This story is ideally suited to middle primary independent students, with its handwritten text and different writing styles. The Wombats at the Zoo is a gem to share in English classroom to explore different writing genres and their purposes. Within the text children will discover individual biographical information on the endpapers; narratives that retell events, expository writing on what the students discover about their favourite animals, poetry and the use of bullet points to present key information. These are combined seamlessly to convey their hilarious adventures at the zoo.
Roland Harvey has added another funny, delightful picture book to his long list of outstanding titles. This is a stand-alone story; however, it does expand on the characters introduced in the first book, The Wombats Go on Camp, providing further insights into this unusual group of challenging children and their long-suffering teachers. So after laughing your way through this book, grab a copy of the first adventure of the Wombats. You won’t regret it!
Jennie Bales, Charles Sturt University, Windermere TAS 7252
Ms Annabel and Mrs Nott take their class of ‘wombats’ to the zoo for a class trip. The double-spread pages each feature a child’s response to their experience at the zoo. The illustrations are very detailed and will delight children as they pore over the picture, taking in all the interesting animals and occurrences (such as a man losing his glasses in the snake pit). Ms Annabel opens the book with a poem about the New Zealand giraffe nicknamed Giraffe Vader. Audrey does some research on the Bilbo Breeding programme and comes up with four bullet-pointed interesting ‘facts’; slightly biased towards her future career in journalism. Alecia hates the zoo because there are too many rules; Hughie wanted to get out of the bus and race the camels but wasn’t allowed; Mrs Nott faints at the sight of snakes eating mice and Sardi writes an interesting commentary on the animal hospital. Later it’s time to go home and on one of the last pages the reader hunts for the children.
This book would be great as an introduction to an upcoming field trip to the zoo. In a classroom situation, this book could start an interesting discussion on health and safety on a trip. The different forms of response to the visit in this book are also good teaching tools: poems, bullet point facts and recounts. This book would be a great asset in any classroom or library for children aged four and up. There is lots to talk about in the illustrations and the text.
Nova Gibson, Librarian, Massey Primary Auckland NZ