Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $22.95
Reviewed by Francine Sculli, reviewer for Buzz Words and Buzz Words Books.
Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne is the fourth instalment in the ‘Riley the Little Aviator Adventures’ picture book series, written by Tania McCartney and illustrated by Kieron Pratt.
Riley is a thrill seeking, curious and instantly likeable boy who first appears to the readers covered in dirt and with his hands full of mud pie. While making mud pies in his backyard, Riley discovers a hole in the ground. Naturally, he sticks his head into the hole and is confronted with a pair of large eyes belonging to an unknown, but clearly grumpy creature that quickly disappears into the garden. His nanny advises him that the creature is - in fact - a ‘cranky old wombat’. Riley’s inquisitive nature drives him to jump in his little red plane, arm himself with a host of contraptions and commence an adventure in search of the wombat and the reasons for her disgruntled nature.
A vibrant cast of friends join Riley – a koala, a panda and two dragon-like creatures. Readers join Riley and his friends as they search through iconic Melbourne streets and landmarks and the scenic routes of wider Victoria - from Flinders Street Station, Lygon Street and St Kilda Beach to the Dandenong Ranges, Sovereign Hill and the Phillip Island penguin parade. The wombat, however, is nowhere to be seen. Discouraged, Riley heads back to his Nanny’s house only to discover that the wombat, now blissfully content, has built an amazing mud villa and was simply looking for a place to call home.
The story is simple and easy to follow and the sense of adventure will appeal to the six to ten year old target audience. The language is accessible to early readers within this age group; however, it is also peppered with colourful and more advanced verbs, nouns and adjectives that will advance older readers such as cantankerous, ambled and unfurled.
Kieron’s brightly coloured and digitally enhanced cartoon-like illustrations are effectively placed over black and white photographic backdrops of Melbourne and Victoria’s tourist sights, which make them not only attractive to children, but also to adult readers alike and serve as an excellent introduction to the iconic sights.
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