Wombats Are Pretty Weird by Abi Cushman

Hello, Abi Cushman! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read. I read Wombats Are Pretty Weird in the middle of a restaurant on a rainy fall evening in Pennsylvania. It is a spot I will forever associate with your hilarious and informative picture book, Wombats Are Pretty Weird. I adore the voice and the different text features you include throughout. What are some of your favorite facts about wombats?

Abi Cushman: Thank you, John! It is so wonderful to be back on your blog. And many congratulations to you on This Is a School, which my family adores.

My favorite fact about wombats—and the one that started my obsession with wombats—is the one I learned while studying abroad in Australia in 2001. When I first arrived in the country, I went with a group of other Americans on a guided hike in Victoria, and we came across a pile of cube-shaped poop. The guide told us it came from an animal called a wombat, and that wombats were the only animals in the world to have cube-shaped poop. Well, this was just the weirdest thing I’d ever heard. And I wondered how this was even possible. At the time, it was still a mystery how wombats formed those poop corners. (They don’t have square butts.) But luckily for us, a group of scientists figured it out in 2020. I was fortunate enough to be able to consult with one of the scientists of the study for the cube poop section of my book.

So cube poop ranks high up there in weird facts about wombats, but there’s a lot more. The fact that they have backward pouches is an especially fun one, as is this one:

Scenario: You’re booktalking Wombats Are Pretty Weird to 300 teacher-librarians. What do you share?

Abi Cushman: If you’re looking for a book that shares animal facts in a funny, kid-friendly way, this is it! This book introduces kids to wombats and all the weird and wonderful things they can do. Readers will learn not just about wombats, but also about marsupials, digestion, Australia, and what a snake might look like wearing a party hat.

I also hope Wombats Are Pretty Weird helps kids learn to be open and curious about those different from them. And I hope the message comes through that being weird or different is a GOOD thing.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Wombats Are Pretty Weird’s illustrations required a LOT of reference photos. I wanted to strike a balance between a fun comic style and being true to the scientific nature of the book. So I looked at a lot of photos of wombats—their faces, feet, tails, how they walked. Some of it surprised me. For example, wombats do have tails, but they are so teeny tiny that they’re usually covered by their fur. There’s a photo of a wombat tail here. Most of my illustrations do in fact keep the tail hidden by the wombat’s fur, except for my drawing of a newborn joey, because wombats are born hairless.

My House Rabbit and Animal Fact Guide are informational websites I started in back 2007 and 2008, respectively. Before becoming a children’s book author-illustrator, I worked for 15 years as web designer/developer. I started these sites as outlets where I could share my love and knowledge of animals. Now I’m so happy I get to share my love of animals and animal facts in book form too!

John Schu, you should have asked me if this book has a secret case cover. Why, yes! If you lift up the dust jacket, there is indeed a surprise underneath!

Thank you, Abi! 

Look for Wombats Are Pretty Weird on May 23, 2023. 


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