Wombat Underground: A Wildfire Survival Story

by Sarah L Thomson (Author) Charles Santoso (Illustrator)

Wombat Underground: A Wildfire Survival Story
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Inspired by viral online stories during the 2019-2020 wildfires in Australia featuring wombats 'saving' other animals taking shelter in their burrows, here is a lyrical story about strangers in need of refuge.

Up on the hill, Wallaby licks a puddle's last drop. Skink slips into the shade. Echidna hides in grass as dry as tinder. Under the hill, Wombat carves out a cave that's all his own. Then--KABOOM!--lightning strikes.

Written in simple and concise language perfect for a read aloud, award-winning author Sarah L. Thomson invites readers to see through the eyes of a wombat as a fire rages through Australian outback. Nearly 3 billion animals were affected by the Australian wildfires of 2019-2020, and wombats played a crucial part in allowing their homes to transform as safe havens for other animals whose homes were destroyed in the fires. Paired with stunning and richly layered art by Charles Santoso, Wombat Underground teaches us that the time of greatest danger is also the time to open our door to those in the greatest need.


A charming introduction to creatures native to Australia and a wake-up call to care for our planet. (bibliography, including websites) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Copyright 2021 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission

Publisher's Weekly

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.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
January 20, 2022

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