Today, Riley, the star of Tania McCartney’s beautiful new book, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about his latest adventure. He’s touring with Tania to celebrate the release of his latest adventure and you can find out more about where he’s going if you click here.
Riley has discovered a wombat in his nanny’s garden. But why is this furry creature so grumpy?
Welcome to Kids’ Book Capers, Riley. It’s lovely to meet you and thanks for answering questions about your new book.
Can you tell us about your nanny’s garden? what does it look like? Is it a fun place to hang out?
Nanny’s garden is like heaven. I love it best because it has the coolest mud patch down the far right hand corner, tucked right into the fence. Right near it is a fish pond with those super bright coloured fish, and I’ve seen lots of frogs there, too. There are lots of trees and bushes in Nanny’s garden. Most of them are natives – there are banksia and wattle and some eucalypts, too. Koala likes hanging out there because of the gum trees. The only problem is, when he nibbles on the leaves, he drifts off to sleep. Dragon also likes to sleep, so they curl up together. Panda and Lion love the mud – they dance and play in it – in fact, Lion never stops dancing. Have you ever seen a lion tap dancing in the mud? It gets very messy.
Have you ever been to Melbourne before?
Yes, I’ve been heaps. My Nanny lives there and my Granny and Granda, too. I also have cousins there but they’re all girls, every single one of them. Groan. My sister is a girl, too. So is Wombat, actually. But she’s cool.
What was the thing you liked most about Melbourne?
I like Melbourne because it has all these really amazing things to see and do. There were so many extra places I wanted to see during our hunt for Wombat, but you know – I have to get back to school so can’t stay anywhere too long. Mum gets the irrits, otherwise (and I must admit, I do like school). The thing I liked the best of all about Melbourne… well, there are three things. First – the goodies at the cafes on Lygon Street – oh man, they are delicious. I love the Italian pastries and Mum and Dad go bananas over the coffee (as usual). The other thing I like is the Great Ocean Road just south-west of Melbourne – it’s awesome and it was so cool to fly my plane over the Twelve Apostles. Have you seen these? They are AWESOME! The last thing I loved was digging all over St Kilda beach with my low-frequency robotic burrowing machine. It was the first time I’d tested him out and he did a great job, although I couldn’t get Dragon out of the holes for ages. It was funny, though. We laughed a lot.
What’s it like having books written about you?
It’s fun. I don’t know if you know, but my mum actually writes the books. My sister isn’t happy. Well, she’s ok about it. She’s really patient, as Mum says all the time. Ella wants a book about her and horses but Mum is allergic to horses, so it may not happen. Anyway, back to me – yeah, having a book series written about you is pretty cool. At first, when I was really little, it was kind of embarrassing because everyone would look at me at book launches. We were living in China and people would want to pat me on the head. That was kind of annoying. But since coming home to Australia, it’s ok now – and I’m used to all the attention. I really like having an excuse to visit other countries and other cities and places, too. We’ve always travelled with Mum and Dad – they love to travel and I really like it now. At first it was annoying but now I love it. I really want to set the next book in America because I want to play NFL, but Mum says we need to do more Australian places first. I kind of agree – in a way – because Australia is pretty amazing.
Do your friends like being in books too?
They love it! They think they are superstars! Lion particularly loves it because he’s an extrovert and loves to perform. Dragon spends a lot of time sleeping and Koala acts kind of strange sometimes (it’s all that eucalyptus oil) but they really enjoy it. The one who loves it best of all would have to be Panda, though. He’s been with me from the beginning and he’s a seasoned traveller. He’s my co-pilot, really – and he was really – what do you call it… ‘instrumental’ in helping me create my series of wombat-seeking contraptions for the Melbourne book. He may be small and fluffy and he may eat far too many jam sandwiches, but he’s very clever.
What does a wombat look like close up?
She’s seriously fuzzy. And did you know wombats are super strong? She’s, like, really strong. She could crush me if she wanted to, but she won’t because she’s a cool wombat. You should see what she makes at the end of the Riley and the Grumpy Wombat – I mean – it’s really mind-blowing. Hardly any animal could do that, but Wombat did it. She’s a bit gobsmacking.
Are all wombats grumpy or was this one just having a bad hair day?
I think most wombats are pretty grumpy. I haven’t met many happy-go-lucky wombats. They like to put their head down/backside up and get on with things. They’re not very airy-fairy – they’re practical, strong, no-nonsense animals and spend most of their time alone, digging burrows, living in the dark. Come to think of it, no wonder they’re grumpy. But the best thing about wombats is this… they may take a long time to accept you as a friend, but once you’re in their heart – they’re not letting you go in a hurry. They would do anything for you.
How did you get around Melbourne?
I have this really amazing red tine plane. Mum found it in an antiques market in Beijing. It’s a pretty magical plane. China is a magical place, and some of it rubbed off on that plane. I’ve spent a lot of time adapting the plane – and my greatest achievement has been the contraptions we built into it (with the help of supersonic illustrator Kieron Pratt) for Grumpy Wombat. As each new journey unfolds, another animal joins me for the next book in the series, so pretty soon we’re going to need to swap the plane for a double decker bus or something. Or a jumbo jet. Kieron is working busily on how we can accommodate all these extra critters… we were just talking about it yesterday, and we were thinking of attaching a hot air balloon to the back of the plane and pulling it along. We’ll see…
Where are you off to next?
Canberra! I can’t wait! It’s a great place and I don’t think many kids know how fantastic it really is. The city is going to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2013 – so the book will be released just in time for that. And I’m going to be tracking down a very common animal to the Canberra scene – it’s found frequently on suburban streets, hopping around. My friend even saw one at the end of his driveway the other day. A big one! This particular animal is going to be another girl – and she has a little surprise, too. It’s going to be really great.
Thanks for having me, Dee! I think Kids’ Book Capers is cool, and you’re cool, too. You’re not even grumpy, either.
Later on today, at 2.00 pm, we’ll be reviewing Riley’s latest adventure, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat.