Special Guest Interview: Grumpy Wombat (& her P.A., Tania McCartney)

Do you ever imagine what you might say to a book character if you met them?

We do fall in love with book characters very easily in our home, and the Riley Series is certainly not short of cute and loveable characters. Grumpy Wombat however liked to keep to herself in the latest book of the series, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat. We had burning questions about her and wanted to find out more.

We contacted the author of Riley and the Grumpy Wombat, Tania McCartney, who very kindly arranged an interview for us with Grumpy Wombat herself. My daughter, Cam,  and I could chat all day about books. You’ll find in the interview that Cam asks some of the questions herself. These truly were the things she was asking me as we read the book together.

On Wednesday, we’ll let you know more about  Riley and the Grumpy Wombat. In the meantime, enjoy our interview. I’m sure you’ll agree that she’s one very interesting wombat. We’d also like to thank Tania McCartney for helping with the transcript. With her long claws, I believe Grumpy Wombat is a little shoddy on the old keyboard.

The Interview:

Jackie and Cam: Thank you for visiting My Little Bookcase today and for taking the time to answer a few of our questions. We are always keen to find out more about the characters in our favourite books and, just quietly, I’ve (Jackie) had a soft spot for wombats since doing a project on them in Grade 4.

Grumpy Wombat: Hello. Thanks for having me. I’m kind of new to this so I hope you’re not expecting too much from me. I’m glad you have a soft spot for wombats, but of course, we wombats have not a single soft spot anywhere – not in character, not in body nor mind. We are tough tough tough. Nonetheless, I’m sure we would get on, especially if you have a herb garden.

Cam (C): Riley refers to you as Grumpy Wombat, but do you have a name?

GW: I’m just called Old Lady Wombat. Or That Old Lady Wombat. I haven’t seen my family since I was young, and I’m a bit of a loner, so I don’t really get called anything much, except “Oi! Stop digging up my garden!”

Jackie (J): You are described in the book as grumpy, cranky and cantankerous. What would you say are your positive qualities?

GW: Well, I’m a very good digger (I DIDN’T say Gold digger, so no misquoting). And I’m loyal and steadfast and tenacious. You won’t find many more solid than me. I’m also willing to try new things. Panda, who makes it clear he’s been with the Riley series from the start, has been trying to convert me to jam sandwiches, but I’m just not going there. I mean – come on. Urk. I’m coming around to noodles, though. All the Riley friends love noodles and I don’t mind them with a little bit of dried grass root.

J: Where did you live before building your home in Nanny’s backyard?

GW: Well, see that’s the thing. I was living in a dank dark hole, and I was, like, SO over it. I mean – everyone thinks wombats just LOVE living in burrows… but you try living in a dark, dank, dirty tunnel. And it’s not as though we have many options. You try paving and stucco with these claws. Most of the time, wombat only live in burrows because that’s all they can build. I’ve worked long and hard at finessing my construction techniques… you can see how far I’ve come with the new house I build in the book. But let’s not give away too much too soon, shall we?

J: Are we, Melburnians, likely to find you setting up home in our own backyards?

GW: What more do you want from me? Was the villa not enough? Sheesh. I think I’ll stick to Riley’s Nanny’s place for now. Unless you’re interested in funding something at your house. Then we’ll talk.

C: Riley’s mud pile looked like so much fun. How did you feel when you saw the mud pile Riley had left behind in his nanny’s backyard?

GW: Oh, he’s always up to shenanigans like that. Typical boy. He’s alright, though. He really has this lovely, caring side. And he’s not a pesterer. He leaves me alone whenever he visits his nanny, maybe brings me some noodles and has a herbal tea – but then he’s off again, on some other wild adventure. I’m working with him on the next Riley book, you know – Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo – a journey around Canberra. It’s okaaaay. Not as good as my book, but it’ll do. That Kangaroo – not so sure about her. You know that fur colour is not her own, don’t you? But back to the mud pile – it’s actually a nice fur conditioner.

C: I love catching the train to Flinders Street Station with my Mum. What do you love most about Melbourne and Victoria?

GW: The herbs. The roots. The mud. I adore Flinders Street station and those special train burrows. I also like Lygon Street for its Italian noodles – pasta, isn’t it? And The Great Ocean Road – now it was fun shooting the book there. Those limestone stacks are really something, and I’d love to try my claw at digging through them.

J: Riley said you came charging out of the burrow, how fast can you run?

GW: I can run up to 40km per hour. That’s right. You heard me. Once I get going, there’s not stopping me. I’m a fast mover. Just look at that house I built. One day it took me. One day.

C: What is your favourite food/herb to eat?

GW: I really love grass roots – they’re so tender and sweet. My very favourites are spear grass, tussock grass and poa grass. I have to be careful what I eat (no Panda! no more jam sandwiches). We have a pretty low metabolic rate, so that’s why I’m a little on the, er… stocky side. It’s certainly NOT my diet and lack of exercise.

C: I love all of Riley’s friends. I think they’re cute and funny. Which of them do you most enjoy spending time with and why?

GW: I think Dragon is pretty cool because he spends most of his time sleeping and pretty much leaves me alone. Lion is whacko the diddly-o – will not stop jigging around, dancing, tapping, doing the soft shoe shuffle. He exhausts me just looking at him. Panda is, um… he’s, er… let’s just say he makes it clear he’s been with the book series from the beginning. And that Koala is… [Ed: makes a coco bananas motion with right claw against side of head]. Kangaroo – I haven’t met her yet, but we’re meeting up soon. Ask me about her in 6 months’ time. So, really, my favourite is Riley. He’s a pretty cool kid. We do tea. We hang out in the herb garden and pull weeds (which I then gobble up). He’s a good kid.

J: Do you have any plans to spend more time with Riley in the future?

GW: Well, you see, I’m contracted. I have to. I’m in all the following Riley books. I know – it’s a loooong contract. That author – Mrs McCartney – can you believe she recently told some school students (yes, I was there, I heard it) that she plans to write a Riley book every year until forever? Sheesh. I mean, I don’t know how long she thinks a busy Wombat can commit to such outlandish promises… so we shall see. I guess that if she’s going to be that tenacious, I can be tenacious, too.

Okay, are we done now? I have some weeds to pull.

About Tania McCartney, author of the Riley Series:

Tania McCartney is an author, editor, publisher and founder of well-respected children’s literature site, Kids Book Review. She is the author of the popular Riley the Little Aviator series of travelogue picture books, and is both published and self-published in children’s fiction and adult non-fiction.  Currently working on several children’s books and adult lifestyle books, Tania lives in Canberra with a husband, two kidlets and a mountain of books. Her recent books include Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne (Ford Street, 2011), Beijing Tai Tai (Exisle Publishing, 2011), Handmade Living (Handmade Press, 2010) and Australia: The Timeline (National Library of Australia, 2012).



This interview was featured as part of the Riley and the Grumpy Wombat Blog Tour:

If you enjoyed reading our interview with Grumpy Wombat you might find these posts particularly interesting:

Thursday 1 September

Friday 2 September

  • Author Guest Post and Book Review @Read Plus

Saturday 3 September

Sunday 4 September

Monday 5 September

Tuesday 6 September

Wednesday 7 September

Thursday 8 September

There are many other wonderful posts as part of this blog tour.

Visit Riley the Little Aviator’s very own blog for the full blog tour schedule.

Special Guest Interview: Grumpy Wombat (& her P.A., Tania McCartney)


  1. Great Interview Cam and Jackie. I loved hearing about the world for the Grumpy Wombat’s point-of-view!