Saturday 19 November 2011

The Tale of Wil Wombat

The Tale of Wil Wombat by Susan Hall, illustrated by Ben Guy (National Library of Australia)
HB RRP $14.95
ISBN 978-0-642-27727-5
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

When Wil asks what the strange white shapes between the trees are, his mother says, “They’re the Uprights’ inside-out burrows.” Despite her warnings to stay away from the bushmen that she refers to as Uprights, Wil’s inquisitive nature sees him getting close enough to be trapped under a wooden box. And his captor calls to his mate Bill to get the fire roaring so they can have a cook-up!

This tiny, hard-backed treasure, is one of four in the Animal Tales series, and explores the reaction of Europeans to our native fauna when they first came to Australia. Uniquely, it does this via the viewpoint and experiences of each creature; in this case, Wil Wombat. His sturdy physical attributes and natural ability to dig are what saves him from becoming someone’s dinner.

A major strength of the series is its longevity, as young readers will enjoy it for the initial story about the animal but, as they grow up and learn more about the world around them and our history, they will see into more of the issues faced by early settlers. The book also shows how early settlers didn’t know what to make of creatures they had not seen before.

Besides incorporating small facts into the story, each book also ends with pictures showing some of the early paintings done by early settlers; most interesting, as they got a lot wrong first up! Story illustrations by Ben Guy are far more accurate presentations of the creatures we know so much about now.

There is something beautifully special about the bush scenes throughout, and the antics of the creatures and the ‘Uprights’ as the wombats know them. Humans and wombats, however, seemed to muddle through being exposed to one another well enough. From the scenic Australian end papers to the stylish cloth case and jacket, this is a quality production.

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