Sunday 19 August 2012

One Very Tired Wombat

One Very Tired Wombat One Very Tired Wombat written and illustrated by Renée Treml (Random House Australia)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781742749013
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

There are many counting picture books on the market but Renée Treml’s idea is unique. Take one ‘very tired wombat’ and add to the mix, a plethora of iconic Aussie birds that take turns in groups of 2 to 10, to use the poor, sleepy wombat as their source of play.

We’ve all been so tired that no matter who annoys us, we do our best to ignore them. It’s early morning and Wombat has been up all night; he is determined to get some sleep. He curls into a ball, tucks his head onto his front paws and closes his eyes. The birds have other ideas.

He’s peered at, sat on, nested on and slid down. There’s ‘warbling’ and ‘cooing’, ‘cackling’ and ‘chattering’ all around him. Poor Wombat twists and turns and covers his eyes. He is super patient with all the kerfuffle until a ‘flittering fairy wren’ loses a feather. It flutters onto Wombat’s nose causing him to sneeze with such magnificence that all the birds scatter. The counting flashes backwards as each group flies off until Wombat is finally alone. That’s when the twist comes on the final page. Wombat opens one sleepy eye and looks at the reader. There are 11 owls perched across his back. Perhaps they think he is an arching tree branch!

Treml’s use of language is inventive for both reader and listener. There’s lots of alliteration for the littlies to repeat, such as ‘curious curlews’, ‘playful penguins’ and ‘cackling kookaburras.’ The simple words in the text are sprinkled with more challenging ones like ‘inquisitive’, figurine’ and ‘hysterical’, but these are easily understood by the illustrations. Onomatopoeic words, such as ‘coo-cooing’ and ‘giggling’ are fun to repeat, as are the rhymes that describe each group of birds’ playful interaction with the wombat. And let’s not forget the counting of birds on each page.

One Very Tired Wombat is a story of patience and the celebration of the simple things in life. Treml’s illustrations are crisp and clear as she has created them using a scratchboard covered in white clay. Each animal is blocked out in black ink and then scratched into life with faces, fur and feathers. The detail is amazing.

The use of colour is kept to feature the wombat, starting off with blue for a peaceful, nocturnal feel. As the day with the playful birds progresses, the colours move through the colour wheel of teal, green, yellow, orange and then dusky pink into purple as the wombat finally gets to rest.

Just when you think you’ve finished this playful romp, there’s more. The back pages tempt you with information about wombats, curlews, frogmouths and penguins.

After moving from the USA to Australia in recent years, Renée Treml was inspired by our wildlife and birds. She has certainly captured their quirks and personalities.

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