Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Wombatman and the Veggie Patch Vandals

Wombatman and the Veggie Patch Vandals by Mike Ferguson, illustrated by Steph Ryan (Little Steps Publishing)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN – 9781921928628
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

Herbert Wilfred Arnold Tinkleton and his wife Rhonda, who he calls Wonda, live on the grounds of Noseville Public School. Herbert considers it his job to keep the grounds tidy because “This is the North Shore of Sydney … and we do have certain standards.”  He is therefore horrified to discover that not only is someone stealing from the school vegie patch, but that he is considered a suspect.

In a ‘meanwhile back at the ranch’ style often used on t.v shows, this tale jumps from scene to scene telling readers what each player is discovering as they learn it. Principal Wingebottom orders Mr Wagstaff the janitor to get rid of Herbert and Rhonda. Rhonda keeps an eye on the local paper to learn that someone is selling fresh vegies twice a week at the market. And Herbert spies the true culprits in the act. But Wingebottom is determined he must go.

The school’s Enviro Kids are also on the case. They place a tomato on a stump and watch Herbert reject it, which they believe proves he is innocent. Later, when finding a capital ‘K’ drawn in a circle on the ground beside an advertisement for fresh vegetables from the paper, the Enviro Kids take action. Camera in hand they spy on the thieves. It’s school canteen lady, Mrs Kranski, and hubby.

At the same time, Herbert (AKA Wombatman), sporting cloak and goggles, accidently steps on a skateboard which sends him streaming down hill, barreling into the thieves and setting off the school alarm system. The police haul the culprits off. At assembly the next day Wingebottom awards the Enviro Kids, acknowledging Herbert’s help. Pleased that his contribution was valued, Herbert heads home for “Rhonda’s roots shoots and onion surprise”.

Told in sixteen short chapters of large font, the book also includes at least one colour illustration on every double page spread. This helps break up the text so that most of the time the book does not appear at all overwhelming for early readers.

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