THE WILD WOMBAT
Written by Udo Weigelt
Illustrated by Melanie Freund
Translated by Kathryn Grell
Michael Neugebauer Publishing 5/01/2019
48 Pages Age 3—6
Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Fiction
Themes: (Not) Judging Others, Animals
A wild wombat is coming to the zoo. The animals don’t know what a wombat is, but when they learn the news, one by one they let their imaginations run riot. Before long they conclude it must be a terrible monster, bigger than an elephant, faster than a gazelle, with sharp fangs and claws that can destroy them.
This hilarious and timely picture book provides a powerful lesson in what happens when we judge others before we get to know them. (from jacket flap)
It was a hot summer day at the zoo when Parrot overheard one zookeeper say to another, “Today the wild wombat is coming—all the way from Australia! We must be very careful with him.”
Why I like this book
Parrot overhears two zookeepers, who say a wild wombat from Australia is arriving today. They said they had to be “very careful with him.” Why do they need to be careful? Parrot tells Seal who wonders (if) “the zookeeper is really afraid.” Seal becomes worried, so he goes to Chameleon, who “gasped in terror,” thinking if it can out swim Seal, the wild wombat must be a “terrible sea monster.” Concerned as well, Chameleon runs over to Owl. One-by-one, an alerted animal, crazy with fear and beginning to image the worst, tells another animal, and that animal runs to the next, until the fear-frenzy ends with the lions. No one knew what a wild wombat is, except that it was going to live in their zoo.
The Wild Wombat is filled with colorful animals that are real characters. Not only are they talking about their fear of the “wild wombat,” they are imagining the fear. When Chameleon hears, he is on the phone, and [SPOILER ALERT] Chameleon imagines the phone turns into an orange monster with a mouth full of piranha teeth. The monster each animal envisions shows up on the split page. Young children can see the transformation from animal to monster, no page turn required. The mid-page stands up just enough for little fingers to pull it down, revealing the MONSTER!
Artist Melanie Freund created a zany zoo young children will love, as they are the ones who would have normally imagine such a zoo. Like most zoos, the animals have housing, but at this zoo, the animals live in homes. Framed pictures of zoo-mates hang on walls, bathrooms are, uh-um, bathrooms, and baby beds hold unborn eggs. In this zoo, the
animals, no, residents have pool parties, barbecues, and even fish for fun with fishing poles. Ms. Freund’s imagination and creativity will make children giggle, though Lion and Gazelle’s monsters gave me a “WHOA-moment.”
All of the gossiping and imagining monsters clearly show these comfortable creatures are judging the wild wombat before they even know him. Some children will relate to Wombat if they have been the new kid at school or in the neighborhood. Children will relate to Wombat if they have ever wanted to try something and were told, “not yet” or was diverted to something else. Author Udo Weigelt’s The Wild Wombat can be a springboard for a discussion about not judging others before getting to know them or endangered species, since the wombat is such a creature.
A wild wombat from Australia is arriving at the zoo today. A zookeeper says, “we need to be very careful with him.” Why do they need to be careful? I do not know why he needs to be careful, (the animals could have asked the zoo keeper that said this), but [SPOILER ALERT] the wombat is really cute. Kids will love The Wild Wombat story and giggle at the zoo Wombat is moving into.
But . . . There is a small discrepancy in the book. The writer wrote, “Then a van drove into the zoo with a big crate.” On the next page, a red truck enters the zoo carting a big crate in its cargo bed. It’s not a big deal, yet some kids will notice.
Elephant asks Kangaroo if what he’s heard about the wild wombat is true. He asked Kangaroo because he also came from Australia. Kangaroo tells Elephant all he knows about wild wombats. Two spreads later, Flamingo runs to tell the Lions what he “overhead.” I love this because if you look at the spreads from Kangaroo’s place, Flamingo stands close to the fence stretching his neck to hear Kangaroo talk. He never overheard, he is listening in, as if he has his ear to a wall. I think the artist gave the picture book some little scenes for adults, to makes us laugh—and it did.
There is a framed certificate of the wombat complete with paw prints. The wombat is described, including its eating habits, composure, and life span. It is all very interesting. Then it says, “Unfortunately, the wombat is one of Australia’s most endangered species.” This is extremely heartbreaking.
Available at Amazon
The Wild Wombat is a reissue from a 2002 original published by NorthSouth Books. Available at Amazon
At Amazon, if you use the “Look Inside” option (top right corner of cover), with the 2019 edition, you will be seeing pages from the original, 2002 book illustrated by Anne-Katrin Piepenbrink.
THE WILD WOMBAT. Text Copyright © 2009/2019 by Udo Weigelt. Illustrations copyright © 2009/2019 by Melanie Freund. Published by Michael Neugebauer Publishing / Minedition, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Originally published in 2002 by NorthSouth Books
Copyright © 2019 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
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