The Christmas Wombat
by Jim Poulter
illustrated by Jo Poulter
Red Hen Enterprises, Templestowe, 2007
Age group: primary school
I came across this book by a recommendation by a friend and her eight year old son. They had got the book at a local market and really enjoyed reading it – her son doesn’t always enjoy reading but he loved this book and managed to read it himself despite it being a bit harder than he usually can manage.
It is Christmas Eve in Wattlebark Creek and the animals are preparing for and looking forward to Christmas and a visit from the Christmas Wombat, but not everything goes to plan.
While this book is full of pictures and is picture-book size, it is not a simple picture book for toddlers – although you could read it over a few days to a toddler or pre-schooler.
I loved the Australian feel to this book – it’s more the overall tone than any specific things that make it feel so comfortable to me.
There are also a number of humourous elements, such as Enid B Koala, Wall and Bea the wallabies, Col (short for Collingwood) the Magpie, Iris Emu the Chief Inspector of Local Business, and Clint E Tiger Quoll.
It is more than a picture book in that characters are more developed and the story includes history, background, excitement and danger. But it is accompanied by lovely images of the Australian bush and animals – all drawn by Jo Poulter, the author’s wife.
As part of the Christmas Eve preparations, Enid reads out the Wattlebark Creek Christmas Story. It starts with “it was the night before Christmas” and keeps to the idea of young ‘uns sleeping with a special gift-bearing Christmas visitor, but has it’s own flavour and the gifts are carried by the Christmas Wombat! The Christmas Wombat uses magic to get around the Aussie bush so doesn’t need reindeer or even boomers to help him, although some white possums are his assistants.
Christmas morning is interrupted by an attack by two feral cats, and the animals are all scared which may frighten young children. Shhh, everyone ends up ok, including the feral cats who become friends!
Both my children enjoyed the story – my six year old said “It’s not good Mum – it’s super!” and my seven year old loved how the day was saved and a “Star of valour” earned.
My only criticism (and it is picky) is that it needed a little more editing as a couple of sentences have an extra word, missing word or a slightly wrong word. It stood out to me as I read it aloud but I corrected it orally and it certainly didn’t detract from our enjoyment of the story.
Jim Poulter has written and self-published this book, and some others, so it is not widely available but is well worth the effort and by buying it directly from Jim, you know the entire cost is going to costs and the author.