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Wombat Stew


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K-Gr 3 A delightful romp of a story with a unique cast of characters from the Australian outback. It's a combination of the clever humor found in ``The Tales of Uncle Remus'' and the elements of the cumulative folk tale Stone Soup. Wily, wild Dingo dog catches a poor, woebegone Wombat and decides to make Wombat stew. But the other animals try to save Wombat by insisting that the stew will not be complete without blops of mud (says Platypus), feathers (says Emu), flies (suggests lizard), ``slugs and bugs and creepy crawlies'' (says Echidna), and gumnuts (says Koala). Much to the animals' delight, the concoction tastes so terrible that Dingo howls and runs away, never again to sing about ``yummy, chewy, Wombat stew.'' While reminiscent in many ways of Bill Peet's humorous illustrations, these full-page color drawings have a more finished look to them, are less cartoon-like, and more slyly humorous. The gleeful Dingo song lends itself to happy repetitions in storytelling and class groups even if the children are not initially familiar with all of these Australian animals. The text is simple and completely in accord with the rollicking, funny illustrations. What Vaughan has cooked up here is a modern Australian folk tale spiced with colorful characters, and seasoned with sly good humor. Louise M. Zuckerman, formerly at San Francisco Public Library

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