Published in 1984, Wombat Stew is an enduring story of friendship and a delight to read. Scores of Australian schoolchildren have cheered as Wombat's friends have rescued him from the clutches of the dingo, who is determined to have a delicious wombat stew for lunch. It illustrates how true friendship and a bit of resourcefulness can overcome a bully, especially one that is all brawn and very little brain.
Each friend, in turn, suggests additional ingredients for the stew to delay the use of the main ingredient - the wombat. Platypus suggests billabong mud to make it gooey, emu some feathers to make it chewy, blue tongue lizard adds one hundred flies so it will be crunchy, echidna digs up a selection of creepy crawlies to make it munchy and koala drops in gumnuts so it will be spicy. Childen appreciate the irony of the dingo happily agreeing to each addition as the stew becomes a disgusting sludge. This is reinforced by the rhyming refrain which dingo sings after each suggestion, and which children enjoy repeating also.
The ultimate resolution comes when the animals suggest that dingo needs to taste the concoction before putting in the wombat. Dingo's reaction - in rainbow coloured text - usually sends children into fits of laughter, and is a wonderful conclusion to this picture book. The beautiful illustrations, by Pamela Lofts, which accompany this text are full of life and detail.
This is a story which will be a favourite with adult and child alike, and which will be reread frequently. It is an especially good picture book to introduce Autralian native animals to young children, and so would be great as a stimulus for a theme in the classroom. It provides an excellent springboard for activities in language, cooking, art and science, just to mention a few. Be sure to enjoy this Australian classic with your own children.