Thursday, November 29, 2012

Santa's Stowaway

Christmas Wombat, by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley, Clarion, $16.99, ages 3 and up, 32 pages, 2012. A wombat waddles into Christmas while on a mission to find carrots and makes a wondrous discovery that there are many carrots in the world, in this adorable companion to Diary of a Wombat. The wombat, a roly-poly fellow with stout legs, lives for napping, scratching and eating, and one day, sets off on a single-minded quest to do plenty of all three. Little does he know it's Christmas Eve -- and he's about to be part of festivities. As he shuffles along, his nose bumps into "dangly things" on a tree. Not knowing they're ornaments or even what an ornament is, he knocks them out of his way and walks on, crushing them underfoot. In no time at all, the wombat gets a whiff of earthy sweetness. Carrots! So he takes off on a gallop, scissoring his stubby legs, and in moments, skids to a stop in front of a plate where strange creatures are munching carrots. His carrots. After all, aren't all carrots his? So, he press his snout against one of the creature's muzzles and challenges him to a stare down -- and wins! (Perhaps in part because the poor reindeer are all hitched up two-by-two to Santa's sleigh.) Of course, all of that eating makes the wombat sleepy. Luckily, straight ahead is a spot to nap, the runners at the front of Santa's sleigh. As the wombat dozes inside the curled wood, he is whisked into the sky, then back down again. Soon, he's tagging along with Santa across lawns and into chimneys, having assumed they're on the trail of carrots. Just look at all those plates of carrots! But will the wombat share any of the tasty roots with Santa's reindeer? Or that rather large polar bear up north? Readers will giggle all the way through and may just wish for a wombat under their tree. Best part: When the pudgy marsupial sits on a snowbank with his back to the reader, ruminating on all the carrots that await him in the world.

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