Monday, November 23, 2009

Wombat Divine by Mem Fox

I don’t know much about Australian wildlife, but I do know those animals put on one spectacular Nativity play. Wombat knows it too. He loves everything about Christmas, but it’s the Nativity play that has long held his fascination. Now that Wombat is old enough, he wants desperately to play a part. “So, with his heart full of hope and his head full of dreams, he hurried along to the auditions.”

Wombat volunteers to play the Archangel Gabriel, but he’s too heavy. Bilby gets the role instead and the privilege of announcing the Savior’s birth. “Never mind, Wombat! Don’t lose heart. Why not try for a different part?” encourages Bilby.

So he does. Wombat volunteers to play Mary, but he’s too big. The koalas playing the donkey can’t hold him up. Numbat gets the role instead and offers Wombat the same words of encouragement as Bilby. “Never mind, Wombat! Don’t lose heart. Why not try for a different part?”

Wombat volunteers to be a king, Joseph, the innkeeper, and a shepherd, but he’s always too something. Too short, too clumsy, too sleepy. Suddenly there are no parts left.

Except one. “You could be the Baby Jesus!” shouts Bilby.

When the Nativity play finally arrives, Wombat performs his role perfectly. He does everything the Baby Jesus would have done that night. “You were divine, Wombat!” said Emu.

Mem Fox has given readers plenty of classics, but Wombat Divine is one of my favorites. Children will enjoy seeing unfamiliar animals in a familiar story. They’ll read along with the repeated text. And what better story than the Nativity – a story of “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” – to show kids that everyone, even Wombat, can be divine?

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