28 Sept 2009

hidjus old pollywobble!

There was once a muddle-headed wombat sitting in the grass and feeling very lonely.

A wombat is a square animal with thick hair like a door-mat, and stumpy legs, and no tail to speak of. He has brown eyes and a comfortable, leathery flat nose like a koala.

This wombat was lonely because he had no sisters or brothers or aunties or uncles, and besides, he had spent all his pocket money.

'I wish I had a friend,' he thought, 'a nice, comfy little friend who would fit in my cardigan pocket. A wombat could have lots of adventures with a friend like that.'

Suddenly, in the paddock nearby, he saw a wooden man waving his wooden arms and squeaking a song of his own, squeak-creak, squeak-squawk! He was a scarecrow. He wore a raggy old coat and a big straw hat, and yellow gloves on his wooden hands. Wombat was pleased to see him.

'Perhaps I could make friends with him! Yoo-hoo, Mr Scarecrow, here comes your little wombat!'

Every time the wind puffed over the gullies, the wooden man swung his arms to left and right. Wombat thought the scarecrow was waving to him. He stood up on his hind legs and pulled at the scarecrow's coat.

'Here I am! Are you pleased I'm here?

'Thump! Down came the scarecrow's wooden hand on Wombat's head. Wombat was very cross. He didn't understand that it was the wind's fault.

'That's a horribubble thing to do to a new friend,' he growled. 'You're a hidjus old pollywobble! I'm going to push you over, that's what I'm going to do!'

And he put his forehead against the post which held the scarecrow in its place.
You'll be please to know that lonely stubborn Wombat eventually does meet some friends - a fat-tailed, pouched bush mouse who has lost his spectacles called...well, called the Mouse - and Tabby, a very vain cat.

If you're looking for a book to read to your children to teach them good character traits then I probably wouldn't recommend The Muddle-headed Wombat. Ruth Park's characters are not designed to teach your kids to be better people. Wombat tries to behave, treely ruly he does, it's just that the harder he tries the more things go wrong. Wombat always ends up in trouble somehow.

Now I don't know about your kids, but that's a problem with which Jemimah can relate.


The Muddle-headed Wombat is a classic of Australian children's literature. It's the sort of book that embeds itself in your heart and stays there.

Although we finished the book several months ago, only just last week Jemimah looked at me and said wistfully, "I wish there were more muddle-headed wombat stories. I miss Wombat and Tabby and the Mouse. I wonder what they're up to now."

Jemimah will be delighted when I tell her that there are lots of stories for us still to discover:

  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat
  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat on Holiday
  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat in The Treetops
  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat at School
  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat in The Snow
  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat on a Rainy Day
  • The Muddle Headed Wombat in The Springtime
  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat on the River
  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat and the Bush Band
  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat and the Invention
  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat on Clean-Up Day
  • The Adventures of the Muddle-Headed Wombat
  • More Adventures of the Muddle-Headed Wombat
  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat is Very Bad
  • The Muddle-Headed Wombat Stays at Home
Interestingly, this passion of Jemimah's for this mildly naughty, muddled animal is what sets the series apart from other so called 'classic books'. The Muddled-headed Wombat series is written for children not adults. They capture our children's imaginations and interests, not necessarily those of their parents. I think this is what makes Ruth Park such a unique Australian children's author. She is one of the best.

We read the first four books in AO2. They're contained in a single volume by Angus and Robertson - one of the Australian Children's Classics series.

Don't miss these Australian Living Books, will you - your family and your vocabulary will be the poorer without them.

"Oh, I am a lucky Mouse!" sighed Mouse.

Wombat knew what it meant.

"It's so comfortabubble to be us, isn't it, Mouse, eh?" he said.

For those of you who have read the series, what's your favourite Wombat malapropism? We use treely ruly and horribubble the most. Oh and this phrase: "Shall I boil the william?"

How about you?


  1. We haven't read them yet so I won't be able to give you one. Guess I'll also have to wait to find out what "boil the william" is.

    I didn't see any of Ruth Park's narrated books on Librivox. Do you know of a site for recorded Aussie books?

  2. "Written for children not adults" is a very good point. I think of "Five Children and IT" as a book written for children, but "Kidnapped" is a book written for adults. And, it's so true that "classic" doesn't necessarily mean "Living." Some "classics" are just plain boring! It's nice to have your post as such a vivid example of the distinction between the two types of books.

  3. I used to love listening to The Muddle-headed Wombat read aloud to us at school. I can't remember well enough though to quote a "malapropism" (another new word from Jeanne's vocabulary, so that I had to open the blog entry again to remember what it was!).
    Those watercolour illustrations are just beautiful aren't they!

  4. Oh Jeanne! Too, too sad. I don't like the muddle~headed wombat [or Ruth Park either]. I don't like talking animals at all. I nearly didn't read the Narnia books because of Lewis' liking for talking animals & The Horse & His Boy is still my least favourite Narnia story. The only author I've read who does a talking animal well is Garth Nix & his cat is just plain wicked. I must have been a strange child because I remember it was one of the few books everyone else enjoyed. Sssh. I think I read something else under the table .

  5. Have never heard of them before! The illustrations are delightful though! Thank you for sharing yet again another book review! I love your book reviews! xxx

  6. Oh Jeanne! We have just read this and we LOVED it. My children REALLY seem to love the Australian stories. We use adorabubble for the new baby here a LOT!!! And Isabella (ALMOST 9) was browsing the books we have read for free reads the other day on the (very messy, crowded bookshelf) muttering, "I like that book and that one and that one and that one..." and then, "Mum, you know the saddest thing about books? They end." I had to tell my (yet to read) daughter that they COULD be read again!!! So nice to be able to visit here again after sooooo long! I do think of you often!!!!

  7. Lovely to hear from you, Pauline!! Do remind Isabella that there are lots more Muddleheaded adventures to enjoy!! We're read lots. They're all fun!

  8. I shall absolutely let her know that there are others and I am also taking your advice on the Crazy Horse books by Lester because I KNOW Isabella will LOVE LOVE LOVE these and it is her birthay (9) soon!!! Getting her a stable for her horses so THANKS for the tip for these books!!!!! Invaluable resource you are! "O))))

  9. Favourite Wombat malapropism? "Cindergorilla" for Cinderella.

  10. Bethany and I are almost finished the compete adventures. She loves it, even though they are naughty...except for mouse :)

  11. We like "That's what's under my fur! Lots and lots of bald!" We don't remember which one this is from.

  12. We like "That's what's under my fur! Lots and lots of bald!" We don't remember which one this is from.


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