As a Children’s Librarian, a new Roland Harvey book in the Library signalled a routine. At lunch time a bean bag would be pulled out in the middle of the floor and I would sit and look at the book.
Gradually the curious would arrive and begin to curl up around me. As the calls of delight and pointer fingers whizzed past my ear, other children would come and join the heaving mass.
Such is the magic of Roland Harvey’s illustrations and humorous stories which are easily recognised by most children.He begins this story by introducing a class of children whose teacher is taking them to the zoo. There is “Horrie Bull”, “Ima Lemmington”, and “Frederick Flannery” to name a few. Each child has to name a favourite animal, give a reason why it is a favourite, and also name the scariest animal. After that they have to write a poem about their chosen animal. As a last task they have to make up a collective noun for their chosen animal. (I do love an arpeggio of zebras and a sentry of meerkats).
In Roland Harvey’s usual style, the illustrations take up most of the double page spread, and consist of many small, detailed drawings in pastel watercolour.
Look closely and you will see an “zebra rolling in rhino poo to disguise its smell”, and a sheep in the shape of Australia. The humour, which is genuinely loved by children, is not only in the illustrations, but also in the text. Ava loves the hyenas and when she grows up she wants to name her child Ena, so everyone will say Hi Ena!”
The more you look at the illustrations, the more you find to wonder and laugh at. It is amazing that after some time children retain a lot of the facts that are drawn and mentioned. Learning through humour and fun is a wonderful, lasting experience for all concerned.
As most school children go to the zoo on an excursion this book would be a brilliant preparation for the visit. ”The Wombats at the Zoo” will be well received by most children, teachers, and especially by Librarians who aim to keep the magic of books alive. May Roland Harvey continue to write Australian stories for many more years.
|Publisher||Allen & Unwin Childrens|