Review Blog

Jun 13 2013

What's wrong with the wobbegong? by Phillip Gwynne

cover image

What's wrong with the wobbegong? by Phillip Gwynne
Ill. by Gregory Rogers. Little Hare, 2013. ISBN 9781921714962.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Seaside. Appearances. Gossip. As the wobbegong lies on his towel on the beach, his manly chest puffed out before him, he lathers sunscreen over his body, listens to his radio, and very contentedly soaks up the sun. But his neighbours, the humped whale, the seabird, the crab, octopus and clam are all worried and cannot help but voice their concerns to each other. There is something wrong with the wobbegong. He never seems to eat, just lies palely on the sand without saying a word to anyone. But just as they are all conjecture, he gets up and races to the sea, proving that he can moved very quickly indeed. He is active and a good colour, so the other beach creatures conclude that indeed there is nothing wrong with the wobbegong until he suddenly gets a little too close.
In boldly rhythmic lines, begging to be read aloud, the tale of the sea animals unfolds. For the fist part of the tale, each page begins with the question, 'What's wrong with the wobbegong?', while after he rushes into the water, the concluding pages all begin with, 'There's nothing wrong with the wobbegong' making the tale neatly symmetrical, adding spice to the children's perception of the clutch of fish.
The astounding illustrations parallel the story with consummate ease. The sea creatures are all distinct, each given a character that is recognisable. The wobbegong is proud, and disinterested in all that is going on around him; the seagull selling ice cream is glowering and watchful; the humped whale a snoop and keen to have some answers to her questions, gathering her brood around her; while the little crab, ineffective but drawn to the wobbegong, becomes his next meal.
The scene on the beach could be anywhere with any group: a mother and her children, the lone swimmer, the small family groups, some in the sea and some lying on their towels, many eating ice cream from the lone ice cream seller; all watchful and questioning, keen to have answers about the others on the beach. And all perfectly replicated in the humorous illustrations.
For a funny tale of a scene on a beach, for a tale to introduce the idea of not judging a book by its cover, or a moral tale of getting just deserts, or of being careful of the unknown or of being wary of strangers, the uses of this story are wide and various. But for me, I laughed out loud on every page at both the text and drawings. Such a treat.
Fran Knight

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