54) Elisabeth Beresford — The Wombles
First in what became a series of over 20 books about the creatures living in a large burrow underneath Wimbledon Common, who make a living by collecting and re-using the rubbish left behind by careless humans.
I first met the Wombles in the form of the 1970s BBC stop motion animated series, which so thoroughly burnt itself into my brain that I kept flashing on scenes from the show as I was reading. Thus the otherwise delightful illustrations by Margaret Gordon were a little disconcerting, as the tv puppets are significantly different in appearance. Nevertheless, it was most enjoyable re-visiting the Wombles in written format.
The book is written for small children, and thus is on a relatively simple reading level. But it’s by no means trite — the stories discuss human behaviour without heavy-handed moralising, and the Wombles helped start an interest in my generation of children in recycling. Each chapter is an incident in the life of the Wombles, which can work almost as a standalone story, but there’s an overall story arc throughout the book, covering nearly a year. It’s primarily from the viewpoint of young Bungo, who at the start of the book has just reached the age at which he is allowed to choose a name for himself from Great Uncle Bulgaria’s atlas, and then start work as a Womble considered old enough to be allowed out of the burrow on his own. It’s an enjoyable quick read for an adult talking a stroll down memory lane. And short though it may be, there’s some lovely worldbuilding here, portraying in light but deft strokes a very slightly alien society somewhere just out of sight of our own.