Oh, out in the bush where the kookaburras fly
Where the gum trees reach to the clear blue sky
There’s a cave in the hillside where I hide
I’m a big bad bush-bushranger.
Wombats aren’t known for their bushranging, but the main character of Big Bad Bushranger is a wombat, and a very successful one at that. He hides in a cave in the hillside but far from roughing it, this hillside cave is the entrance to an enormous treasure trove and luxurious cave system. Wombat revels in his job and his wealth, sharing it with a large group of Aussie animals. There’s his girlfriend, Gayle, other wombats and myriad other creatures. Ben Wood’s illustrations are in loose water colours and celebrate the sense of playacting embodied by the text. Even the victims set upon by this bad bushranger look like they’re part of the adventure.
Bushrangers were a well-documented part of Australia’s colonial history. Some were revered as champions for the underdog, while others were less heroes. Bob Brown’s bushranger falls into the former category, this ‘big, bad, bush-bushranger’ seems to be a good-natured fellow despite his deeds. All the characters are Australian animals, though they live in people houses in people towns, ride horses and travel in stage coaches. Wombat’s story is told in rhyme and there’s a music score at the front for performance. The text has an easy rhythm and listeners will soon be joining in with the refrain on each page of ‘I’m a big bad bush-bushranger’. Recommended for 5-7 year olds.
Big Bad Bushranger (Aussie Gems), Bob Brown ill Ben Wood
Omnibus Books 2009
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
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