Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Review: The Wump World, by Bill Peet

One morning the Wumps were awakened by a far-off humming sound. It seemed to be coming from somewhere above, and as the humming grew into a heavy roar, the sleepy-eyed Wumps crept through the trees for a peek at the sky.
Zooming straight for the earth came a great flock of potbellied monsters, with tails and fins, spitting fire and shooting out streaks of black smoke.

Furry and cute, the Wumps live in a wonderful world. They spend their days contentedly munching the soft green grass, cooling off in the clear rivers and lakes, and resting beneath the shady bumbershoot trees. Until one day, when the noisy Pollutians shatter the silence, roaring into the Wump World aboard their smoke-belching ships, and the Wumps go running for safety in caves deep underground. Meanwhile, the tiny Pollutians - who have fled their old world in order to start again on a new one - bring out their giant, noisy machines as they "improve" the Wump World. The Wumps grow more and more despondent in their underground hiding places, fearfully listening to the rumbles, roars and screeches coming from above. Will they have to live in the caves forever? What are the Pollutians doing up there? Will the Wump World ever be the same?

For Teachers and Librarians:
The Wump World is a very simple yet powerful story, with a very planet-friendly message that is subtly yet clearly delivered. It is a great book to use in conjunction with a unit on the environment, pollution, or any other type of eco-educational study, and you can mix reading skills right in there to knock out two (or more) subjects at once. (That's my favorite part of theme-based learning!)

Have your students compare and contrast the Wumps and the Pollutians: how each group lives, what each group feels it needs to survive, how each group's behavior affects the worlds they live in, etc. It is a great prompt for discussing "green" alternatives for energy, transportation, and lifestyle. Ask your kiddos to tell you how the Pollutians' lifestyle affects their health, and how the Wumps' lifestyle affects theirs, and chart their responses. Ask them how they feel about living where they do (city? 'burbs? country?): Does pollution affect them more or less than what they've read about in the book? How?

Let them create an alternative ending where the Pollutians learn how to clean up the mess they made of the Wump World, and live peacefully together with the Wumps. Create a sequel where the Pollutians go back to their home world and fix it, using what they've learned while repairing the damage they've done in the Wump World. Have them act out the stories. Let them brainstorm ways they can be more "green" while at school and at home, and ways they can persuade their parents to live a more "green" lifestyle. So many ideas, and so little space to list them all here. What else will you come up with?

For Parents, Caregivers and Grandparents:
The Wump World is an easy-to-understand story about a complex subject that is still as relevant today as it was back when it was first published. It clearly yet non-threateningly shows your kiddos how what we do affects our world - for better, or for worse. Your kiddos may find themselves more interested in their environment, and how their choices affect the world in which they live.

Ask them: What is one little change they can make to help the world be a cleaner, healthier place? Turn off the lights when they leave a room? Close the main door when the air or heat are running? Decide what they want from the refrigerator before they open it, instead of leaving the door hanging open while they peruse the contents? You could stop with just the discussion, or you could go further: Create a contract between you and the kiddos of what you each pledge to do - big or small - to make the world a healthier place. Donate to a worthy organization that's working to educate people on how to be more "green." Volunteer - anywhere, with anything you feel helps someone else. Where will you let this story take you and your kiddos?

For the Kids:
Who lives in The Wump World? Furry, cuddly little Wumps. They're happy in their comfy world - the grass is green, the water is clear and cool, and the bumbershoot trees give them a nice place to sleep beneath at night. Everyone is happy and healthy. But their nice quiet world is suddenly invaded by the noisy, sneezy, tiny Pollutians, who have left their worn-out world behind to take over the Wump World. The Wumps are afraid, and run to the safety of underground caves, where they listen to all the noise above, and worry about what is becoming of their world. What have the Pollutians done to the Wump World? Will the Wumps have to live underground forever? Find the book, and find out!

For Everyone Else:
The Wump World is a wake-up call that's been hanging on the line for much longer than "being green" has become an oft-quoted catch-phrase. Read this simple yet powerful story to remind yourself of where we could be headed, and what we still have time to do to fix things. After all, we want to keep this big, beautiful, world of ours healthy and vibrant and, yes, "green," for generations to come. Don't we?

Wrapping Up:
The Wump World. It's one of those books that just sticks with you. And for this book, that's a very good thing.

Title: The Wump World
Author and Illustrator: Bill Peet
Pages: 48
Reading Level: Ages 5-8, Grades K-3
Publisher and Date: Sandpiper, 1981
Edition: Paperback
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $5.95
ISBN-10: 0395311292
ISBN-13: 978-0395311295

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