During the school holidays I did a Storytime called Wombat Stew (based on the picture book by Marcia K Vaughan and illustrated by Pamela Lofts). I set up my campfire - branches with red cellophane, placed the billy on top and we began to cook our stew.

To those who don't know the story, dingo catches a fat wombat and is excited about making his,
yummy in my tummy, wombat stew. But wombat's friends come along to offer their advice on what ingredients a good stew would need. Before the wombat is added, dingo tastes the concoction, insists he's been poisoned and runs away. The wombat is saved.

I repeat - no wombat was stewed, sautéed, flambéed, fricasseed or roasted during this event.

To make wombat stew is easy. First we added water- blue cellophane.
Then some billabong mud - brown crepe paper.
Then the fun ingredients---flies, creepy crawly bugs (plastic critters), feathers and gum nuts (both real). Each time I added an ingredient, I stirred the billy. And each time the children peered in to see how the stew was progressing.

Finally I tasted the stew, clutched my throat, yelled YUKKKKKK and said -I've been poisoned. Then I went around to every child, billy in one hand, wooden spoon in the other - so they too could have a taste. Every child tasted my imaginary stew.

Each child screwed up their faces, said how horrid it was. Some simply shuddered and said yuck- others clutched at throats, gasped and fell down, insisting they were poisoned (and most probably dead).

Each child came with me on an imaginary trip.

It wasn't forced, it wasn't even planned. But I realised when the children kept peering into the billy after each ingredient was added, that they were well into the story. To them I was really making wombat stew.

This is what I love about working with children. It's their ability to go on any journey we are willing to take them. They don't rationalise (my wombat was frankly too small in size compared to the giant flies and caterpillars- but no one commented).
They don't edit. They don't think - this isn't real, this can't happen.

They use their imagination and they are wiling participants on any adventure. This is what we lose as adults. This is what we should try to rekindle.

As writers imagination is vital. Yet the more our common sense takes over, the less magic our work becomes. We need to be more like children. Believe anything is possible.

Because then it is.


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