There is a book that I have wanted to find for the past ten years. I never thought I would find it, as my memory was a little sketchy - but I actually recognized another of his books the other day, which then triggered the familiarity to his name. Carrying a powerful environmental message, the book I remembered from childhood is The Wump World, by Bill Peet.
Bill Peet worked for Walt Disney, and was responsible for 101 Dalmations and - a personal favourite - The Sword in the Stone. But he also wrote children's picture books. Looking at his titles, I recognize and loved many. (For example, check out Big Bad Bruce. I loved the witch.)
The Wump World was published in 1970. One year later, Dr. Seuss's The Lorax came out, with parallels to The Wump World. Earlier, Bill Peet had also written Farewell to Shady Glade, his first book to carry this critical environmental message.
In The Wump World, these goat-like animals live on their own grass-covered world. They live under their bumbershoot trees, and are happy.
Then one day, their peace is broken by a swarm of people arriving in spaceships.
The wumps survive below the ground on grassy ledges, drinking from pools of water. (I have such a vivid memory of this picture.)
The people (whom he calls "the Pollutians") cover the world up with roads and cities.
When the world becomes polluted, they all leave in their spaceships to go do the same thing to the next world - having used this one up like locusts.
The Wumps return aboveground when the people are gone - suddenly all had become quiet. There world seems to be gone, all covered with concrete. They look for their stands of trees and grass that once covered their world.
"Just ahead of them was a grassy meadow with a clump of bumbershoot trees, all that was left of their lovely world. 'Wump-wumping' for joy, the Wumps went bounding off the motorway out onto the meadow. Pretty soon the hungry Wumps were munching away on the tall tender grass. Now there was new hope for the Wumps."
I vividly remember this stand of trees - all that is left of their world. I remembered it so strongly for a reason, which is why I am passing it on today. Wisdom from a 6-year old: after I read it to Troy, she sighed and said: “That means you shouldn’t wreck the world. There’s other animals that need to survive too.” But what I loved as a child, as Troy did as well, was that there is hope at the end of the story.
Bill Peet's Inspirationfrom http://www.billpeet.net/
Bill Peet in an interview with E. Edwards, post 1970:
"My wife and I, and young sons, often drove out west of Los Angeles toward Ventura, enjoying what I called beautiful scenery, even though sometimes the hills are rather brown from the heat of summer. The rolling hills with the live oaks, twisting oaks, which I believe are some of the more interesting trees in the world. In recent years as I drive out that way, I notice that the bulldozers and earth movers have been destroying that beautiful country at a rapid rate. These monsters have carved out the hills and cut them up like cake, not leaving one of those beautiful live oaks. I was amazed at the changes. "
"Then I recalled on my last trip back to Indiana when I wanted my young sons to see the beautiful streams and creeks and woodlands around Indianapolis where I wandered as a boy. Those creeks and streams were so valuable to us when we were young because we spent so much time there and there was so much beautiful wildlife. But on that trip back to Indianapolis, I found the creeks were buried, and the land was flattened and the forests were ripped away by bulldozers. There was nothing left of it, just housing tracts. I was so angered by these monstrous earth movers. So I drew earth movers for a while, wondering what I would do with them. They were the villains and I needed other characters to create a story and I also needed a beautiful woodland, a creek, and I called it Shady Glade."