I'm sure that all you faithful readers recall an earlier review, that of Cuppy's The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. Having skewered numerous historical (or hysterical) figures, from the famous to the obscure, Cuppy turns his attention in this month's selection to various other members of the animal kingdom, both vertebrate and otherwise, with hilarious and absurd results.
Consider this passage about the bandicoot, for example:
"Bandicoots are smallish marsupials inhabiting Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. They are interesting in a mild way but a little weak in the head. For one thing, they have their abdominal pouches on backwards, with the opening at the wrong end. You may wonder why the babies don't keep falling out all the time. They do. The force of gravity functions over there, too. The worst of it is that Bandicoot mothers spring into the air when disturbed and they are always jumping around for no reason, so the children never know where they are. Bandicoots will have to stop this or become extinct."
Speaking of extinction, a bit about the title creature and one of his ancestors:
"If you know nothing whatever about the Wombat, this would be a good piece to read. It might come in handy some time.... The Wombat has a chunky physique, short legs, and a generally uncouth and frowsy look. Some think he resembles a much overgrown Woodchuck. The truth is, he looks like nothing much. The average Wombat is about a yard long from the tip of his nose to his vestigial tail. The Giant Wombat of the Pleistocene was as large as a Rhinoceros. This was obviously too much Wombat and he was discontinued."
The aforementioned creatures appear in a section of the book called "Problem Mammals." Cuppy lists more mundane denizens of forest and field, such as mice, squirrels, and rabbits in the section headed "Mammals for Beginners." This section also includes a less-familiar beast, the Armadillo:
"How much do you really know about the Armadillo? I thought so. The Armadillo is a mammal, which seems to surprise some people.... The Armadillo wears a coat of armor consisting of bony shields fore and aft, and tough, flexible bands across the middle of his back. This protects him from possible attack from above. While the Armadillo is thinking how safe he is on top, some other mammal flips him upside down and has a nice meal of raw Armadillo. Let that be a lesson.... The Nine-banded Armadillo of Texas and a few other places is the only one we have in the United States. The female always gives birth to quadruplets, all of the same sex. They can't tell the children apart, and why should they? The bony shell of the Nine-banded Armadillo is about fifteen inches long and is made into ornamental baskets for the tourist trade. In Armadillo society all the individuals are born free and equal. Every young Armadillo starts life with exactly the same chance to become a basket...."
Cuppy's writing is wry and tongue-in-cheek; his use of footnotes adds immensely to the humor of his descriptions, as do the drawings by Ed Nofziger. How to Attract the Wombat is an engaging, fascinating, hilarious look at the vices and virtues of several of the creatures with whom we share this small planet. Be sure to read all about it!
Copyright © 2003, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.