Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a very nice wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
Aunt Lillibet was cleaning out a cupboard and she found a pile of old maps.
“These must be your Uncle Lionel’s maps,” she said.
“What are they maps of?” Benson asked. Aunt Lillibet said, “This one is the Great North Walk, and this one is part of the Larapinta Trail, and I think this one is Wilpena Pound. Lionel loved to go bush-walking and camping. He had a lot of maps.”
Benson had a look over her shoulder. The maps were covered with little dotted lines and wavy circles, blue lines and brown lines and green lines, and little numbers everywhere.
“What do all these lines mean?” Benson asked.
“The blue lines are rivers or creeks. These wavy lines and the numbers tell you there is a hill here, and how high it is and how steep it is,” Aunt Lillibet said. “It’s all very complicated, too complicated for a young wombat to understand.”
Benson thought a map would be a very useful thing.
He got a big piece of paper from his room and some coloured pencils.
He drew a line of wombat footprints along the bottom. Then he got his green pencil and drew lots of short lines, and some trees. He got his brown pencil and drew a big hill. Then he made the wombat prints go past the trees and around the hill.
Aunt Lillibet looked over his shoulder. “What are you doing?” she said.
Benson drew a blue circle with a brown frog in it. “I’m drawing a map,” he said. He drew a red box and put some smiling faces in it, then he drew a long orange slopey line. “That’s a slippery slide,” he said.
He got his yellow pencil and put lots of yellow dots beside the orange slopey line. “This is a sandpit,” he said, “and this is a tiger.” He drew a tiger under the sandpit.
Aunt Lillibet said, “You can’t do that. That’s not how a map works. A map draws what is there already, and you follow the map so you know where you are.”
Benson said, “This is a different kind of map. This one says where I want to go.” He drew some more footprints, then he drew some pink blobs and a big red heart at the end. “There,” he said.
Then he said, “Wait – I forgot something.” He drew an enormous smiling sun at the top of the map. “Finished!” he said.
He held up the map. “Do you want to go for a walk and follow my map, Aunt Lillibet?”
Aunt Lillibet huffed and said she’d never heard of anything so silly and it would never work, but she got her hat and her water-bottle. Benson got his hat and his water-bottle and he took the map.
“This is where we start,” he said. “We walk along through the grass, past some trees, until we come to a big hill.”
They walked along through the grass and past some trees. Benson said, “There’s a big hill over there, so we go around it.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “How do you know it’s the right hill?”
Benson said, “It doesn’t have to be the right hill, just a hill.” They went around the hill.
Benson said, “Now we keep on going until we find a pond with a frog in it.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “There are no ponds around here. This map is wrong.”
Benson pointed to a puddle. “There’s a puddle – that’s like a small pond,” he said.
“But what about the frog?” Aunt Lillibet said. Just then they heard, “Crick, crick, crick, crick,” and a small brown frog jumped into the puddle.
Benson smiled. “It’s a good map, isn’t it? The next thing is a house with friends in it, so we should go this way, because that’s where Nils and Nella live.”
They walked along and went past Nils and Nella’s house. Aunt Lillibet said, “I suppose you want to go to the playground next because the slippery-slide and the sandpit are next on the map?”
“That’s a great idea,” Benson said.
They walked along to the playground and Benson went on the slippery-slide and then he played in the sandpit.
Aunt Lillibet said, “This is the wrong sandpit. Where’s the tiger?”
Benson said, “He’s not here today. Aren’t you glad?”
Aunt Lillibet sighed. “I think it’s time to home,” she said.
They walked all the way home. Just before they got there, Benson found a young gum tree that was covered in pink blossom. He picked some and when they got home, he gave them to Aunt Lillibet. “There,” he said. “That’s the end of the map.”
Aunt Lillibet looked at the flowers and she looked at Benson. “That map is all wrong,” she said. She got one of Benson’s pencils and drew another set of wombat footprints beside the ones that Benson had drawn, and at the end beside the big red heart, she drew herself and Benson holding hands.
“Now it’s perfect,” she said.